Our Recruiting Journey - By Craig Young
With #1 ranked High School Quarterback Bryce Young about to take center stage at Alabama, his dad looks back on the recruiting process and shares some knowledge he learned along the way.
I never thought it would come to this… I never in my wildest dreams thought that my son Bryce Young would end up as the #1 ranked High School Quarterback in the country (for whatever that’s worth), win almost every conceivable individual award, and most importantly win a State and National Championship. Along the way, he’d commit to a storied program, later decommit, and then end up at the premier college football program in the country poised to be the starting QB for this upcoming season. It feels a bit odd to be in a reflective mood when in many ways the journey is really just beginning. However, I still have many friends that I have made along the way that have sons still playing youth, middle school or high school football. And when I talk to them it brings me back to a simpler time, a purer time (I use the term “pure” loosely) but in a way I miss it.
To say big time Division 1 Power 5 football is a business is like saying Patrick Mahomes has a “decent arm”. I could get deeper into the business that is College Football but that topic is more like a graduate thesis than a blog so we will save that for another time.
When I talk to friends or acquaintances about football it does not take long for a certain pattern to emerge. The anxiety from the parent becomes palpable and there are often discussions about a coach who does not get “it” (that “it” can be a myriad of things). Then the questions come: How did you do it? What camps did you go to? What camps should I go to? Should I use a recruiting service? Should we transfer? Why do you think he is not getting recruited? Why are “only” these schools recruiting him? I could go on, but I think you get the picture!
I honestly do not mind answering questions and helping friends, family and even complete strangers, as this journey can be daunting. At the end of the day most of us parents love our children more than life itself and only want the best for them. We will attempt to move mountains to help our kids reach their goals. So, I GET IT!
Now here is the rub and this is the part that so many parents have difficulty with… So much of this journey is beyond your control! This process is the confluence of strategic planning, ability, performance and serendipity. Yes, good old fashion luck or as my Pastor would say “favor."
I will use Bryce as an example for obvious reasons. Don’t get me wrong, Bryce is extremely talented, he can make all the throws, has a lightening quick release, extends plays and has a football IQ that is off the charts. However, he is also 5’11, and let’s just say, not built like Cam Newton. Since Bryce does not possess the “ideal” height and weight for the position he has had his share of doubters, critics, and haters along the way and that’s only counting the St. John Bosco fans (sorry, I could not resist…but I swear I am not bitter!).
So, for us, here are some goals that we went after:
Identify/acknowledge areas of weakness and identify recruiting/positional bias that exist. If there is a narrative about your athlete out or if your son does not fit into a certain box, don’t be bitter, don’t curse out coaches and send nasty emails to writers. It’s a waste of time and energy. Understand what you are up against and figure out how to combat it.
Get really, really, really good! Coaches at all levels want to win, period. Is there some funny business? Of course, but by and large the best players play. So, focus you and your son’s energy on being great at your craft. And I mean legitimately great, not just through the rose colored glasses of a parent. If someone gives you negative feedback, coaching points or areas of improvement for your son don’t immediately dismiss it or get defensive. Take the coaching to heart, and come up with a plan to improve. Additionally, leaving to find a coach or program that will take your money to tell you exactly what you want to hear does not make your son better. Embrace improving, developing a skill or adaptation that allows you to compensate your perceived limitations (as long as that adaptation is not denial!!). Find a good trainer and talent evaluator and DO THE WORK. There is no secret formula.
Make sure your dreams are your dreams and your kid’s dreams are their dreams. Your son has to really want success and has to commit mind, body and spirit to this. There are sacrifices that will have to be made. Training while other kids are partying, adhering to a strict diet, getting rest, watching film etc. Make sure you have the very real conversation with your son and give him the opportunity to determine what his goals are and how much he is willing to sacrifice for them. You might be surprised with the answer you get.
Allow your kids to have fun, every play is not game 7. A poor performance does not mean his recruiting chances are doomed. If he laughs and smiles while playing that is a good thing, not a sign he is not focused.
Have realistic expectations. It’s ok to have lofty goals but not everyone can go to Alabama, Clemson or USC. However, if your son is focusing on his craft and maximizes whatever ability God has blessed him with and also kills it in the classroom, he will play college football somewhere!
Do not run away from competition. If your kid is the best player in the gym or on the field, find another gym or field. Competition builds character, mental fortitude and confidence. It also prepares them for college sports, and at some point, your son is going to have to go somewhere beyond our influence as parents and win a job. The more competitive situations you can enter your son into, the better.
Lastly, it’s ultimately up to them! When your child has the opportunity to perform in a big moment, they need to perform. It’s really that simple. Your son must learn from any and all setbacks and poor performances and prepare himself for the next big moment. And at the end of the day, being great when greatness is needed is essential.
This leads me to how my journey with Bryce and all the things that came with his recruitment began. We were very aware of the narrative around Bryce (too short, too small) however, we felt we could combat that bias by putting him in the most competitive environments possible. The goal was to show that his perceived flaws did not impact his performance against the best competition. This has consistently been our philosophy hence playing for the IE Ducks (youth), Mater Dei (HS) and Alabama (college). Obviously, everyone’s max level of competition is different, but find realistic options for your son.
We would throw in person for whatever coach asked and we welcomed all feedback. Finally, after sending out hundreds of emails, Kliff Kingsbury then the Coach at Texas Tech asked us to travel to Lubbock Texas and throw in front of him. We did not hesitate and off we went. And when it was Bryce’s time to throw, he was lights out, Kingsbury offered and that started our journey.
Strategic planning, ability, performance, serendipity and favor!