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

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 five 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 or scouting 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.

Former North Gwinnett quarterback Mike Tamburo committed to Boise State [later transferring to UGA] 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. Update: Most laptops already have a crude and basic but FREE editing software already installed. If the idea of editing video scares you, chances are that you have a classmate or friend who is skilled at it and can help. Ask around. [Do a search on your laptop for "Windows Movie Maker"]

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. Forget creating and mailing DVDs. Now the way to do it is by posting the video on YouTube and emailing the link to college scouts.  Also, scan your transcript and SAT score, and and attach it to the email, along with a bio of “quick facts.”

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 emails you send out, 4-5 should go to schools you think you are too good to play for; 2-3 should go to schools you think you could play for, and 2-3 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 days after sending the email. College coaches have hundreds of emails to review or DVDs on their desks to go through.

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 North Carolina State.


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.


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. or later in the spring.

50 comments Add your comment


December 24th, 2011
2:55 pm

Give me a Scholly


December 24th, 2011
5:13 pm

My son is a jr and a really good player and unless you are a blue chipper your chances of playing big time football (Sec) are slim. If so they already know about you. I played at Ga Southern in 80’s and it was the best experience of my life so I wanted to target smaller schools and found a website for $50 where you can embed your youtube video (which I made myself) list academic, athletic achievements, documents such as transcripts, recommendation letters, Community Service log sheet, contact info, pics, etc. It also has every Coach’s email in every sport in every division in the country. You simply pick the schools, pick the form email you want to send and email them the link to your profile. You can then go into backoffice and see what Coachs opened the link and how many times. I sent emails to every school in SE and 16 Coaches opened the link including 2 from Steve Spurrier and my son is not even on anyones radar yet or an SEC player. So I sent a follow up email etc. First things first get a highlight video. By the way I make no money off of plugging that website. here is the link to my sons profile if you want to see an example

Michael Carvell

December 24th, 2011
5:22 pm

@KevRock, who determines if you are a “blue chipper”? Outstanding players get overlooked all the time. Thanks for the info on the website. However, if you don’t have the money for fees, you can do it for FREE by following the instructions above.


December 24th, 2011
5:34 pm

Michael you are right about that. I guess what I’m trying to say if you are a late bloomer or not already being recruited then this is article or something like that website are the way to go. This one only cost $50. Thank you for reposting this artice. Vey Informative. Merry Christmas

Bronco Billy

December 24th, 2011
7:28 pm

If you can afford one year of college, you can walk-on, show your stuff and hope that you get noticed!

Delbert D.

December 24th, 2011
8:30 pm

Walk-ons, what are the stats on those guys making the 1st team in the FBS? I haven’t done the specific research, but it seems like the better route is to go FCS or Div. II. It would be interesting to see an historical comparison of the odds of making the NFL (which is very low for FCS starters to begin with.)

The Atlanta Falcons currently have players Bethune-Cookman and Shippensburg on the roster, along with 2 guys from FCS playoff school Montana on the team.


December 25th, 2011
8:54 am

Michael……this is great stuff not only for those about to be involved but also for us true football fans. I can see why this is back by popular demand. Good read and great info for players and parents. Merrry Christmas.


December 25th, 2011
9:06 am

kevrock, did you get to see the great Tracy Ham up close and personal. THE greatest option QB in any division, ever, in opinion.

Also had a good buddy that played MLB for Erk and won a couple of National Titles for the Eagles – Darrell Hendrix.

Hubie Green

December 25th, 2011
9:47 am

These are great tips and ideas. I’d send a highlight tape and your best game film against your best competition. Almost anybody can look good on a highlight film, but a game film does not hide anything.


December 25th, 2011
11:31 am

Tracy Ham was over-rated to the max. As far as Darrell Hendrix, he rode the pine, got a fat check, laughing all the way to the bank.
As far as ‘Diamond in the Rough’ players go, in 1986, John Snyder (as a senior) was awarded a scholorship at Georgia Tech, went on as 12 year 1st string OL for the New York Jets and has to be regarded as a #1 super sports honoree.

Get those facts straight ,Joey before hopping aboard.


December 25th, 2011
12:08 pm

John Snyder was a true example of what Living the Dream is all about.

Michael Carvell

December 25th, 2011
12:19 pm

@Hubie Brown, fair enough, there are a lot of different opinions about mailing both a highlight film and film of an entire game. Some do it, some don’t. Me personally, I’d go with the highlight tape ONLY — and only your top 20-25 players of your HS career. And make sure to put the best plays first because the college scouts have a short attention span. If they don’t like what they see in the first 6-7 plays, they usually move on to the next video. But why only the highlight video? My theory is that if they see your best plays on the highlight video, then that will stick in their mind. And whatever they watch AFTER that (whether it be several game films), it won’t matter as much because they will have been heavily influenced or “brainwashed” by the highlight video. Just my theory, not saying it’s 100-percent right or wrong.


