How to get a college scholarship if you’re an overlooked senior

Chat with the AJC's Michael Carvell

Happy Holidays from The AJC's Michael Carvell

OK, so you’re a high school senior and you want to play college football and you are looking for a football scholarship!
With national signing day just more than two months away, there is plenty of time to do something about it. And you can
do it on your own, without paying thousands of dollars to recruiting services.
All it takes is a little bit of hard work, a lot of determination and about $50. There are numerous stories of seniors who
landed last-minute scholarship offers after taking some initiative. Consider:
St. Louis Rams safety Corey Chavous had only one offer (Wofford) two months before signing day during his senior year
at Silver Bluff (S.C.) High. Chavous mailed out 10 highlight tapes and got 10 offers. He signed with Vanderbilt and is
finishing his 10th year in the NFL.
Auburn wide receiver Robert Dunn didn’t mail out highlight tapes until late December of his senior year at Laney High of
Augusta. He held off signing with South Carolina State on signing day and ended up with offers from Auburn and
Nebraska a week later.
North Gwinnett quarterback Mike Tamburo committed to Boise State after Tamburo’s coach mailed out highlight tapes of
the team’s seniors to 450 colleges on Sept. 1.
With that in mind, here are four easy steps to put yourself in the best position to be considered for an athletic scholarship:
1. Produce a highlight film
It always has been about —- and always will be about —- the film. Nothing, including glorified letters, personalized Web
sites or phone calls from family friends or boosters, means as much as film.
Film gives scouts the best opportunity to evaluate. The best type of film is a highlight tape, which will consist of the top 25-
35 plays combined from junior and senior years. Why not more? Most scouts will decide whether you’re good enough for
their program after watching only a few minutes, and if so, then they likely will request an entire game film [but not
always].
Computer programs with basic editing software cost less than $25, and a lot of people are skilled at editing.
Quick tip: Make sure to put the best plays at the front of the tape. Scouts go through hundreds of tapes a day, and time is
short.
2. Preparing the package
After preparing the tape, the next step is completing the rest of the package, which should include unofficial copies of high
school transcripts and SAT/ACT scores, which you can send to college once you take the exam.
Also include a simple page of “quick facts, ” which shows contact information, such as your mailing address, cellphone,
and e-mail address. It also can highlight football-related items, including height and weight, 40-yard dash times, positions
played, individual statistics, and athletic and academic honors. Jersey number and position should be taped to the DVD in
large block letters.
Quick tip: When mailing packages to colleges, save 50 percent in postage costs by requesting the “book rate.”
3. Picking the colleges
This is the part of the marketing process where most mistakes are made. Unknown prospects sometimes mail tapes
directly to schools like USC, Georgia or Notre Dame. You should at least have a few offer from smaller colleges (Div. II, IAA)
before targeting the “big boys.”
While there is nothing wrong with big dreams, there is a method to the recruiting madness: Start off with the smaller
schools and build leverage from there.
For each 10 tapes you send out, five should go to schools you think you are too good to play for; three should go to
schools you think you could play for, and two should go to schools you dream of playing for.
If you get an offer from Shorter College, then West Georgia or Morehouse may be willing to look at your film, and then
Georgia Southern and Georgia State, and so forth.
Quick tip: Target colleges from surrounding states (North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky) that
traditionally recruit the state very hard. Florida colleges may be a waste of time because they tend to stay in-state with
recruiting due to the tremendous amount of local prospects
4. Closing the deal
While the most important thing is the highlight tape, No. 2 is following up with colleges about 10-14 days after mailing the
packages.
College coaches have hundreds of DVDs on their desks, with many more waiting to be opened.
So think of it like applying for a job: To get noticed, you need to be persistent but polite with phone calls or e-mails.
Quick tip: E-mail addresses and work phones for specific college coaches and football offices can be looked up by clicking
here.
Note: When you get to particular school’s Web Site, search under “Athletics” and not “Football”, looking for a “Staff
Directory” or “Administration.” Here is an example with the University of South Carolina
FIVE QUESTIONS
1. To which person on the football staff do I send my tape? Either the recruiting coordinator or the position coach of the
position you feel you have the best chance of playing in college.
2. What if the college coach never answers when I call? Most don’t, therefore leave a voice mail. If they are interested in
you, they will return your call or e-mail you, providing you sent your contact information with the package.
3. Which is the better way of contacting coaches, e-mails or phone calls? Depends on the coach, therefore try both until
you figure it out.
4. What if there is no way I can make a highlight tape? Then send out a copy of your best game.
5. What if I’m a junior or sophomore? What should I be doing? If you’re a junior, sign up to take the ACT/SAT as many
times as possible for the remainder of this school year. If you qualify early, you will dramatically increase your chances for
a scholarship offer. You need to make sure you’re taking the proper classes to met NCAA college entrance requirements.
If you’re a junior or sophomore, focus on academics before a highlight tape. And if you do decide to mail out a tape, have
it ready to ship around Feb. 1, when colleges can concentrate 100-percent on next year’s recruiting class.

