What it’s Like to be Recruited by the University of Colorado
While all college football fans understand the importance of recruiting as a part of the overall structure of a successful program, the recruiting process was for a long time a mystery to most of us. We read up on the list of recruits in the newspaper in February, and trusted – hoped – that the coaching staff knew what they were doing.
Now, with the internet, the advent of recruiting websites and YouTube video highlights, we can all fancy ourselves recruiting experts. We compare stars which have been assigned to recruits, their 40-yard dash times, and their offer sheets.
But there remains one aspect of the recruiting process which remains mysterious for most of us … What is it like to be a recruit or the parent of a recruit? This series attempts to shed some light on that question.
If you were with CU at the Game last January, then you may recall a series of interviews with Lance Carl (Class of 1983 – Bill McCartney’s first recruiting class), Erik Norgard (Class of 1985), Clay Norgard (Class of 2012), as well as a Q&A with Erik and Lisa Norgard, on being the parents of a recruit. (If you would like to read these interviews, they can be found here).
Previously posted: Shani and Patrick Dillon and Monica Thomas and Kenneth Grover (see below).
This week: Quarterback Shane Dillon. The red-shirt freshman already has quite a history with the University of Colorado, though he has yet to play a down. Dillon was one of the first recruits of the Class of 2012, committing to CU before the Buffs ever played a down under Jon Embree. Then three-star quarterback (Rivals bio) stuck by his commitment even after the Buffs struggled to a 3-10 record in Embree’s first year. Dillon never got to play a down for the coaches who recruited him, but nonetheless was chosen by his teammates to represent the players in the search for the new head coach. Dillon now assumes the role as a favorite to start at quarterback for Mike MacIntyre next fall …
Q&A with Shane Dillon
Introduce us to Shane Dillon. Both Rivals and Scout had you listed as a three-star prospect in the recruiting Class of 2012, with Rivals showing you to be their No. 13 pro-style quarterback in the nation, while Scout had you listed as the No. 28 quarterback prospect overall. You led your team to a CIF championship your senior year, passing for 3,188 yards and 32 touchdowns, after a junior season with 2,982 yards and 19 touchdowns. Can we take it from these numbers that you had fun playing high school football?
Haha. High school football will always have a special place in my heart. Not because of the wins or the numbers or the touchdowns, but the memories that I got to make with a select few group of guys, and the journey I went on with myself. I have gone through countless situations of adversity along the way from beginning to now, and that is what fuels my fire. My first two years in 8th and 9th grade I was stuck out at wide out because I was tall and could run and jump a little. That discouraged me a good amount, because I felt that I was being pulled to the Quarterback position deep down. Then, I transferred to a school which was a lot closer to home and I got to start the first few games, but by the end of the year I was back to playing receiver. I’ve NEVER been a quitter, but the day that season ended I almost gave up my dream to play QB in the NFL.
In the off season before my junior year I got a chance to sit down with my QB coach, George Whitfield, and he told me that my potential can take me places if I just let things pan out. So I trusted him, and took a Rock Tour where football for me changed altogether. I started receiving interest from schools like Ohio State, Cincinnati, Tennessee, and others and not for receiver but for QB. So, I went into junior year and played for the game and not for myself and things got a lot better for our team as a whole. Before I knew it, the recruiting process for me was already blowing up, and I got a chance to go to the Elite 11 competition – which changed my entire mindset as a Quarterback. After hearing my name called at the No. 7 spot, and passing up guys who had higher “rankings” than me, I realized that if I set my mind on something I can accomplish it. I went into my senior season with the mindset that I would lead a school who has barely 30 kids on the entire football team to a Section Title.
At the end of the game we had knocked off the No. 2 team in the state, and I had lead a 2 minute drill to set up a game winning field goal that included a 55-yard pass with 1:19 on the clock. Walking off that field I will never forget what went through my head though, I told myself that this wouldn’t be the last championship that I would win. Coming to CU this is exactly what I want to do. Take a team that NOBODY thinks can win and make them come together and WIN. So yeah, high school to me is something I cherish, but I feel like I’m going to make even greater memories with the guys I am playing alongside now.
Was a football scholarship always in your plans? When did you know that you had Division 1-A talent? Were you interested in pursuing scholarships in any other sports?
Football hasn’t always been what I’ve loved doing. To tell the truth, I was a basketball guy all the way until about half way through my junior season. I played hoops since I was about 4 years old, and still have an immense amount of respect for the game. There is nothing like dunking on someone, until you throw a touchdown to win a game haha. I received some schollys for basketball as well (USD, UCSB, and some more small schools) so my decision to choose what I wanted in the end was very difficult, but when it all came down to it I felt that football had edged itself ahead and I decided to come to CU to play QB.