December 25th, 2011
12:47 pm

Next51 is an Atlanta based company that increases the exposure of high school athletes. Create a profile and send it out today.


December 25th, 2011
1:06 pm

A high school head coach who cares deeply about his players can work miracles. They can go to a few select web sites and recommend a young player and kids will receive letters from schools all over the country. The rest is up to them.

bitter stuck between a rock and a hard spot

December 25th, 2011
1:30 pm

good advice “crowell—i mean –cravelll—–merry christmas—–ajc staff

————–and merry christmas to —turd roll—–hahahah—-tree killers

its a crime if alabamma goes off the uga sched—-uuuu—–any dawg fan that lives next to

—-the bammer nation state line—–looks forward to this game most of all—-way more than flor—u-da!

————-dawg fans dont make the sched—uuuuu——–dooly had a winning record against the “bear”

——————-richt has a winning record against bammer———–go lsuuuuu


December 25th, 2011
2:05 pm

I agree with Michael Carvell, the only difference with my experience is that I created a youtube file that I emailed to prospective coaches with an introductory message.

Blessed to have a daughter in an SEC school.

More Info

December 25th, 2011
3:33 pm

I think it important for students to also know that if their GPA is the problem, there are corrections for that as well. All the up to and following graduation. My son used a program in Snellville to retake classes and prep for ACT and is now going to a D1 program in January after graduating this past May.

Crimson Crush

December 25th, 2011
3:51 pm

The follow up to this article should be “How to get noticed by Richt and Krew if you are a great player in Georgia and already being recruited by every top program in the nation ” :-)

More Info

December 25th, 2011
3:52 pm

If needed the business is called The Learning Company 6786917949

Crimson Crush

December 25th, 2011
4:10 pm

@Michael Carvell . Nothing wrong with what you wrote about the highlight vs whole game tape . You said college scouts have short attention spans but you could have just said people .

Scouts (and coaches ) are tasked with sorting through thousands of players and separating the wheat from the chaff . Human inclination is to work exactly as you described and carry any snap judgements forward until proven otherwise . People will ask for game film later … IF they care enough to ask at all ….

Eddie Garrett

December 25th, 2011
4:25 pm

What about the paper who covers your State/Region? I’d also look at those writer who hve relationships with the schools’ coaches as well as an audience … Always helps to have others talking/writing about your skills and also gives you potential to have article links to include with mailings/emails.


December 25th, 2011
4:51 pm

I agree with Delbert. The NFL is loaded with players from small colleges. Every team has them. So if you are good enogh you can go to a small college and still make the pros, and still have fun while in school. Any way, good luck to all the young players looking for a chance to play college football.


December 25th, 2011
6:14 pm

Good re-post, Michael.

Hopefully this information will help make some young talented athlete’s family get them started with a college career on the gridiron!

Best wishes to those that are struggling to do so.

8th Grade QB

December 25th, 2011
8:17 pm

I cannot pass the ball over 30 yards with any accuracy but I can hand off to a B Back and pitch the ball to an A Back….how do I get a scholarship to Georgia Tech?


December 25th, 2011
8:53 pm

you have to be willing to receive numerous shots and hits from DE’s, LB’s, and safeties throughout the year. running a 4.4 or faster helps as well. If you are as fragile as the kid from UGA, don’t bother.

Supersize that order, mutt

December 25th, 2011
9:29 pm

Great article Michael. As many of you know, i grew up in Atlanta and have always been a lifelong jacket. Coming out of high school in the 1960s, recruiting was not as well known as it is now n days. I played HS football, and my dream was to play for the Jackets, but they were not looking for a 5′9 165 middle linebacker like me, so I eventually went to play for South Carolina State, who asked me to grey shirt. What could of been, I guess, but like they say, everything happens for a reason, right?

bitter QB

December 25th, 2011
9:31 pm

look at the —-soft—georgia running backs the last 5 years——game tape—you are kidding —right–

——————-cravell—a backs heart cant be judge on a high school game film

————————————-class “A” ball—-wrightsville georgia——best back in history

——————-you have to go to there home and interview the entire naiborhood—–

——————————–recruiting kids with great attidude//work ethic//and toughness(crowell picture

———————————————-poster for toughness)—-hahahahah—-ps recruiting aint rocket science


December 25th, 2011
9:39 pm


When do y’all leave for El Paso?


December 26th, 2011
8:44 am

Great info and dead on. I followed this script almost to a T with my son and he was fortunate to end up with a handful of FCS offers. Had hoped to play baseball in college but was also an above average football player at a great HS program. We put together a highlight video, sent it to a mixture of schools, also posted on YouTube and on a site called Go Big Recruiting ($3-$4 per school).We did not start this process until his senior football season. No silver bullets with this process but these suggestions can work.


