To the uninitiated, National Signing Day is completely ridiculous. From the outside, it looks like an excuse for the truly fanatical to obsess over a competition-free, vaguely sports-like substance, like the NFL Draft or WrestleMania. A day for unbridled optimism focused entirely on kids who don’t have prom dates yet. A day to focus on the things you love about that thing you love and not the eminently hateable people behind the scenes, like the NFL Draft or WrestleMania. It looks like that, and on some level, that’s exactly what it is. But for many, it’s much more.
For highly sought-after recruits, it marks the conclusion of a long, difficult process during which many weigh their academic futures, family concerns and football careers against what comes back when you Google "best party schools."
For coaches, it’s the culmination of months and often years spent formulating relationships with student-athletes, their parents and high school coaches in hopes of winning the honor of coaching the teenagers who will one day get them fired.
For college football media and "recruiting experts," it is end of totally not sifting through the trash outside the home of a 17-year-old in search of circumstantial evidence suggesting where he might be taking entry-level sociology in the fall or sitting in their cars outside of a high school or following his girlfriend on Twitter or come on you guys this is uncomfortable.
For fax machines, it is the freaking best.
For fans? Well, our options are limited. You could discuss the signings as they come in with other Pitt fans right here at Cardiac Hill (GREAT IDEA), read some of the fantastic longform articles on National Signing Day on the SB Nation main page, or you could tweet at recruits (REMINDER: DON’T. TWEET. AT. RECRUITS.). But what if we could be part of the action? Like, really part of the action?
In order to bring you, the fan, closer to National Signing Day than ever before, I decided to reopen my recruitment. I went deep inside the recruiting process, living the life of a high-profile recruit so fans like you can better appreciate the experiences of these student-athletes in the lead-up to the biggest decision of their young lives.
Now you may be wondering: How did I, with my "limited ability" and "no knowledge of the recruiting process," pull this off? That's a great question, but we've got a lot to do in a short amount of time. Let's get started!
STEP 1: BECOMING A PROSPECT
If you want to be a highly sought-after prospect, you need some stars. All the best prospects have stars. Ideally, you’re going to want to get a recruiting profile on ESPN, Rivals or Scout. But as the recently departed Blink-182 famously sang, you can’t always get what you want. Turns out you need "credentials."
Let me mention that before you try this, I would recommend having some solid stats and Division I interest to back up your claim of how good of a player you are.
OK. Minor setback. But we don’t quit. We’re going to do it ourselves. This is going to make a great SportsCenter segment one day. First, let’s give ourselves some stars:
That was easy enough. Eat it, experts. Now, to let the coaches know that you’re out there - and you mean business.
Pro Tip: If you don’t have a highlight reel of your own, do what I did and use Barry Sanders’ high school highlights. If you ignore the part that conspicuously says BARRY SANDERS, it’s practically impossible to tell it’s not you.
STEP 2: DEALING WITH ATTENTION
Now that you’re a prized recruit, things change in a hurry. Everyone wants a piece of you! With credentials like yours the offers are going to pour in. Be sure to publicize them. You’ve got the leverage, let your pursuers know what they’re up against. I’d never even heard of this school, but I’m pretty sure what they were offering is against NCAA regulations.
Not only was my mailbox stuffed, but I had coaches reaching out to me constantly. It’s crucial that you use this time to really get to know them and find the fit that’s right for you.
Shout out to our Pai Gow dealer Chuck.
I have no idea how he got my number.
Due to ongoing legal proceedings I can’t discuss all of the interactions I’ve had with coaches, so I’ll just say this: Coach Saban, that was well worth the bail money. I had no idea you knew karate.
Now this… This guy gets me.
STEP 3: THINNING THE HERD
It’s been a long, grueling process and you’re ready for this whole thing to be over. You’ve been buried in mail, spoken to coaches, and engineered strategically-timed leaks (spammed tweets at Chris Peak) about who’s in your "Top Five." It’s time to head back to social media to let the speculation abound!
Ooh, curveball! You hadn’t even hinted at jumping straight to the NBA! (You may want to set your account to private now. Ohio State fans don’t handle rejection well.)
STEP 4: MAKING YOUR DECISION
National Signing Day! It’s finally here! With a little more time you’d have your day planned out a little better, but you really came out of nowhere as a prospect. That’s OK, we can still make this work.
Most of these announcements happen in high school gymnasiums, so pick up a sandwich ring and the fog machine you rented and head over there. To answer your next question, no, I assume you don’t have to tell the school you’re coming. You pay taxes. Maybe some "real" recruit is announcing his decision there too - perfect! You’ll have an audience, and he’ll always remember that the two of you did this together. Football really is the ultimate team sport.
All eyes are on you, waiting for the announcement that will start one fan base dancing and dash the hopes of the others. I know you’re nervous. Even though you’ve dreamed of this for as many as two days, you’re afraid you don’t quite have the right words for the moment. No worries, just speak from the heart and read verbatim this speech I wrote you:
"I’d like to thank you all for joining me to celebrate this exciting moment in my life. You know, I look around this room and I see a lot of faces looking at me like they don’t recognize me. And to be honest, I don’t recognize myself right now. This process has changed me in almost every way. I mean, not every way – I’m still not going to Penn State, @$#* that. But in a lot of other ways, I have.
I’d like to thank all of the coaches who showed interest in me throughout this process. I’ve learned so much from all of you. Especially you, Coach Saban - I had no idea hot-wiring a police cruiser was that easy.
Anyway, while I’ve truly enjoyed the experience of re-opening my recruitment, I’m happy to announce that Pitt is still it for me. I’ve been living and dying with this team for years now, having my heart broken year after year, and it feels like we’re finally pointed in the right direction. And that’s just the uniforms. I like the new coach too. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve decided to enroll early. At Bootlegger’s.
Hail to Pitt, I guess, right?"