How old were you when you first heard from a college recruiter? How were you contacted?
When I first talked to a college recruiter I had just finished my sophomore season and Mike Bajakian from Cincy contacted me. After going to their campus Butch Jones who at that time was their HC told me he wanted me as a Bearcat. I will always have love for that school because they jump started my college career and I owe them a lot.
Did you have a “dream school” when you were growing up?
My dad has always been a Hurricanes fan until now haha. Nowadays all you see on him is Buffs gear and I love that about him. He has always been so involved in my life and we both grew up Miami fans. That being said, when Miami offered me I could tell he was very emotional but when we took a trip out there and it was 100 degrees with 100% humidity, I think he had a little change of heart When I decided to come to CU he broke down for the first time in front of me and it was a special day for our family.
I understand you took a “Rock Tour” before your junior year, and visited a number of schools. What schools did you visit, and what stood out for you from those visits? How did different schools treat their visitors?
We went all over the east coast from Michigan to Miami to everything in between, whether it was Kentucky or Ohio State we made sure to make a stop. What stood out to me is the difference between schools in the SEC and schools in the PAC 12. I saw an emphasis on size and power whereas when I visited the PAC 12 schools on my second Tour we saw Speed, Speed, and more Speed. It was also interesting to see how each school handled us some gave us personal tours while others just had us participate in a camp or a workout. All in all, it was an amazing experience that I highly recommend if you’re a high school athlete.
Colorado was not one of your first offers. I understand you had offers from a number of high profile schools in the spring of 2011, including Ohio State, Arizona, Cincinnati, Florida State, and Vanderbilt. Was there an early leader?
Ohio State and Miami along with Cincy all caught my attention immediately all for different reasons. Whether it was because of tradition or staff or whatever they all had many positives to offer and for a while I saw myself playing for them. But, things changed when Coach Scherer and Coach Embo started to recruit me. They used a different approach than everyone else, and I believe Coach Hagan had a lot to do with that. They involved my family very much and even my 5 year old little sister had some contributions. This put CU right at the very top. Then, I got a chance to go to Boulder and as I left the Flatirons in my rear view mirror, I told my dad that I wanted to be a Buffalo. Shortly after when I got home and talked with my family we called Coach Scherer and I committed.
Colorado was entering a new era when you were being recruited, with the firing of Dan Hawkins and the hiring of Jon Embree, the December before you committed. Were you recruited at all by Dan Hawkins’ staff? Which of the coaches on Jon Embree’s staff recruited you?
I never heard from any of Hawkins’ staff. But shortly after the hiring of Embo, Coach Scherer reached out to my family and me. Even some of the other coaches like Coach JD and Coach Cabral came to my school and my house. They made the entire process very personable, and that stuck out to me in my head.
I understand you took an unofficial visit to Boulder in April, 2011, and committed to the Buffs shortly thereafter. What happened on that visit? Who did you get to visit with? What did you see about the school, the town, the coaches that made you want to commit so early?
Boulder reminds me a lot of San Diego just a little colder I noticed how everyone in the community wants to see the Buffs rise again. I got a chance to spend time at Pasta Jays where the entire restaurant sang the fight song, and I even got a chance to talk to Rashan Salaam for a little bit, which was very cool because he is from my area as well.
When I went to each school on visits I wanted to attack the school with the mindset of whether or not I could live there without playing football. Boulder was the ONLY school that had me wanting to move right away. The passion these fans have for us is what makes us want to win so badly. This pushed CU over the top for me; the recruiting process is a tough, stressful thing, and to see a town whose team loses big to Oregon constantly remind the players that they are behind us and know we will see it through, made me want to be a part of something special like that.
You didn’t take your official visit to Colorado until January, right before signing day. What is an “official visit” like? When did you get to Boulder that weekend? How long were you there? What did you do when you were on your visit (activities, academic counselors, etc.)? Who was your host?
An “official” is probably one of the busiest things I have ever done! They pack all sorts of things into three days. You arrive Friday and are out by Sunday night. For me, I got to see all aspects that CU had to offer from academics to student life to Folsom Field and watching Ralphie run out of the cage. Tyler McCullough was my host, and I have to say that he is a kid with a solid head on his shoulders. He made sure that everything I needed was taken care of, and we clicked instantly. He is an awesome dude and also contributed a lot to my commitment.
When you were on your official visit, did you get to spend much time with other recruits who were also in town for official visits? Did you do some recruiting of your own, trying to get some players to commit to CU? Did other players try and persuade you to look at any other schools?
On my official visit I didn’t really get a chance to see any of our other recruits but when I came out to Boulder earlier on my own I came with Taylor McNamara, who was taking his official. Tay is one of my best friends and I tried my hardest to get him to come to CU, and I honestly still do haha. In the end though, Oklahoma is where he wanted to be and I had to understand that. It was tough for me, but I am glad that he is happy even though I’d love to have him here in Boulder instead of in Norman.