December 26th, 2011
8:47 am

Having good grades also a huge plus.


December 26th, 2011
9:18 am

AJC needs to do feature story on John Snyder that gives relevance to this topic. A great story all (even pound-less pups) can appreciate.


December 26th, 2011
9:24 am

This is one thing I think Stephenson HS coaches do a great job at for their players. I know many put them down because they haven’t won the state championship but you can’t knock their success in getting their players into college on scholarship.

bitter stuck between a rock and a hard spot

December 26th, 2011
9:32 am

king/eally/crowell-so on and so on——-all with great highlights————wheres the beef??

————————-face to face’——-can tell about one self drive

bitter QB

December 26th, 2011
9:34 am

AARON MURRY—–look at his high school highlights on youtube

————–0-12 against top 25 teams————-enough said—–next subject—-CRAVELL


December 26th, 2011
9:36 am

bitter makes NO sense. Qit being bitter, doesn’t look good.


December 26th, 2011
10:39 am

I hope “Sam” sees this. He has a kicker in Columbia, TN who has already made a youtube video.


December 26th, 2011
10:53 am

Crimson Crush…. U beat me to it lol

Brainiac(Dawg For Life) / (CMR fan for life)

December 26th, 2011
11:43 am


I saw Ham play several times. It would be difficult to “OVERATE” him. He was the single biggest reason Erk made a name for himself and GSU.


December 26th, 2011
11:45 am

I’ve got 1000’s of kids in school over the years and don’t charge a dime. What you have written is true, get you some tape but with the NET this is much easier then it was back in the day. What I find is that parents sometimes think because their kid is a good player they go after HIGH MAJORS. Please it is nothing wrong with going to NAIA, D-2, D-3 get a GREAT EDUCATION play some ball and maybe get a shot at Pro’s. People always ask HOW DO I DO IT? Okay here is your Christmas Present. Join it cost maybe $60.00 but you can sample test it. It has EVERY COACH, D-1, D-2, JUCO, D-3 and NAIA phone number, email address and physical address, you can blind copy as many Coaches as your email can hold a letter of interest, vitals like size, speed accolades and your interest in their school. Please don’t just try and touch base with Nick Saban! Maybe 10 Juco, 20 D-2, 20 NAIA. Extra tip, don’t just contact S.E. Regions, try other regions, the S.E. region is loaded with athlete’s and sometimes it is easier in other regions. THERE YOU HAVE IT!


December 26th, 2011
12:21 pm

if yiu want it bad enough, you will find the answer…goes with football, school, professional career, and everything else!


December 26th, 2011
3:35 pm

Great article very informative…and a belated Merry X-mas !

Stephenson Supporter

December 26th, 2011
3:47 pm

Call Stephenson High Ask for Corey Johnson he is our Guru when it comes to recruiting. He also works with kids outside of Stephenson.


December 26th, 2011
10:38 pm

Robert Dunn didn’t have any other offers because he committed an armed robbery while in high school. Of course Auburn, which has never had any character-requirements promptly signed him…ankle-tracking bracelet and all the baggage.


December 27th, 2011
11:03 am

Michael – I think this is an article that should be published every year! I’m sure there are alot of readers that have kids, both sons and daughters, that may not be old enough just yet to start this process but could benefit from this knowledge/advice in a few years. Thanks for the article and please post it every year!


December 27th, 2011
10:07 pm

Good post, but prefer to hear what is going on in the UGA recruiting world!! What really happened to Jalen Fields? Too bad; both he and Turene could have contributed next year!!

Jeff McMillen

December 28th, 2011
5:05 am

Those are some good points about closing the deal. I’ve actually looked into this a bunch with my son. I played D2 college football in my day but I know the game has changed a bit. I bought an ebook on and learned a bunch from there as well (pretty solid info). Also I read a book about how coaches are recruiting players. My 2 cents is that that athlete needs to be good (of course) but also you have to tie in some luck. The right place at the right time sometimes is all you need.


December 31st, 2011
2:28 pm

Kevrock, I would like to see some more film on your son. It looks like he is a true strong safety. Does he play any other position perhaps on offense? I like his tackling ability. Gotta put the pounds on and keep the quickness and he will be good to go. Let me know if you interested. I run TNT explosion training facility in atlanta metro area and we prepare the kids for the next level. We provide lifting, nutrition and speed techniques that are guaranteed to show results on the field.


December 31st, 2011
2:33 pm

I am a current junior at Salem High School. I just moved to Georgia in November and I play football, track, basketball and LAX. I am 6′4 234 and I play TE/DE in football. I do not know my forty, but I feel like I have decent speed. I am looking to get on the recruiting radar. Can someone on this post help me out? I do not know how to get old games tapes. Please let me know, it is sad to say but sports is the only way i will be able to attend college. I have the drive to do it i just need to be noticed.