Column: My letter to all prospective collegiate athletes
It’s officially that time of year… National Signing day.
A day where hundreds of high school stars sign a piece of paper, yes that right, a piece of paper that will forever impact their future. This year, that day falls on Wednesday, Feb. 1.
First, congratulations to all of those who will be signing their letter of intent. This is for all of you. This is the first step in having a drastic change that will only better your life.
Take it from me.
My decision back in 2009 allowed me to live out a dream.
I was a 6-foot, 265-pound defensive end from Montana. Being the son a 20-year veteran of the Air Force, I used to think my life was destined to be in the military.
In fact, prior to really setting my goals to playing college football, I wanted to be in the Special Forces, preferably the Army Rangers. Really have no clue why.
A two-sport star; set a handful of school records, both in the weight room and on the field. Doing those, allowed me to receive a few Division 1 offers, which was something I always had my sights set on. Something about the whole “bigger the better” stigma placed on college athletes.
However, despite being verbally committed to Montana State University, a FCS Division 1 school in Bozeman, just a couple hours away from my hometown, I continued to field calls from schools. But it was call from one school in particular. And it was all because of a bond I created with their coach. His name was Jeff Engel, who was then, the defensive line coach at Minot State.
This coach continually blew my phone up. Every week, it was the same thing.
“How are you doing?”
“How is school?”
“How are you doing in wrestling this season?”
And the answer was always the same. Good, good and good coach. Finally, coach Engel offered me to come on a visit. After the visit, something struck me. I’m not exactly sure what it was, but I ended up taking a chance for this small school in North Dakota.
From there, my life was transformed by my decision.
Instead of playing in front of tens of thousands of fans, I was playing in front of just thousands, heck even hundreds. Instead of playing against NFL-bound caliber players every weekend - although I had a few battles with Brock Osweiler in high school - I was would face guys who prior to the start of thier college careers, weren't even on radars of NFL scouts for the future. Adam Thielen and Zach Moore are prime examples. I ultimately built a strong relationship with that coach. Not only was he someone I could turn to for soultions to everyday problems, but now, years later, we will spend hours catching up on the phone every so often. I am forever grateful that he spent the time to recruit me as hard as he did. I'm not sure how different my life may be if he didn't hook me to the thought of playing in "the Herb".
Now that I strolled down memory lane and got a chance to reminisce on the glory days, here's where you should start jotting a few notes.
As the day continues to inch closer, people in the community, heck even some you may have never met are going to be trying to sway you or pull you in all different directions.
Remember, it’s a decision that will affect you. Not your coaches, your parents, your friends, etc. It solely affects you.
But, the thing I can’t stress enough, is the sense of pride going to a school like that teaches you. It’s fairly easy to throw on a Gophers or Hawkeyes sweatshirt and walk around. It’s another thing to throw gear from your alma mater on without having to selfishly dive into your school pride because people bombard you with questions, solely on the fact that they have never heard of it.
Look at every possible angle; be sure that you can justify to yourself on how you are going to benefit from your time there.
Lastly and most importantly, wherever you choose to go doesn’t affect you for the next four to five years; it affects you for the rest of your life. Where you sign can become the starting place of your career. It is dependent on your decision.
Again, take it from me.
After getting a first-class education, I was fortunate enough to hold numerous internships with companies I once thought it would be a dream to work for. Now, I have the opportunity to cover athletes who were once in my shoes, just simply trying to live out a dream.
Whatever your decision may ultimately lead you, don’t fall into the stigma that surrounds college athletics to please others. Please yourself first and the rest will fall in line. This is the lone promise I can make to you. As someone has gone through the process, I can say that the tough part is over and the best is only beginning.
Again, congratulations on such a tremendous accomplishment and best of luck to all of you wherever you end up.