Did you take any other official visits? If so, how did your visits compare? (Better or worse facilities; nicer town; friendlier coaches; better players, etc.).
No, I didn’t take any other officials, but that was because I had seen mostly all of my other schools on the Rock Tours I participated in.
You were one of the first commits of the first full year of the Jon Embree era. After your commitment, the Buffs struggled through to a 3-10 finish in 2011. Did you ever waver in your commitment to Colorado? Did coaches from other schools continue to recruit you?
I think any 17 year old kid would second guess himself right away when the season is over. I think they would be lying if they said they didn’t once, but when I dove deeper into why I wanted to go to CU, and the reason I liked Boulder so much, I felt in my heart that I was committed to the school for me – and I never changed my mind. I am very glad that I didn’t because Colorado has been amazing to my family and to me.
You red-shirted this past fall, and received positive reviews from head coach Jon Embree for your efforts with the scout team. Colorado started three different quarterbacks in 2012, with varying degrees of success. With Colorado coming off of its worst season in 123 years of football, fans are already looking to you to become the starting quarterback for the 2013 season. Do you feel up to the challenge? Do you feel confident you could lead this team to greater success next fall?
I have been ready to lead these guys since the day I set foot on campus. Having to red-shirt this fall was tough at first for me, because I was struggling with my shoulder and was not able to compete in fall camp. After a couple weeks however, I realized that red-shirting was the best thing I could have done. It gave me a chance to really build a relationship with P-Rich because he was right beside me with his knee. It also gave me a chance to settle in and get comfortable with the rest of the team. The best thing about it though is, my arm is now stronger than what it was before, and my confidence about this team and the guys we have coming back on both sides of the ball is through the roof. You are going to see a different Buffalo team next year on offense. I can promise you that and people should start getting excited.
What is your relationship with the other quarterbacks? Is it difficult to be friends and competitors at the same time?
We all love each other a lot. But, at the end of the day only one of us is going to be under center. Schrock and I are very close, and he took me in during fall camp and helped me through a lot of things that were new to me in college. Jordan and Nick are also two of my close friends; they themselves have become very tight. They constantly mess with me and we always go back and forth which is great. I am glad that we can put aside the competition off the field and just have a good time, but when it comes to work we all push each other to be the best we can be.
I understand that you were selected by your teammates to be a part of the search for the new head coach. How did it feel to be trusted by your teammates to be a voice for the team?
I couldn’t put it into words how special that moment was to me. To know that 100 guys feel that a red-shirt freshman has a good enough grasp of things and a good enough leader to be able to help choose our next HC was a crazy feeling. For me, it only added to the confidence I already had for when it comes to taking this team and turning the ship around. These guys mean the world to me and I am going to do whatever I can to make sure they win on Saturdays. When they voted me as a rep it made me feel like they understood how my mindset was about the future.
How much involvement did you have in the interviewing process? What did the CU administrators ask from you? What were your concerns/expectations about who the new coach would be?
Mr. Bohn involved me and the three other guys a lot more than we really thought he would to be honest. We got a chance to write a letter stating what we had to offer and what our football team was all about, and they was a very cool experience for me. I wanted our new HC to be a man of respect and someone who knew how to win – but how win the right way. Coach Mac is that kind of man.
What has been your contact with coach MacIntyre? What impressions have you taken away from your meeting(s)?
Coach is all about family. He believes that if you don’t love the person next to you then how can you expect to be able to go to war with them each week? This was huge to me, I was very happy with how he conducted himself when he first introduced himself to our guys. He told us that there will not be any more excuses. He told us straight up that if you weren’t about that then it will be tough for you to find your way to the field. It was great to see someone stand up there and tell us that we can do it NOW and not when we all “grow up”.
While at San Jose State, coach MacIntyre ran a pistol offense. You were quoted as saying that the coach said the Buffs were going to “sling it” next fall. What is your impression of the pistol offense? Are you excited to learn that offense? How do you think your skill sets match up with running that type of offense?
My impression of the pistol is that it is very explosive. I have never really got a chance to learn it, and I am VERY excited to be able to. Mac threw a lot of statistics at me when I talked to him one on one before I went home for break. He told me that their QB was 2 or 3 in the nation in efficiency at around 178 a game. He said their passing was 9th in the country, and had receivers at 1 and 2 in the conference when it came to catches and yards. When I heard all this I couldn’t help but smile. I think that when I came to Boulder not many people knew that I can run when I need to, because in high school our offense wasn’t built for me to run, but after spending a year with offenses like Oregon, UCLA, etc. I got a chance to get out in the open field a little bit, and it shocked some our coaches I think. When it comes to if my skillset fits the pistol, I think I’ll do just fine. I just hope Mac will let me throw one deep to P-Rich or Jeff Thomas once or twice a game still haha.
