Calls at all times of the day and night. Text messages that pile up by the dozens. Letters from coaches, information packages from schools and e-mails from just about every scouting service known to man.
The pressure can be immense.
Such is the life of a high-profile high school football prospect in the throes of the college recruiting season.
But alas, national signing day is here again, which means those prospects are finally at the end of a very long and arduous journey.
“The whole process can be pretty crazy because you’re talking about a decision that basically determines your future in a lot of ways,” said former Oklahoma linebacker Rufus Alexander. “I remember times when it was stress-filled because you were dealing with a lot of unknowns and people are pulling you in a number of different directions. Basically, you just have to trust in yourself to make the right decision and get good advice from the people around you.”
With competing recruiting services like Rivals.com and Scout.com offering up almost-daily updates on basically every prep prospect in the country, no stone goes unturned when it comes to the race.
The most sought-after recruits basically live their lives under a microscope during the process. With recruiting services hiding around every corner and coaches doing their best to make a lasting impression, finding time to squeeze in a few minutes of alone time is a real challenge.
“Sometimes you just want to get away from it for a while, be by yourself, just think about everything. But it’s not as easy as it sounds,” said Alexander, who now plays for the Indianapolis Colts.
There is also peer pressure involved ” friends and teammates wanting to know the latest news and always willing to toss in their opinion on where to go and what to do.
But for Nic Harris, the whole process was anything but stressful. In fact, he relished every minute of it.
“Honestly, it was fun for me. I never had any issues with any of it,” said Harris, who is currently readying for this month’s NFL Combine. “I was a kid living the dream, getting ready to go play college football for a Division I program of my choice. I know it can be pretty stressful for guys, but I had fun with it from start to finish.”
Harris admitted his phone rang morning, noon and night ” but he said he answered almost every time it did, whether it was Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, USC’s Pete Carroll or some other coach from a less-prominent school. He figured the more he talked to prospective coaches and programs, the better chance he had at figuring out his best option.
And he did it with a live audience a lot of times.
“I would include my coaches, friends and family in the process as much as possible. I’d even let them listen to some of my conversations, just to get their thoughts,” Harris said. “I knew from the start that I wanted to think outside the box during the recruiting process. I wanted to go to a great out-of-state program that was going to be best for me in the long run.”
Ultimately, Harris chose OU, announcing his decision on national signing day in February 2005. He went on to become a three-year defensive starter.
“It was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity and I wanted to make sure I got it right. I kind of looked at it as an adventure and embraced it,” he said. “In the end, I think it all worked out pretty good.”
Not every recruiting story is a success story. Harris is one of the fortunate players who had all of the ingredients to make it at the college level, and possibly beyond.
There are hundreds of men who are signing on the dotted line today in hopes they can deal with the pressure and live up to the hype that goes with being the next big man on campus. “Jay C. Upchurch