...Hello, my name is Adam, and I have been free of the college football recruiting hype machine for oh about 37 minutes now. I won't lie. It has not been easy getting off the bandwagon of the ceaseless array of YouTube highlight films, early morning google news searches, and wall-to-wall coverage of the subject on just about every website I would ever bother to read. But somehow, someway, I find myself slowly letting go of the rush that comes with each fourth of February. We kid ourselves about our attachment to this thing called National Signing Day. It has even become cliché for us to throw in a few self-depreciating comments about our priorities as a half-hearted gesture before each foray into the subject.
Heck I guess you could call it a tradition, one which seems to not only grow anew this time each year, but one which continues to rapidly expand and push the boundaries of NCAA compliance laws and college fandom as we know it. Our attachment to our favorite school's recruiting class has become not only a practice of off-season following for many of us, but a singular obsession that now gives way to multi-million dollar companies and "insider" subscription services. It is, to be frank, getting out of hand, and we all know it. In my own case that burgeoning obsession has manifested itself in a select few athletes, whose impending college declarations seemed to be the most important thing in my very limited world over the past two or three weeks.
It's the reason why sometime after the conclusion of Lost last night I found myself back at my computer, scouring the web for any relevant stories regarding my favorite NCAA football team and its potential future stars. Never mind that my team - Navy - does not even participate in the "official" process of letters of intent. I just wanted to know who the next Reggie Campbell would be. My searches were however somewhat in vain. Despite well-crafted phrases that helped to pick up wire reports on recruits from seemingly every small-town paper around, I failed to determine the final destination of a select few recruits who I had been hoping would have made their decisions to more media acclaim.
So, like the proverbial eight year old who gets nothing but socks and savings bonds on Christmas Eve, I went to bed last night with a tinge of disappointment over my failure while still holding out an expectation for better things to come. Yet sometime as I was making the rounds (in vain again, I should add) this morning it hit me. Here I was, albeit under much different circumstances, just a few years removed from the same gut wrenching decision that this particular young man had either just made, or was still in the process of making. Suddenly I could remember the overwhelming anxiety of it all, recalling how the very thought of just choosing (never mind actually attending) a University could likely determine anything and everything about me and my future over the next four years. For some people I understand a decision like this is greeted with open arms and a willingness to move on, yet as I remembered my own case I suddenly began to question the motivations for why this particular young man had not made his decision. Did he like the schools that offered him a scholarship? Had he not been offered by the school he wanted to go to? Was he waiting for another offer? Did he feel constrained by the options before him; no matter how appealing they may have looked, or seemed to have looked for you or I?
I thought back again, and slowly I found myself not only beginning to feel a good deal of sympathy for this young man, but a good deal of empathy as well. No, I hadn't been recruited by anyone for anything coming out of high school, and no, I sure didn't have anyone stepping up to give me an all-expense paid pass to higher education. Yet I hated my college choices, and remembered feeling angry and trapped by my own options as I neared the final day of decision for choosing a school. And heck, I was only going to go to whatever school I chose; it wasn't like I was being expected to come in and be the next great football star for that University.
Now I'm not saying this young man "hated" his college options like I did, nor am I saying he may have felt "trapped" by the process. But the more I began to think about and remember my own case, the more I began to understand why hitting the refresh button every ten minutes on my google news search seemed pointless and not the least bit unfair to him. I'm not here to tell you to step back from the hype that comes with college football recruiting.
We all know that as long as we partake in the thrill of Saturday afternoons in the fall we are going to have to live with - and more than not embrace - the off-season happenings which feed and cultivate our beloved game. Yet when we consider the decision making of seventeen and eighteen year olds when it comes to where they will take their God-given ability and years of hard-work and after school sacrifice, perhaps it's best to remember our own situations. Choosing a college is the biggest decision most 18-year olds will make up to that point in their lives, and despite however we may feel about their choice in college options, it's probably best if we all take a collective step back and let them leave the decision making process to those who care most about their well-being.