Any other memories from your recruitment or a statement you want to make which you would like to share?
Yes, I would like to take this time to thank all of Buff Nation for the support they gave the players both during the year and now in the off season. We have gone through some big time struggles, and all of you guys haven’t given up on us. We will remember that – I promise you. Our goal is to make sure you guys get what you deserve next season and that’s to go bowling. I will do all I can to make that happen, because all of us are tired of watching the games around Christmas instead of being there playing in one. Once again, thank you to all of our fans. We truly play for you guys.
Monica Thomas and Kenneth Grover, parents of freshman wide receiver Jeffrey Thomas. The grayshirt freshman came to Boulder last summer, and went through the first part of fall practices before returning home for personal reasons. Thomas is back in Boulder, enrolled for the spring semester, and will still have five years to play four (you can find his Rivals bio here).
The recruiting story for Jeffrey Thomas and his family is unique, and spans three coaching staffs …
Q&A with Monica Thomas and Kenneth Grover
At what age did Jeffrey exhibit talents which made you believe that he had a future as a Division 1-A college football player? Was Jeffrey always heading towards being a wide receiver, or were there other positions at which he excelled?
It’s so funny because Ken and I were just talking about this the other day. We had passed Jeff’s select football coach at practice in 2004. Jeff had played for him since he was 7. He was in coach mode so he didn’t have time to stop and chant. But as he was passing us he said “you know Jeff’s going pro right?” We just laughed and kept walking. I guess that may’ve been the first time we really ever thought about it.
Actually Jeff started as a defensive end. He was always around a half a head to a full head taller than his team so the coach thought it was a natural fit. His biological father and I had split so Jeff was going thru a lot emotionally. So football really saved him. Every emotion he kept inside he put out on the field. Funniest memory was when we played one team from Napa (originally from CA) and Jeff sacked the QB for a huge loss. He knocked the kid so hard that he refused to come back out the rest of the game. After that it took Jeff 2 more years of harassing the coaches to let him play wide receiver. His final year with the league they let him play both sides of the ball. He was a happy camper.
In the spring of 2011, Jeffrey’s junior year in high school, he participated in a number of elite camps, including camps at Texas and Oklahoma. What were those camps like? How did Jeffrey stack up against the “competition”? What were you told about his prospects?
The camps were great. I attended the Texas one and Jeff went to the Oklahoma one with some friends. The feedback was small but great considering there were so many kids at the Texas camp. The camp was impressive, with all coaches and their wives there, Mack Brown taking pictures with every kid that came to the camp. That, of course, was where we met Coach Kennedy. I remember we did the one on ones in their version of the bubble and Coach Kennedy kept drilling Jeff. On his last catch he asked him could he do that in a college game. I just laughed.
Did you have any contact with Dan Hawkins’ staff before they were let go in December of 2010? When did you first hear from Jon Embree’s staff? Was Bobby Kennedy Jeffrey’s primary contact, or did you hear from other coaches as well?
No we never heard anything from Coach Hawkins. Everything was strictly thru Coach Kennedy.
There is an old axiom in college football that you don’t recruit the player, you recruit the Mom. Was that your experience with the University of Colorado? With other schools?
“Recruiting the mom” has been a term I’ve heard for the last 4 years. It’s an interesting one because It is a tough one for me. Times that I felt like I was “recruited” I became suspicious and untrusting. What schools should do is be honest with moms. It may be a little risky but there should be no confusion down the road if what was told to get you there is no longer on the table once you’ve shown up. My biggest concern was for Jeff to have a good support system. We are very close and we talk and review everything. To transition from that to possibly nothing was gonna be rough and I knew he would need structure. CU really provided that for him. So that part was what recruited me. LOL!
Did you pay much attention to national recruiting service rankings? Did Jeffrey’s three-star status impress/bother you? How do you feel his being injured in his junior year affected his recruitment?
I have to admit I was pretty addicted Jeff’s freshman and sophomore years. I signed up for every site I could afford and followed every list I could get my hands on. Then I started doing player comparisons and researching more and more. Some sites really do a great job and others rely on name recognition and what sells subscriptions. I was disappointed by Jeff’s senior year because I had hoped he would’ve gotten invited to a bowl game more than adding an additional star. But there were several factors I think that stopped the invites. His year had strong competition nationally when it came to WR. So putting up big numbers was a necessity and really hurt him. His team had 3 other strong WRs and 2 good RBs with a dual threat QB. So the numbers had to be spread around.
