UVA’s secrets on beating Nick Saban for Georgia’s No. 1 QB

Life is good for Mike London: He was 2011 ACC Coach of year, took Virginia to its first bowl game since 2007, got a fat raise and contract extension, and beat Alabama for a top recruit (AP)

Life is good for Mike London: He was 2011 ACC Coach of year, took Virginia to its first bowl game since 2007, got a fat raise and contract extension, and beat Alabama for Georgia's top QB prospect (AP)

The top out-of-state coaches come up with creative ways to lure Georgia’s elite football talent to their schools.

Nick Saban mailed a Atlanta RB 105 letters … in a day.

Vanderbilt’s coach cruises around Atlanta in a helicopter.

And Virginia’s coach? Mike London scored major creativity points with the recruiting tactic that helped lure Georgia’s No. 1 prospect at QB, Greyson Lambert. He signed with the Cavaliers over Alabama.

Virginia’s coach made a big impression with a recruiting video.

Here’s the story: When Lambert visited Virginia’s campus last summer, London couldn’t be there in person because he had a previous engagement. But London was there on a TV screen. He had a video made for the star quarterback. Here’s Lambert’s comments about it:

“They showed me a team video and at the end of it, there was a 10-minute segment that started out with Coach London sitting at his desk, saying ‘To Greyson and the Lambert family.’ … He talked about his philosophy and the team rules, why he came to Virginia, what his players had learned from his coaching staff both on and off the field, and how thankful he was to be at Virginia.

“It was like he was talking to me in person. I just felt like for him to take the time out and do that, it was pretty special. My dad asked the coaches to rewind the video so he could tape it on his phone and show it to my mother. It meant a lot.”

The video meant so much that it sealed the deal between Lambert and Virginia. Now that Lambert is officially signed – and actually enrolled early in college – it was permissible to talk to London about his recruiting creativity. We asked about the video:

“The story is basically you can put any kind of videos together as long as those videos that you put together are available and accessible to the general public, or you’ve got them on your website,” London told the AJC. “We were trying to be creative.” [Note: They succeeded]

“Knowing Greyson was a quarterback, we put some quarterback clips in there. Knowing he was interested in our school’s academics, we put some clips in there to talk about our graduation rate, the school, our school president … we put some life after football things to talk about after you graduate, whether you earn the letters ‘NFL, Phd, CEO, CPA’ or whatever it is. You earn those things, then the opportunities present itself.

QB Greyson Lambert of Wayne County High School picked Virginia over Alabama

QB Greyson Lambert of Wayne County High School picked Virginia over Alabama

“We talked about the football family, coaches and other players. And we had kind of talked to Greyson over the phone before he visited … and we had an idea what he was looking to align himself with for a college. I think we did a good job of striking a chord with what his family was looking for.”

It was one of the best recruiting strategies of the year. You don’t come  down to the Southeast and beat mighty Nick Saban head-to-head for a quarterback without being aggressive, creative or, well, lucky.

Before we move forward, let’s step back and think about this: What college head coach has the time to make  a recruiting video for a kid that may never return his call again? I mean, there were no certainties that Lambert would commit to Virginia, or even seriously consider them. That’s an awful lot  of work for a “maybe” situation.

“What we have is a great video guy,” London said with laugh. “He can take parts you show online and that are available to anyone but curtail it to whether football is more important, the academics, whether you want to show the campus here, or whether you want to talk about coaches and players.

“A lot of [Greyson’s] video had to do with knowing him, talking to him, and figuring out who he was before he even got here. If you do your homework and spend your time knowing who the individual is, you can craft your message, especially to those things he’s interested in – academics, athletics, social activities, life after football, a chance to play, parents feeling good about sending their kids to Virginia, etc.

“You have to do that. With competitive as it is with recruiting these young men and vying for their time, you better have a message that they can identify with.”