Note: This is a reprint from the AJC, due to popular demand. If you have any questions, please post them below.

OK, so you’re a high school senior and you want to play college football and you are looking for a football scholarship?

With national signing day just more than six weeks away, there is plenty of time to do something about it. And you can do it on your own, without paying thousands of dollars to recruiting services.

All it takes is a little bit of hard work, a lot of determination and about $50. There are numerous stories of seniors who landed last-minute scholarship offers after taking some initiative. Consider:

Former NFL Pro Bowl safety Corey Chavous had only one offer (Wofford) two months before signing day during his senior year at Silver Bluff (S.C.) High. Chavous mailed out 10 highlight tapes and got 10 offers. He signed with Vanderbilt and played 12 years in the NFL.

Former Auburn wide receiver Robert Dunn didn’t mail out highlight tapes until late December of his senior year at Laney High of Augusta. He held off signing with South Carolina State on signing day and ended up with offers from Auburn and Nebraska a week later.

Last year, then-North Gwinnett quarterback Mike Tamburo committed to Boise State after Tamburo’s coach mailed out highlight tapes of the team’s seniors to 450 colleges on Sept. 1.

With that in mind, here are four easy steps to put yourself in the best position to be considered for an athletic scholarship:

1. Produce a highlight film

It always has been about —- and always will be about —- the film. Nothing, including glorified letters, personalized Websites or phone calls from family friends or boosters, means as much as film.

Film gives scouts the best opportunity to evaluate. The best type of film is a highlight tape, which will consist of the top 25-35 plays combined from junior and senior years. Why not more? Most scouts will decide whether you’re good enough for their program after watching only a few minutes, and if so, then they likely will request an entire game film [but not always]. Computer programs with basic editing software cost less than $25, and a lot of people are skilled at editing.

Quick tip: Make sure to put the best plays at the front of the tape. Scouts go through hundreds of tapes a day, and time is short.

2. Preparing the package

[Read the quick tip below, and then come back to this ... ] After preparing the tape, the next step is completing the rest of the package, which should include unofficial copies of high school transcripts and SAT/ACT scores, which you can send to college once you take the exam. Also include a simple page of “quick facts, ” which shows contact information, such as your mailing address, cellphone, and e-mail address. It also can highlight football-related items, including height and weight, 40-yard dash times, positions played, individual statistics, and athletic and academic honors. Jersey number and position should be taped to the DVD in large block letters.

Quick tip: Since this article was written in 2008, technology has rapidly changed. You can save a lot  of time and money by posting the video on YouTube and emailing the link to college scouts.  Also, scan your transcript and SAT score, and attach it to the email.

3. Picking the colleges

This is the part of the marketing process where most mistakes are made. Unknown prospects sometimes mail tapes directly to schools like USC, Georgia or Notre Dame. You should at least have a few offer from smaller colleges (Div. II, IAA) before targeting the “big boys.” While there is nothing wrong with big dreams, there is a method to the recruiting madness: Start off with the smaller schools and build leverage from there. [Note: Bigger schools aren't necessarily better than smaller schools. You have to find the school -- regardless of size -- that is the best fit for you academically, athletically, socially, etc.]

For each 10 tapes you send out, five should go to schools you think you are too good to play for; three should go to schools you think you could play for, and two should go to schools you dream of playing for. If you get an offer from Shorter College, then West Georgia or Morehouse may be willing to look at your film, and then Georgia Southern and Georgia State, and so forth.

Quick tip: Target colleges from surrounding states (North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky) that traditionally recruit the state very hard. Florida colleges may be a waste of time because they tend to stay in-state with recruiting due to the tremendous amount of local prospects

4. Closing the deal

While the most important thing is the highlight tape, No. 2 is following up with colleges about 10-14 days after mailing the packages. College coaches have hundreds of DVDs on their desks, with many more waiting to be opened.

So think of it like applying for a job: To get noticed, you need to be persistent but polite with phone calls or e-mails.

Quick tip: E-mail addresses and work phones for specific college coaches and football offices can be looked up by clicking here.

Note: When you get to particular school’s Web Site, search under “Athletics” and not “Football”, looking for a “Staff Directory” or “Administration.” Here is an example with the University of South Carolina.