Not sure if his injury hurt him or being moved up to varsity and sitting most of his sophomore year hurt him. His coach was very traditional and believed in athletes learning from the sideline rather than putting them in. Jeff had a strong freshman year with camp season. After sophomore year he lost much of his hype and had to start all over on the camp trail and 7 on 7.
Do you believe all of the fans’ interest in recruiting these days (i.e., the internet recruiting sites) help or hinder the recruiting process?
I think it can be both at times. I have to say I had the BEST time chopping it up with the fans during the recruiting process. They were so willing to get involved when Jeff and Gerald needed votes to win a contest it was mad crazy and I couldn’tve been more grateful. I think sometimes fans forget how much power they have when a recruit doesn’t know much about the school, coaches, system etc. Because recruits will hold their word to gospel when they don’t know different. If they are frustrated and strongly voice their opinions it can affect how a kid feels miles away. While fans shouldn’t be sensored do know that it can affect things if they are not careful.
Despite holding offers from a multitude of other schools, Jeffrey became one of the first recruits of the 2012 recruiting class at CU, committing in June, 2011. Were there any second thoughts about committing so early? Were there concerns that he was committing to a school which he had never visited? Did you encourage Jeffrey to take a look around, perhaps visit other schools, or talk with other coaches?
Strangely, Jeff does not like a lot of choices. Stresses him out something serious. So as each school came thru with offers we went thru the pro and con process. So by the time CU came thru we had looked at all the options and he made his decision. I saw where some were saying he chose CU because it was his best offer. There were other things in the pipeline but it would’ve required waiting for awhile and Jeff wanted to know where he was going so he could prepare himself. His high school coaches were a little concerned that he committed too early. They kept telling him that other schools were calling and that he should wait. My thing was he did camp after camp, had film on youTube, more than enough to evaluate him on. If they don’t offer early schools are usually looking at someone else or have over offered and are waiting to see what other kids are going to do. Sometimes waiting for others to make up your mind for you will leave you left in the cold.
Jeffrey committed before the Buffs had played a down under Jon Embree. Were there any moments, during the 3-10 season of 2011, in which there were games in which the Buffs were out-manned, that you had second thoughts about the commitment?
No. I think for him it just meant he’d have a chance to get out there and compete for an early spot. I think he may’ve had some tough spots on defending his decision but he knows how to make up his own mind.
Did other schools continue to contact you after Jeffrey’s commitment? Which schools? Did they attempt to undermine Colorado, using either the string of consecutive losing seasons, or the 3-10 record, as leverage to try and change Jeffrey’s commitment?
There were a few that were still willing to hold firm. Tulsa was the most steady but very classy. They only said positive things about their school. Oklahoma State was the one that frustrated me the most. They had sent mail but waited to potentially offer until a few weeks before national signing day. What they didn’t know is that a few of the kids they had offered in his position were kids Jeff use to do camps with and I followed them. They changed their commitment along with 4 other kids before signing. So I knew their “strong” interest was only after those kids de-committed. That sent up too many red flags.
Were there other players from Jeffrey’s school being recruited by Colorado? By any other BCS conference schools? Did they have any success/horror stories about their recruitment which were relayed to you that might give us a better picture of what it’s like to be the family of a prized recruit?
From Jeff’s school there were only 2 kids that went D1 in the 2012 class, including him. I believe there was talent that should’ve gone at least D1AA but so much information isn’t shared that many of them had to figure it out on their own, which was not good. The biggest statement was always if you take care of business on the field they will find you. This logic works for some but not all, although most athletes take this to heart and don’t do much for themselves until after their senior season is over, which is too late. Many expect their HS coaches to “get them a scholarship” which is just unrealistic. I know of a few coaches that try their best to work magic for their players but most move on, getting ready for their next season.
Strangely enough I have come across MANY horror stories when its come to recruits this year. The biggest issues have been controlling coaches, bad grades, last minute low test scores, and broken promises from some college coaches (pulling back offers). The recruiting business is tough and I give any parents credit that make it thru alive. It can be fun going thru the process and stressful at the same time. It seems like not only is your athlete being evaluated but you are as well on your knowledge of the process. The more you know the more colleges have to be honest with you.
Jeffrey’s path to Boulder took a turn last summer. Do you feel that Jeffrey’s return to Dallas, with a grayshirt this fall, may turn out to be a blessing in disguise?
Yes we believe it did. Jeff has played football all of his life and I don’t ever remember a time when he “sat out”. While many emotions were flying for all of us throughout this process we think it really gave him a chance to grow and understand that nothing is promised or guaranteed. As easily as something is given it can be taken away. It’s a rough lesson but a good one.
With Jeffrey’s unique situation, he had other options after the school let Jon Embree go. Was there a discussion about signing on with a different school? Was Jeffrey being recruited all over again by other schools?