Props to UVA for being on the cutting edge of recruiting. We had a few more questions for London:

  • What about beating Alabama for the QB? “I think when you look at that message that Greyson wanted to align himself with, going to a school that was very well established academically, going somewhere where he had a chance to compete and play, and to go and be around good people … I’m not saying Alabama didn’t have those things. But I think we probably fit more with what he was looking for. And sometimes it happens that way. The young men can go to places, and it can be about stadiums and facilities. But sometimes it’s about the people, and the opportunities there.”
  • How tough is it for a non-SEC member to recruit against the conference that has won six BCS championships in a row for the Southeast’s top prospects? “You look at the success the SEC has had over the years. They’ve been really dominant from the football aspect of it. I think we go out and recruit a kid who fits our profile for Virginia. A guy that may like  your staff, a guy that may like your overall message academically and athletically … you’ve got to bring those kind  of things home, and I think our staff does a great job of cultivating relationships. When you can do that and get that mother, grandmother, the coach, and the other people that are significant in the life of the young man that you are recruiting, if you get them feeling good about you … then sometimes you don’t have to have the most trophies at the moment to win on some kids that were great profile kids for your school anyways.”
  • What is your opinion of over-signing? “That’s a tricky thing. Ultimately, you affect the opportunity for maybe some players that maybe you have on your team. You have to come back  and tell them they are going to have to leave because you over-signed. Or with the young men that you sign and are thinking that they are coming in for that particular class, then all of sudden you have to send them to a prep school or maybe have a midyear or grayshirt opportunity. It’s a tricky deal, and I know when it affects a player individually, it’s a tough deal. No  one wants to be on the end of being told he can’t come to school, or you have to leave our school now because we have to make room for somebody else. Fortunately, I’ve never been at the situation with the places I’ve coached at – Richmond, William & Mary, Boston College and here at Virginia. I haven’t been down that road so I wouldn’t really know how to respond to it. My only response is that over-signing is something we don’t do. I can imagine it causes issues and concerns for a lot of people.”

Now it’s YOUR turn. What is the most creative recruiting tactic you’ve ever heard a college using to recruit a prospect? Please post below.

My all-time favorite was then-Arkansas coach Houston Nutt sending the Batmobile to pick up DB Ahmad “Batman” Carroll out of Atlanta.

What’s yours?




– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog

Got an item? mcarvell@ajc.com

Got an item? mcarvell@ajc.com

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241 comments Add your comment


March 11th, 2012
3:02 am

Something tells me Saban didn’t lose much sleep over this one.

Randall "Pink" Floyd

March 11th, 2012
3:14 am

Jameis Winston was Napoleon’s big whiff. Not Greyson Lambert.


March 11th, 2012
3:14 am

Great article. Good luck to Lambert and London! London seems like a coach on the way up. I look forward to seeing his feauture in the coaching game. It sounds like he is not overtly against over signing. He just hasn’t had the elite recruiting success to have to make those tough decisions. This brings me to the head ball coach of my team/school/state, Nick Saban. As a fan of the crimson tide I am somewhat flattered/surprised by the national feelings on coach saban. I love him to death, wouldn’t trade him for anybody else but I am surprised that he is seen as such a Goliath. Virginia steals a qb from saban and it’s a story. I guess I need to adjust my perspective.

Bama #15

March 11th, 2012
3:15 am

My favorite Coach Richt tactic was being a “no show” when #2 prospect in the country Reuben Foster visits your campus for Junior Day. That d@mn sure caught Reuben’s attention … ….. in a bad way. Too funny!


March 11th, 2012
3:54 am

Bama #15 @ 3/11/2013, 3:15AM,,

He told the kid ahead of time that he had a family obligation he had to take care of that day and wouldn’t be there. The kid was smart enough to realize it and wasn’t offended according to any reports I have read. Only certain fans, trying to make a big deal out of it because they don’t like UGA are rehashing old story lines..
It is funny how, people like you can completely divert from the article and come with off of the wall comments. The article was about Saban losing out on a Georgia recruit, not Richt not being there for a kid, coming to campus on that day. If Foster is interested in UGA, I m sure the assistant coaches especially Coach Grantham, gave him all the information he needed. You need to find some new material if you are correctly going to disparage UGA, since this is a stale story line.



March 11th, 2012
5:02 am

Richt didn’t “meet” Reuben Foster at Jr. Day because the two already have an excellent relationship. The ignorant comments by this particular Bama blockhead never cease to entertain.


March 11th, 2012
5:39 am

Alabama didn’t lose Lambert to anyone. Good luck to him at UVA but he didn’t have the option to commit to Bama.


March 11th, 2012
5:40 am

Bama#15 that has nothing to do with the article. Still worried huh?