FIVE QUESTIONS

1. To which person on the football staff do I send my tape? Either the recruiting coordinator or the position coach of the position you feel you have the best chance of playing in college.

2. What if the college coach never answers when I call? Most don’t, therefore leave a voice mail. If they are interested in you, they will return your call or e-mail you, providing you sent your contact information with the package.

3. Which is the better way of contacting coaches, e-mails or phone calls? Depends on the coach, therefore try both until you figure it out.

4. What if there is no way I can make a highlight tape? Then send out a copy of your best game.

5. What if I’m a junior or sophomore? What should I be doing? If you’re a junior, sign up to take the ACT/SAT as many times as possible for the remainder of this school year. If you qualify early, you will dramatically increase your chances for a scholarship offer. You need to make sure you’re taking the proper classes to met NCAA college entrance requirements. If you’re a junior or sophomore, focus on academics before a highlight tape. And if you do decide to mail out a tape, have it ready to ship around Feb. 1, when colleges can concentrate 100-percent on next year’s recruiting class.

BOTTOM LINE

What if you do all of this and nothing happens? You still win. You’ve only invested minimal time and money. You won’t be spending the rest of your life wondering “What if.” Worst case, you have a highlight film to treasure for the rest of your life, to show your kids and grandkids, etc. However, many colleges, especially if you’ve shown so much aggressiveness and desire to play, are willing to offer you a “walk on” spot (non-scholarship) on the football team, with the opportunity to earn a scholarship in the future. Best case? You could be one of the lucky few to sign on the dotted line for scholarship papers in Feb.

27 comments Add your comment

THEHILLISREAL

December 25th, 2010
12:45 am

If you have time email the recruiter of your region and see what positions they’re looking for?
See who how many recruits they have at your position. Believe or not the recruiter are very up front…. no need of sending a tape to a school when they have 5 plan b.

Dekalb County

December 25th, 2010
10:35 am

My suggestion would be to call and speak with the football recruiting coordinator @Stephenson High School. They have a great track record and he is working with my son’s recruiting and we are from another school. The coaches name is Coach Johnson.

Michael Carvell

December 25th, 2010
11:05 am

@THEHILL, no I would not recommend wasting any time emailing or calling a college coach about any position needs. The main thing is to get the tape out there ASAP. Besides, you may project a kid at DE, while the colleges may see him as a TE or LB.

MC 12

December 25th, 2010
4:20 pm

Do not have music on your high light film you send or if you ahve your highlights on YOU TUBE. College coaches and recruiters get a lot of their information from YOU TUBE, so keep your SOCIAL NETWORK CLEAN. Parents make sure you maintain a good relationship with your son’s high school coaching staff. One of the most asked questions from recruiters is, how are the parents. Coaches have to give accurate feedback, because their credibility is on the line and they want the recruiter to return.

johnny too good

December 25th, 2010
5:37 pm

its always hard to get exposure, and difficult to get the attention of recruiters’ attention, they completely neglect some areas, and some kids dont know how to get recruited in high school, i was one of them. as a coach i work hard to get my players signed to the next level. I’ve sent out nearly a hundred dvds and transcripts this year alone

check the link for highlights of some of my players
http://www.youtube.com/user/ThatsJohnAnderson

PDF

December 25th, 2010
5:57 pm

So if a young man has the ability at the next level who should be the driving force in getting him in front of a college? Parents or H.S. Coach? Does it vary by H.S. Coach?

@johnny too good

December 25th, 2010
7:37 pm

The highlight of Janard Frazier is just right.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJR7Jmm6Pa8
This one good as well, probably on the long side.

Gwinnett Football Fanatic

December 25th, 2010
7:59 pm

You are very fortunate if your high school coach helps with recruiting – we have one of the top programs in Gwinnett with very few kids playing at the next level each year, when more could with the help and exposure their coach could give them.

MC 12

December 25th, 2010
11:47 pm

PDF: It’s a stronger position if the parents and the coach work with the recruiting. If this is your first time getting involved with recruiting, you might want to do a lot of listening and research the process. Stay close in contact with your sons coach and keep communication open between the two of you so yall are talking from the same page when a recruiter has some questions. Most coaches invite parent involvement, just don’t ove due it. Recruiters find out quick who has the most power with the athletes decision. Whatever you do do not just sit back and let the coach do all the work. Communication is the key.