Honestly there was a discussion. Understanding that this is a business and a new coach coming in may want another way to go we talked to a few people and we received a few calls. Some schools that previously were recruiting him circled back around and we had some new interest come thru the door. It definitely felt like the recruiting ride was starting again and some sleep was lost. But weighting the options and doing research on his situation (before Coach MacIntyre pulled all releases) had us thinking Jeff needed to get back to CU.
Have you had the chance to talk with the new head coach, Mike MacIntyre? If so, what were your impressions? Do you think that Jeffrey, having played in a pistol offense, will excel in the offense coach MacIntyre is bringing to Boulder?
We have had the chance to talk to Coach MacIntyre. He’s a high energy guy and a talker. He sounds really excited for the opportunity. Jeff thinks that his offensive plan will work well for the Pac 12 and will move things along for CU.
Do you have any advice for parents of future potential recruits as to how to deal with the process?
The strongest advice we can give is:
1) Cannot take anything personal.
2) Remember that this is a business first.
3) Do your homework and take very little at face value.
We open with Shani and Patrick Dillon, parents of Shane Dillon. Shane was a three-star quarterback recruit out of El Cajon, California, coming to Boulder as part of the CU recruiting Class of 2012 (Rivals bio). Shane was ranked as the No. 13 pro-style quarterback in the nation, and was sought after by a number of BCS conference schools. Shane committed early (the June before his senior year), having yet to see the Buffs play a game under Jon Embree, and was considered one of the top recruits of the 2012 Class. Dillon sat out last year, and is considered by many to be the favorite to start for the Buffs as a red-shirt freshman this fall.
Q&A with Shani and Patrick Dillon
At what age did Shane exhibit talents which made you believe that he had a future as a FBS college football player? Was Shane always heading towards being a quarterback, or were there other positions at which he excelled?
Shane has always been super competitive and SOOO into sports. At 23 months old, he chased his older cousins around with a hockey stick because he had to hit that puck and HAD to win! We still remember my uncle (whose son was drafted into the MLB out of high school) say, “Your son is going to be a force to reckon with.”
At one point he was on 4 different sports teams at one time, because he never wanted to tell any team no. We were going crazy driving him from one game to another on the weekends. He would change in the car, and it never seemed to bother him – although we told him it was too much!
We noticed when Shane was young that he was very athletic for his tall frame. He was super agile and super smart, which seemed to give him an edge. As parents, we have discussed on multiple occasions that it is so much more than Shane being athletic that leads everyone to think he can do whatever he sets his mind to. He has always been able to perform above his physical abilities, and we attribute it to his general mindset about life. Shane is an eternal optimist. He literally knows that he is the best and has the ability to see himself being successful.
We felt that he would always be a Quarterback – even though he grew up playing soccer, baseball and basketball, we just felt it. He did play flag football two or three times and was the quarterback, but he also played pop warner in 8th grade (as a receiver). He was discouraged in his freshman year of HS when they tried to make him a receiver again, but he did not give up. His Quarterback coach, George Whitfield, truly believed in him. There was a day when he almost stopped playing football in order to dedicate himself full- time to basketball; but, George got him on the phone with some big time coaches to help him to see the bigger picture. He was a great receiver in high school, but when he filled out that tall, lanky frame, he would have all of the tools he needed to make it as quarterback.
Thankfully, Shane stuck with it!
In February, 2011, Shane told BuckeyeGrove.com that Ohio State was definitely in the mix for his verbal commitment, along with schools like Miami, Washington, Florida State, Arizona and USC. How many different schools did you hear from? Which schools showed the most interest? Did Shane have a favorite school growing up?
Shane’s favorite school growing up was Miami. Patrick is a Hurricanes fan, and that rubbed off on Shane. He received letters from almost every school you could think of, but it was the schools that CALLED and came out to see him that helped him to know who was truly interested. Other than CU of course, he had Alabama out to Christian, as well as Northwestern, Cincy, SDSU, Harvard (to play basketball and football), USD (to play basketball) Miami, Tennessee, Arizona, Vandy, USC, Washington, Florida State and Oregon…He was pulled out of class a couple times a week for quite a while! But, he loved it; and, when Bama came it was pretty huge because they had never been out to our school before.
Cincinnati was actually his very first offer, which was the summer before his junior year (Shane took 2 Rock Tours with Coach George). He has a special place in his heart for Cincinnati because they showed him a lot of love. They probably came out to Christian High six times, AND they were interested in his brother Jason as well, which was huge for Shane and Jason. Mike Bajakian did a great job recruiting the boys, but ultimately Shane didn’t want to go that far. Despite how he felt about Cincinnati, Ohio State was his front runner for a long time. Jim Tressel watched him play, talked to him and then told him he wanted him to be a Buckeye. He walked Shane and Patrick around the school and facilities, and THAT was an AMAZING Day for Shane. He called me almost crying after receiving an offer from Cincy and then the next day an offer from Ohio State. Shortly thereafter, Ohio State had all of their troubles and things changed in Shane’s mind. He didn’t seem as interested anymore.