The truth

March 11th, 2012
5:40 am

Bama fans, I feel you. Coach Saban is the world’s first perfect recruiter. He has never missed on a kid that he “really” wanted. Whatever.


March 11th, 2012
6:02 am

Good college choice. UVA is a great academic school. He’ll be like Matt Schaub in that he’ll get lots of playing time and a chance to prove himself to the NFL all the while earning a degree that will make money after the NFL. To hear these Bama fans talk. Ilike to imagine that Saban will have left for the NFL before this man’s 4 years are up and he beats the Tide’s pants in a bowl game.

Bama Fan

March 11th, 2012
6:15 am

I’ve read some of your articles on here and most of them seem to bash Alabama. I don’t know what your problem is, but it’s time to get over it. In this article you’re suggesting Alabama lost to UVA regarding Greyson Lambert’s recruitment. Here’s the truth: Alabama is 4 deep at the position, and probably wanted to add Lambert because of his skill. McCarron will be there through at least next year, and they will replace him with Phillip Sims or Alec Morris. In addition, Alabama’s new OC, Doug Nussemeir, is recruiting the top-ranked QB in the 2013 class. He’s had a relationship with the QB since he was at Washington. As a result, I’m not too worried about Greyson Lambert going to UVA. I hope he has a wonderful career, but suggesting that Alabama “lost him to UVA” is without a doubt a stretch. Mike, I think it’s time you realize that as long as Saban’s at Alabama there will be no drop off anytime soon.

bitter grassy knoll

March 11th, 2012
6:19 am

greyson has a chance to put virginia on the map, much like drew breeze did at perdue.

I give the kid alot of credit, why sit on the bench for up to 3 years like hudson mason is having to do.

————–on that note, nobody will prove to me that murry is better than mason, mason throws a better ball

——————–look for virginia to roll through the ACC like LEE AT GETTYSBURG, sorry bad example

————-tired of bamma fans—-throw a moon-pie in the middle of heavy traffic—-hahahah


March 11th, 2012
6:23 am

If one has the very limited vision of life that only football matters, then picking a school like Virginia is probably a mistake. But to those who have a vision of life beyond football, the Virginias, Stanfords and Georgia Techs of the country are the place to attend.

Think about it. You are 18, basically cluless about life and the world, and all that matters to you is football. Then, at best if you made the NFL, at age 35, when your football life is at an end, you are still cluless about life and the world. But you do not have football. You have nothing. Because all that mattered to you is football and it is gone. So what will you do for the next 40 to 45 years?

Virginia is probably the best place for this young man.


March 11th, 2012
6:34 am

Saban’s got a ton of top QBs he can pick from—this QB will be playing in minor bowls at UVA instead of playing for crystal at Bama!


March 11th, 2012
6:35 am

A good sign for UVA to get a top QB. They will fall behind if they think they can make a” recruiting living” taking players out of the deep South. There concentration should be out recruting VPI every year and then move to a bigger stage. VPI is their nemisis not Alabama!

bitter grassy knoll

March 11th, 2012
6:36 am

college fan@—-not according to the saban manual, bamma’ s greyshirt and a moon-pie are the deal

——————————————-of a livetime————————–hahahahahah

bitter grassy knoll

March 11th, 2012
6:40 am

message to all bamma fans———good running backs become great running backs at tailback “U”

————————–example:—hershal walker at age 50, last summer he ran a 4.4 40 yard dash

———-every mourning, 3000 push ups and sit ups————————–only 1 moon-pie

AU Tiger

March 11th, 2012
6:42 am

Hey grassy knoll, tailback U is AU not ugag!,,


March 11th, 2012
6:43 am

collegeballfan……..you make a great point about life after football. You can have your Div 1 football fix and still be setting up the rest of your life. I would also add Vanderbilt and Northwestern to your list. Those are other schools that takes pride in helping their own after graduation.

Teriyaki Dawg

March 11th, 2012
7:08 am

Hooters is awesome. I love wings and bosoms!!!!!!!


March 11th, 2012
7:29 am

Saban is unethical and a cheat. The oversigning is a product of the old days with Bear Bryant, Bud Wilkinson, etc. If the NCAA had a set they would stop this as quick as they do a player selling a jersey for some walking aound money or a coach paying for a kid to take a trip home to see his sick mom.


