Dear Recruit: Part I

Texas flag. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Texas flag. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Our Chris Hall is starting a series of weekly stories leading up to National Signing Day:

Dear Recruit,

I’m writing this to you. The one who’s getting recruited. The one who actually wears the pads, makes the plays, and wins the games.

Your parents, coaches, friends, and fans will benefit from these articles should they read them. They’ll understand where you’re coming from and have insight for what you’re going through. They’ll even be able to counsel you as you take the next step.

But I’m not writing to them specifically. Every word will be directed at you, the ball player—a modern day gladiator.

This a letter from one who’s been there, to one who is there. If you’re open to listen, I can help you find your way.

I was a pudgy, white kid from Irving, Texas. I wasn’t impressively big, strong, or fast—but I could play ball. Even though my team wasn’t great, we were good enough to regularly bring recruiters through. I didn’t have 4- or 5-stars on Rivals. I wasn’t on ESPN’s 300. I wasn’t a U.S. Army (or anything else) All-American. But I did have a Division 1 scholarship offer before I ever started a varsity game.

The summer before my junior season I verbally committed to SMU. At the time my recruitment was done; I had no other plans to look elsewhere. Within year and a half everything would change, and several times over.

By the time my senior season ended I had de-committed from SMU, received 17 more scholarship offers, taken four visits to Oklahoma State, committed to Les Miles, de-committed from Mike Gundy, taken four official visits, had Mike Leach in my living room and Frank Broyles as my dinner host.

Somewhere in between I got turned off by LSU, had an urgent meeting with Bill Snyder, and couldn’t see myself as a Florida Gator. All of that before sitting down in Mack Brown’s office and telling him “I want to be a Longhorn.” Some of those names may not mean much to you. Those 18 offers may not mean much to you either. Whether you’re impressed or not—I don’t care.

I do care, though, that you fully realize what you’re getting yourself into with an autograph on Signing Day. For that, you need a mentor who’s successfully navigated the same road before.

I lettered all four years in college, and I started for three of them. I played all five positions on the offensive line, and at least four of them in one game. I was a first team All-American as a senior, and a Remington finalist for the best center in the country.

I opened holes for one of the best running backs in the NFL (Jamaal Charles). I protected the winningest quarterback in college football history (Colt McCoy). I was a Big 12 champion, a Fiesta Bowl champion, a Rose Bowl champion, and a national champion.

I wasn’t much to boast about on signing day—a 3-star consolation prize for Texas, really. But my time as a Longhorn was special; football taught me a lot along the way.

You’re on the verge of making the biggest decision of your adult life (up to this point). To be brutally honest, you have no idea the magnitude of what you’re deciding. Between the ages of 18 and 24, you’ll determine the place you settle down in, the woman you settle down with, and the career you settle into.

That, my friend, is basically everything.

Chris Hall. courtesy of TexasSports)

Chris Hall. courtesy of TexasSports)

The place you’ll call home and eventually raise your children, the woman you’ll fall for and propose forever to, the job you’ll work and provide for your family by—all of this will be tremendously influenced (if not decided) by the next six years of your life.

I’m writing this so you’ll think about it—actually stop and think about it—your college years may determine the who, what, and where of the rest of your life. You probably just want to play ball. You like it. You’re good at it. People like you because you’re good at it.

But it’s not that simple anymore.

In high school everything is a game and you can always start over. You make a bad grade? Your teachers show you some love. You have a bad practice? There’s no one better to take to your spot.

We all need second chances and adolescence should be full of them. But the real world (the one you’re about to encounter) isn’t an XBOX; there’s no reset button to push.

What if you don’t like your coach, or worse, your coach doesn’t like you?

What if you fight someone in practice and get man-handled in front of the team?

What if you fail to show up to class because you’re way too tired from football?

What if you flunk a lot of your classes because you never learned how to study anyway?

What if the only positive of your freshman year is a “randomly selected” drug test?

What if you’re honestly not that good, and stuck without a chance to ever play?

I didn’t make up those scenarios. I watched them happen before my eyes.

Most people would answer: “Transfer.” But you cannot “just transfer.” That comes at a high price (majors, credit hours, relationships, year(s) of time) and doesn’t guarantee things will be better. The grass ain’t always greener on the other side.

I want you to slow down and actually think.

Part of what makes you a good football player is your instincts: the ability to make impulsive, split-second “decisions” that are based more on your gut and muscle memory than anything else. That’s not the kind of thinking I’m talking about. Keep that for the field, but put it away for now.

You need to objectively evaluate every option available to you before you sign on the dotted line. To do that effectively, there’s a lot of things you still need to learn in the upcoming weeks:
• The true nature of college football (hint: it’s not actually a game).
• The five things you never choose a school for.
• What you can never trust post-Signing Day.
• And the bottom line of who you’ll eventually have to be.

Everything I wish I’d known when I was being recruited, I’ll be writing here week-by-week this January. Read it, read all of it. Learn from my stories and mistakes, and pick up the guiding principles.

All of it is for you.

February 2nd is going to be a special day; you’ll be charting the course of the rest of your life.