Did you have any contact with Dan Hawkins’ staff before they were let go? When did you first hear from Jon Embree’s staff? Was Rip Scherer Shane’s primary contact, or did you hear from other coaches as well?
We never had any contact with Dan or his staff. Shane was contacted by many of the CU coaches – they did the best job recruiting him of any school – AND that is why he chose CU. Rip, Jon, and JD all had dinner at our house, and stayed for quite a while. Rip has been to our house three or four times, and they are a classy group of men who we will really miss. We enjoyed having them here so much. We have a group of 7 people that have Down’s syndrome who live in our home (they have lived with us for 17 years) and they were amazing with our “crew.” They came to our home, hung out, took a genuine interest in ALL of our children, listened to our older daughter sing, and JD even colored with our 5 year old!! It was over after that J But, seriously, Rip met Shane first and then called quite a bit. Then when Shane went out to CU to see the campus (he was in Denver with his AAU basketball team) Jon offered him. Shane also received handwritten letters (not notes – long letters) from Jon, EB, Rip, JD, BK, and Darian Hagan. One of the notes from Embo was in the shape of a jersey and had the number 7 on the front. Shane was thoroughly impressed and so were we.
There is an old axiom in college football that you don’t recruit the player, you recruit the Mom. Was that your experience with the University of Colorado? With other schools?
CU took a genuine interest in me and what I thought about Shane going there. There were other schools and coaches who had met Patrick when he took Shane on trips, but CU wanted to talk to me as well– and that was huge for our family. The official visit involved coaches wives and it was a great opportunity to see a lot of the CU coaches interact with players and their own families. Other schools may have done more of that down the road, but Shane was committed early and we didn’t ever worry or wonder about any of that.
Did you pay much attention to national recruiting service rankings? Did Shane being named an Elite 11 quarterback make any difference in the recruiting process? Do you believe all of the interest in recruiting these days (i.e., the internet recruiting sites) help or hinder the recruiting process?
We did pay attention to all of that – but would recommend to parents NOT to do that! The beauty of it all was is that Shane didn’t really pay attention to it at all. We always felt that because Shane was so tall and thin that he didn’t receive some of the accolades that he should have early on, but Shane would always tell us that didn’t matter. There are a lot of great players out there who are not ranked, so we really feel that coaches need to be experts in evaluating talent. They should be able to take a kid from a small school and compare him to a kid from a big school, or a kid who plays on a bad team in a tough league to a kid who plays on a good team in a weak league. They should be able to look at these kids and know who is actually better. If you can’t do that you shouldn’t be evaluating kids. Some of the players who have no stars (or even 1 or 2) might be just as good or better than some of the 4 or 5 stars kids out there. Sometimes it is just luck or who you know when you get these “rankings,” and it doesn’t mean anything in the end. Some of these guys have their favorites and they are going to push for those kids. So, don’t believe all that you read. Not all of these guys are experts! We also saw when Shane competed in Elite 11 and was successful, but stayed true to his commitment to CU, that some services dropped his stars. What was that all about? Oh well J
Despite all of the rankings, internet recruiting sites, etc… Elite 11 was the real deal! It was an absolutely incredible experience for Shane and our family. He was one of the later guys chosen and we were not even going to let him go! We felt that it might be political and that all of these 5* kids would get all the reps or attention and it wouldn’t be fair. Shane was going to go to Vegas instead for the last open D1 recruiting period for basketball (July before his Senior Year) but we were convinced otherwise by Rip. He said it is like a fraternity, and he should experience it. He said that it didn’t matter to CU if Shane was in the top 11 or not, it was a competitive experience that would help CU in recruiting AND help Shane to see how he stacked up against those kids.
Shane definitely stacked up! We were so proud of him! He started to see, slowly throughout that week, that he was as good as or better than all of those kids. It was a big confidence boost for him and all of us. He always knew he was good, but he seemed to get better and better as the days went by. He never gave up. I think it was the most pressure he has ever been under, and it showed him that he could handle anything. We were also thrilled to meet Trent Dilfer. He and Shane clicked and I think Trent saw that Shane has a lot of potential. Trent is phenomenal with the kids. When CU coaches called to ask Shane and us if they took Connor Wood in as a transfer if Shane would decommit, I was a little upset. Shane replied, “Coach, you can bring in whoever you want. It doesn’t matter to me. I will prove to you that I should be the QB no matter who is there.” I couldn’t believe he said that- I think the Elite 11 experience contributed to his confidence going forward.