March 11th, 2012
7:48 am

legionaire, agree with all you say…. Saban’s oversigning and processing kids out to make room are unethical and not in keeping with the NCAA student athlete concept. It has a much larger negative impact on everyone than say, letting a school pay for a trip home if a family member is seriously ill.


March 11th, 2012
7:54 am

Bama will always lose the academics argument 100% of the time, every time.. Yeah, I know you “graduate” players, but Sandbox 101, really????


March 11th, 2012
8:01 am

I follow Bama recruiting very closely and to my knowledge Lambert did NOT have a committable offer to play for Bama. Those that follow recruiting know the difference between an offer and a committable offer.

If it makes some feel better to believe Bama was beat-out by UVA for this kid……then go ahead & believe in non-truths.

There is a LOT of HATING going on by UGA fans. Jealousy is a strong negative force. As a Bama fan UGA isn’t really a concern on the football field.


March 11th, 2012
8:11 am

Bitter grassy knoll- Herschel Walker attended UGA, not USC or Auburn. On the other responses, I lived in Alabama long enough now to know that when Bama loses a recruit, its because they didn’t really want him- at least that is what the Bama fans say, over and over.


March 11th, 2012
8:14 am

HAHAHA! The kid chose UVA over the great Alabama. An average ACC school beat out the great Nick Saban! Boy, listen to all of the whining Bama fans on here. HAHAHA!


March 11th, 2012
8:16 am

one of the tactics uga can use against ala is we have indoor plumbing.

Gorilla Biscuit

March 11th, 2012
8:18 am

Well, it’s official. If you’re a Bama fan, then Saban is a saint and can do nothing wrong (as long as he keeps the crystal balls coming and Bama fans can feel good about themselves and life in general). If you’re anybody else then Bama sucks and Satan is a cheat and a liar.

Brown Dog

March 11th, 2012
8:22 am

Good luck to the kid, but this is a flimsy story. GL was a ways down UA’s food chain, and while Jameis Winston got away, check out the senior season of Alec Morris in the top rung of Texas high school football.

As for MC’s obsession with Nick Saban, it’s starting to resemble “The Crush.” A stalking order seems appropriate were it not for all the publicity UA is getting throughout the South. Thanks for all you do, Michael.

Brown Dog

March 11th, 2012
8:27 am

Besides, you can’t get them all. Somehow UA managed to have the top-ranked class in the country again. I tell you it was a miracle. The paperwork has already been sent to the Vatican.


March 11th, 2012
8:30 am

Such is life Gorilla Biscuit. It’s the same in all of college football. Just plain fun to watch and read these blogs.


March 11th, 2012
8:33 am

Lambert wasn’t gonna play at Bama, anyway. If he committed to Bama, he was just gonna be one of those recruits that Saban tells to go to JC on Feb 1st. Then later be encouraged to look elsewhere. Unless, that is, we had to pull the scholly of a QB that gets injured. He was just gonna be insurance.


March 11th, 2012
8:43 am

Brown Dog…….the Vatican line was good. But it might be a mistake to underestimate coach London if you are a Mid-Atlantic school competing against him. Kids seem to really like him much like the Vandy coach.

Tampa Gator

March 11th, 2012
8:50 am

Dante Fowler’s cousins and friends all wearing Florida Gators clothes (not FSU) and coming by his house for a visit. I am not sure who got them to do it, but it sure sent a message….because Dante put of a Gators jersey as well.

Gorilla Biscuit

March 11th, 2012
8:51 am

There is a young silverback in my troop who can rush and sack a researcher and throw a coconut 90 yards on a line. His dream offer is Alabama. Nick says he’s got good hands and feet and if they can work it out and find a scholarship for him they’ll play him both ways.

He’s a little raw, having never played the game and he wants to gorilla stomp some Tigers, but if Nick can’t free up a scholly then he’ll take his visits. He also likes Georgia Tech and Coach Fishfry likes his potential at B-back, which he says he’ll rename to S-back. He already has the grades and SAT score.

Tampa Gator

March 11th, 2012
8:53 am

……but I think the depth chart at DE at Florida and at FSU had much more to do with Fowler being a Gator.