Michael Carvell

December 26th, 2010
12:11 am

@PDF, most high school coaches are always willing to help. However, at this late in the game, I would go ahead and initiate your own gameplan — and just make sure the coach is aware of it. You should probably bring your high school coach some of the DVDs/bio sheets to keep in the office when the college coaches make the last swing in January.

tjhook

December 26th, 2010
4:49 pm

Mike – great advice. I have a nephew going through this very deal. Only Florida int’l and Delaware have offered. He needs exposure. Extra: I have another nephew that wants to transfer from South Carolina. What advice do you have for transfers.

Wesley Gulledge

December 27th, 2010
3:32 pm

Good article and fairly accurate. I have personally witnessed the efforts of 2 or 3 seniors at rival schools that i thought would never play at the collegiate level. However, some good film and determination on their part, and often their parents part, helped them get an opportunity. 1 played 2 years and finished 2nd in the conf. The other stayed only 1 year, but that was 1 year more than many. If I could offer any additional comments it would be to make sure you “the athlete” want to play college ball and not “your dad or other affiliate” wanting you to play college ball.

Football Coach

December 31st, 2010
9:25 am

Excellent Article

Players and parents need to be proactive in their player’s recruiting. Most High School Coaches don’t know how to go about getting their players recruited. Most High School Coaches don’t make an effort to get their players recruited. I was a college recruiter for several years and I found that many coaches believe if a player is good enough the colleges will find him. True in many cases but not the rule. I have walked in schools where the High School Coach doesn’t give out game film or keep accurate statistics. Rarely did I ever recruit that school twice. There are only so many hours in a day to visit schools and meet coaches. If a senior doesn’t have any recruitment going on then his coach did nothing. It is too easy to have a player put on the recruiting radar. If a High School player desires to play college football he should contact colleges in his junior year. Parents have to be realistic in their son’s ability. If your son doesn’t start and contribute on his High School team then he probably isn’t a college level player.

The Truth

December 31st, 2010
10:44 am

Carvell is being politically correct. So let me say it for him … Never ever depend on your high school coach for help with recruiting. YOU have to take the initiative to get it done. If the coach ends up helping, then consider yourself one of the lucky few.

Small College Basketball Coach

January 1st, 2011
9:34 am

Good article> Re: small college basketball programs (w/smaller recruiting budgets)
Step 1- start early..I will begin recruiting for 2012s in May and will practically be done w/2011s by April 1. I realize the article concerns “late in the process or overlooked Players” so lets go to…
Step2- at small colleges, is to go on school’s website NOW and complete Recruit Form/ Player Questionairre. If you have high/solid academics, thats very important as small colleges supplement the 7-10 athletic scholarships w/ academic monies..but you need to apply early, possibly by Nov 1st in year of graduation. This month, applying by Jan15th is deadline for academic monies at some colleges.
Step 3- sending a game tape from this year is excellent. I prefer game film NOT highlight footage..players play games.
Finally, an email or phone call is ok within a week or so once the student-athlete has done steps 2 and 3.
HOWEVER, I receive notification immediately when a prospective player completes COMPLETES our Recruit Form and will make contact usually within 5-7 days.
Again, good article. I am grateful for writers like you who wish to be a helpful to student-athletes and their parents in your reading area. Happy New Year to you and may 2011 be your best year yet in all areas of life!

MHC Tiger

January 1st, 2011
10:43 am

great article, I am interested in how these kids go to these multiple camps in a summer. Between perfect game, and football camps i have spent a small fortune…cant continue to do that. any suggestions? Also i was highly disapointed with camps like FBU and dreammakers. seems like just a money grab. your kid does well, gets invited to next stage and thats another 500.00 plus travel expenses. got a decent prospect on a laymans budget. help!

MC 12

January 1st, 2011
4:51 pm

@MHC Tiger: Nike Football Training Camp is a free camp and is held throughout the country. My son was invited last year and it was a very competitive one day camp. We chose Univ. of Alabama as our camp site.

Get with your players coach and have him submit his stats from last year to NFTC. Very good camp and it’s free with great exposure moreover you can go to as many camps as you want to. Nice dri fit Nike gear also.

