Feb 1, 2012; Miramar, FL, USA; Miramar High cornerback Tracy Howard announces he will attend the University of Miami on National Signing Day at Miramar High School. Shaiy Howard applauds Her son

The rise of YouTube turned recruiting into a two-way street

I never went through the whole “being recruited” thing. Not because I didn’t want to land a scholarship with a collegiate program – what high school football player doesn’t want that? No, I never went through the recruiting process because I had no idea what I was doing; neither did my parents. There are times I look back on my senior year of high school and can’t help but think how my story would’ve changed if I grew up in the YouTube age.

The rise of YouTube is the single biggest factor in the evolution of college recruiting during the past 8 years.

It’s a funny thing being 24 and reminiscing about the “old days,” back when you made actual highlight tapes – yes, I’m talking VHS – and then mailed them to schools in the hopes at least one coach with some clout in the department would go through the cumbersome process of removing the tape, putting it in the VCR, pressing play and then sitting through a 5-6 minute highlight package of an undersized defensive end, a running back with “natural patience around the edge,” or a decent punter.

Back in 2004, that hopeful DE/RB/P was me – sending a VHS tape to Boise State, Montana, San Diego (FCS), Washington State, and Pacific Lutheran (D-III). It was an unsolicited tape, mind you, with a personalized letter to each coach introducing myself, showing I knew a little bit about their program, and expressing my desire to play for (insert mascot here).

Fast-forward 8 years. 2012 National Signing Day is in the books as thousands of recruits have faxed in National Letters of Intent to accept scholarships and commit their athletic services to the college of their choosing (or, in Gunner Kiel’s case “of his mom’s choosing”). In the months and possibly even years leading up to this day, social media and the internet have aided prospective athletes land scholarships just as much as or possibly more than these recruiting outlets helped college coaches land recruits.

I said earlier this week that college recruits should treat the recruiting process like a job search. But, looking at the recruiting process as an outsider, it might look one-sided. Coaches want the best players, coaches recruit the best players and then coaches convince the best players to sign with their college.

Now, after the rise of social media and the internet, the recruiting process has become a two-way street. Recruits need to sell themselves to prospective schools as much as coaches need to sell the school to the prospective student-athletes.

YouTube has been, hands down, the BIGGEST factor in the evolution of recruiting in the past 8 years. Ironically, 2004 was both my senior year AND the year YouTube began. It’s no wonder I was working with VHS tapes instead of YouTube clips – YouTube didn’t even exist yet!

One of the biggest benefits offered to prospective recruits by YouTube is the ability to:

  1. See what other athletes are doing for their highlight videos.
  2. Easily create one or multiple highlight videos available for viewing the moment the video is uploaded.
  3. Streamline the process of alerting coaches to your athletic prowess by emailing them a link to a YouTube video rather than mailing them bulky packages with VHS tapes.

I remember putting together my highlight tape and not really knowing what types of plays I should be highlighting. Do I compile clips or those “highlight” plays, or do I highlight clips of the “every down” plays. What I’ve found is that athletes need a combination of both highlights that make coaches say “Wow” as well as highlights that showcase the athlete’s ability to do the little things right.

I chose to focus on the highlight plays – hey it was a “highlight” tape, right? Once I had the opportunity to see other players’ highlight tapes – of course after I had enrolled at Western Washington University and walked on to its Division II football program – I realized that my highlight tape could have been much better.

When it comes to recruiting, it's probably not a good thing to find out, 8 years after I graduated from high school, that I had a MaxPreps.com profile.

The creation of multiple highlight videos isn’t something that relates to my experience because then my tape might’ve included too many “every down” plays. However, the ability to streamline the process of sending my tape to coaches is a benefit I wish I had. Instead, I was forced to not only pay for the VHS tape from the video company that put it together, but I also had to pay extra postage to send an (unsolicited) package to schools in the hopes it would make it to the right coach.

With YouTube, my out-of-pocket expenses would have been significantly less and I could have sent the video of my highlights to more than just a handful of colleges within a couple hundred miles of my hometown. There also is the chance that people would’ve seen my video without my promotion and thus colleges which I never would’ve considered might pop up on my radar.

Ironically, it was without promotion that I ended up at Western. One of my high school coaches sent Western a highlight tape of our team and from that, the coaches identified No. 22 as somebody they’d want on their roster. Sure, there are times I might look back and lament what could have been, but after blindly navigating the pre-YouTube days of recruiting I am more than content with how things ended up.

Tags: College Football Recruiting MaxPreps.com National Signing Day YouTube

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