Just Saying

March 11th, 2012
8:58 am

I’m a Georgia guy but even I know Alabama didn’t “lose” the young man to Virginia, anymore than Georgia lost him. I’ve never subscribed to the theory that you can lose something you never had. If RFoster signs with Ala did Georgia lose him? No, we have never had him.

The question of the weekend was “will GT get their first commitment?” I know I’ve been sitting on pins and needles. Has Fish Fry “reeled” in any big ones?


March 11th, 2012
9:09 am

THE best thing for this young man going to UVA vs Bama, He won’t end up as a rep for Yellow Wood @ 40K per vs a UVA degree in the corporate world at say 100K to start. Count your blessings.


March 11th, 2012
9:20 am

Hope this kids parents don’t have any nice oak trees in their front yard.

Big Dog Dick

March 11th, 2012
9:36 am

Mike if you go to the trouble to pen such an article then you should have asked the QB if he had a committable offer from Nick Saban and if so he would have told you No Sir. Bame went after two QB’s and that was Winston and Gunner Keil(sp). Winston had his feelings hurt that Nick spent so much time working Keil and that along with his baseball father and money approach sent him to FSU. Keil selected the Hoosiers and then backed out. He wanted back into the Bama camp but no was his answer since Nick was back trying to turn Winston. Lambert was a fallback guy from day one and the staff liked the kid from Texas better than Lambert and that is how this story ended. Now don’t let the facts get in the way of a good Sunday basking of Nick Saban. There will be 5 #1 DC’s in this NFL draft coming from Alabama so go ahead and get your story ready on why there wasn’t 10 if Nick Saban is that great.

@MitchegunMan…Bama will be the sheet out of Big Blowhard in JR’s Town.
@UGA fans…Rueben will play his last year of HS football in Oxford, Alabama. Roll Tide


March 11th, 2012
9:39 am

SugarHillDawg……..no worries about”tree killer” finding any place outside of Ala. That guy just dosen’t have all the spots on his dice!


March 11th, 2012
9:43 am

Comments by Bammer fans on here just reaffirms why I dislike them so much….enjoy the ride while it lasts,because you know it won’t last forever…..now you all go back to your double wides and make some more Bammer fans with your toothless sisters.

The Bear

March 11th, 2012
9:51 am

Good to see the same knucklehead’s bringing up the same old news.

Bubber Smif

March 11th, 2012
9:55 am

I like fat girls in overall shorts! Roll Tide!!

The Bear

March 11th, 2012
9:55 am

@ldawg121 There is an old saying “I would rather be a has been than a never was” if you can understand that.So, yes we are going to enjoy it and look for more success.

Roll Tide

Brown Dog

March 11th, 2012
9:57 am

paddy, no disrespect intended toward anybody at UVA — great school, beautiful part of the world. But the Top three stories on the recruiting blog of a Georgia paper are about Nick Saban or have a strong Alabama bent. What next: the bunny boiling in the pot?


March 11th, 2012
10:04 am

Yet another anecdote that shows how badly other HCs are out-working Coach Fish Fry when it comes to Recruiting ACADEMIC QUALIFIERS out of the State of Georgia that could have gotten into GT.

The GT fanbase, ya know the boot-licking-toady segment that makes excuses for Coach Kung Fu Panda’s horrible Recruiting, well, they have deluded themselves into believing that we can’t Recruit decent passing QBs because of our so-called Academic Restrictions, when it is obvious that nothing could be further from the truth.

And that TRUTH is, is that CPJ is just a lazy horrible Recruiter.

Other HCs from outside the State of Ga. are just simply out-working CPJ!


March 11th, 2012
10:06 am

Another Nick Saban story…has the AJC moved to Tuscaloosa?


March 11th, 2012
10:10 am

You Bama Fan’s are like flies to crap, you just can not resist it, if you don’t like reading the man’s blog, don’t do it! Find something else to do with your miserable lives, you do realize this is a news paper in the State of Georgia, not Alabama, if you don’t like it, find yourself an Alabama news paper, and stop with the whining, it make you sound like a little girl, and quit brown nosing Saban, the man don’t give a rat’s butt about you!!!

The Grinch

March 11th, 2012
10:11 am

But….but…..Mulligan U fans say Saban ALWAYS gets who he wants in Georgia.