Michael Carvell

January 1st, 2011
5:26 pm

@Small College Basketball Coach: Thank you so much for providing insight from your perspective. That is some valuable information for parents and prospects to read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The only thing I would agree to disagree on is … game tape vs. highlight tape. I would ALWAYS mail a highlight tape. Most assistant coaches get literally hundreds of films to look at. And you know? Because their time is limited, they usually only look through the first 2-3 minutes. If something doesn’t catch their attention, then its off to the next film. That’s why you have to catch them up front with some spectacular plays. If they like what they see on a highlight tape, then they will follow up and request game film. But by then, you’ve usually got them hooked. Because no matter what they see on the game film, they won’t be able to forget those spectacular first few plays on the highlight tape.

rrlester

January 1st, 2011
8:39 pm

Great article
I am going to apply these tips to basketball

JC

January 1st, 2011
9:19 pm

I took the initative for my son. The Summer before his Jr. Year I contacted coaches. sent my son to several collage prospect camps. We identified 10 school and I developed a relationship with the head recruiters from those schools. I sent the coachs dvd’s and e-mailed them my son’s weekly stats. When they liked what they saw on the dvd’s and the camps they started to send him letters of interest and comming to watch him play. To answer a couple questions, Do not depend on the high school coach – It’s up to the parent… Attend the prospect camps where the school shows interest in your son… Scouts start recuiting when a kid is in high school – It’s never too early to start…

Atlanta Hoops Fan

January 2nd, 2011
10:38 pm

I remember earlier this year prior to the MGHS – Milton game folks were commenting on who’s the best pointguard in the state….and the consensus was that S. Scott of Milton was far superior to T. Marshall of Miller Grove and any other pointguard in the state. Well I’ve had a chance to see them play on several occassion…and honestly, the more I watch T. Marshall of Miller Grove, the more I’m impressed. He is THE MOST underated PG in the state of GA. He can do it all and has consistently done it all year against the some of the best…..without Marshall, Miller Grove would not have one a single game at the Beach Ball Classic….period…and may not not be a top 25 team…..the bigs get the glory, but this kid runs the show, defends, rebounds, leads the team in assist and steals and is the perfect fit for their system….and from what I hear has not recieved ANY scholarship offers yet….wow ….I think he’s a solid Mid/Low Major candidate…..you college scout guys are missing out on a good one…..

proud father

January 3rd, 2011
9:43 am

Michael, thanks for writing this valuable article. I have a son who plays Georgia HS basketball and is a junior. He’s stands 6′6″ tall and is developing quite nicely. He is having a very good/productive season and is getting better every game. We had a sit-down with the coaching staff to insure we were on the same page and sharing collective goals as it appears that a basketball scholarship for him is attainable..it was a very good meeting and appears to have had a positive impact on my son. He plays on a respected AAU squad and got some pretty good exposure this past summer traveling to multiple states; he’ll get even more this upcoming summer. We’ve been contacted by several D1 programs that have an interest in him, so we’re excited (though we don’t have any offers yet). The process you outlined is practical/helpful.

Very Proud

January 4th, 2011
5:32 pm

Michael, This is a very good article. Gives alot of parents an inkling of how the process goes. Also, please understand parents by YOUR JUNIOR year, you would need to know – GPA and ACT/SAT scores are good enough. If there are not according to the NCAA Standards, then you would have to look into D2, or JUCO schools. JUCO are not to be counted out. Because knowingly, if they cannot make it in a JUCO, (whether it be for Grade wise or being productive on the field), then this will tell you definetly give you a heads up. I have a QUESTION. Now, there has only been ONE so far that is doing this.. STEPHENSON COACH. All 32 or 34 players, WENT SOMEWHERE. Whether, they were blessed academically and athletically to go D1 (not all can go), D2, D3, or JUCO. Why isn’t every Coach taking the approach to get their Seniors in school Somewhere? Not just Your top 5 student when you know you have 25 Seniors on your squad. Signing day is just not about D1, Signing Day is about – Signing to go to a college (period). Somewhere, but the streets.

Michael Carvell

January 5th, 2011
10:29 am

@Very Proud, the situation at Stephenson proves one thing: If a kid really, really, really wants to play college football, then there will always be a place for him somewhere. It may be an D2 or NAIA school in the middle of Iowa or rural Alabama, and it may as a walk-on or a “scholarship” with a few hundred dollars thrown in. But if there is a desire, your child will always be able to find a place.

Reeze

January 8th, 2011
2:54 am

Football coach………..Excellent , If I may add my two cents , from what ive seen is that many Parents and students are totally clueless of NCAA requirements…….You really have to commend Programs such as Tucker , Buford , Stephenson , Westlake , Lowndes ,Camden etc , that year in and out get their kids in the top schools around the country….Others you can only wonder what in the Hell are the Coaches , Faculty and Parents doing , or not doing…….This is one of the best pieces ive seen from the AJC , But Carvell it would have been better to run this piece in May or June of 2010.

Reeze

January 8th, 2011
3:03 am

NRB1

January 8th, 2011
11:32 am

Also, keep in mind the NCAA Blackout periods. If you do not get a response from coaches, it may be because that there are periods where schools are prohibited from contacting students. Good article.