Despite holding offers from a multitude of other schools, Shane became one of the first recruits of the 2012 recruiting class, committing in May, 2011. Were there any second thoughts about committing so early? Did you encourage Shane to take a look around, perhaps visit other schools, or talk with other coaches?
Honestly, there were second thoughts. I think any teenager under that kind of pressure will second guess themselves. Shane was getting tired of the recruiting process really early. His cell phone rang all night almost every night with coaches and reporters calling. He would have to stop homework, or dinner, or whatever, to answer and talk about himself and ask them questions as well. Even though he is very personable and was excited to have the opportunities he was getting, it was hard for him. I think it would be hard for any 16 or 17 year old. We have always believed that God has a plan for everyone, and we know that He is in control, but the whole process was very stressful. You just have to have faith that everything will work out – and it always does.
Shane committed before the Buffs had played a down under Jon Embree. Were there any moments, during the 3-10 season in 2011 in which there were occasions in which the Buffs were out-manned, that you had second thoughts about the commitment?
We have always felt in our hearts that the Buffs were going to turn things around – and we still do. There is something so special about that campus and Folsom Field, and we still feel that times are going to change! Shane went there to turn that program around, and he is still set on doing that. We can’t wait to see it happen!
Did other schools continue to contact you after Shane’s commitment? Which schools? Did they attempt to undermine Colorado, using either the string of consecutive losing seasons, or the 3-10 record, as leverage to try and change Shane’s commitment?
A few people talked about CU losing and continuing to lose, but most of the coaches were really nice and told Shane that they understood. They told him they wanted him to change his mind, but they understood. Tennessee and Florida State continued to talk to him quite a bit, and Northwestern, Miami and Cincy came out again even late into the process, but Shane never led them on. He was steadfast in his commitment and we were proud of him for that.
Were there other players from Shane’s school being recruited by Colorado? By any other BCS conference schools? Did they have any success/horror stories about their recruitment?
Jason Gaines, who has lived with us for 3 years and we consider to be another one of our own children, was recruited by CU and a few others. Jason will still be going to CU after he is done at his JC. When Coach Mac met with Shane last week he seemed to already know all about Jason, and that was exciting for Shane. Jason is 6’4” 210 pounds and was probably to best receiver in San Diego County last year. He was a basketball player his entire life, and Shane convinced him to play football his junior year. He was a natural and has amazing potential to be great. Tyrone Sauls was a LB/FB that was recruited by Oregon and Air Force. He decided on the Air Force Academy because they wanted him to play FB and they had his Major.
This past season, three different quarterbacks started games for the Buffs, but none excelled. There is already great excitement about Shane being the starting quarterback next fall as a red-shirt freshman. Does the quarterback situation at Colorado worry or excite you?
BOTH! The previous staff let him know that the job was his to lose and in spring he would get most, if not all, of the snaps, and now he will start over again. But that’s ok! He will get out there and give it his all. We have already been talking about the first game in August. It will be so exciting and nerve racking that our entire family will want to throw up ha-ha! It is harder on the parents than the athletes – you just want to see your children be successful and happy. There will be ups and downs, there always are, especially for a quarterback. The beauty of it is, Shane will roll with the punches; He rarely cares what people think or gets to upset by differing media opinions. We try to follow his lead on that. We will be there at every game to cheer him and the rest of the BUFFS on!
Do you have any advice for parents of future potential recruits as to how to deal with the process?
1. We would say that you just have to take it a day at a time. Quarterback is a tough one, because a lot of the kids commit early, but try to enjoy it.
2. We would recommend that you start early.
3. Sit down with your child and find out how they feel about certain areas of the country. Do they want to go away or stay a little closer to home?
4. Then make a list of places your child could see him or herself going to. Start with a few dream schools and then go from there. Keep a couple safety schools at the bottom.
5. Then look at your child’s position and style of play. For instance, if you are a qb there will be some schools that just wouldn’t want your child, and others who would be targeting him.
6. Start going to some camps. The Rock Tour exposed Shane to about 23 different schools over two summers. Having those coaches see him and talk to him in person was the clincher. Take your child to the camps that coaches put on at their schools. It is the best way for them to see your child.
7. Make sure that your child loves the school – with or without sports. You want them to be happy and things can change with coaches. They need to want to go that school regardless – whether for an academic program or something else. It may not be their first choice, but they have to see themselves living there or it just won’t work.
8. Go with your gut. You will meet so many people, but there will be a few that you know truly care about your child. When Jon got fired, he texted me that he was sorry that he never got to coach Shane on the field. Rip was the first to call and say how sorry he was and that he will always be there for Shane and for us and we know he meant every word.