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September 13, 2021

Let’s Talk College Football with DI and DIII Coaches

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2.9% of high school athletes go on to play football at the Division I level, and 2.5% go on to play at the Division III level. The NCAA has recorded that nearly eight million students currently participate in high school athletics in the United States. Just over 480,000 compete as NCAA athletes. It’s safe to say that only a select few within each sport move on to compete at the professional or Olympic level. If you are looking to play at the collegiate level, then put in the work. Start carving your path, select the schools you would like to compete at, then gather as much information as possible. You will want to compare and contrast recruiting styles, academics, school culture, and football programs.

We interviewed some incredible head coaches and asked them some of your burning questions. The coaches we interviewed include Tony Reno from Yale University, Tim Murphy from Harvard University, Mike Gutelius from the Catholic University of America, Rich Lackner from Carnegie-Mellon University, Jonathan Michaeles from Bowdoin College, Sherman Wood from Salisbury University, and Chad Martinovich from University of Rochester. 

Let’s see what the coaches have to say.

Q: What’s the most important quality that you look for in a recruit?

Tony Reno
Toughness.

Tim Murphy 
Character is the number one attribute we look for, and not just in terms of someone who’s going to represent their community and their family well, which is very important, but character in the context of grit. We’re looking for kids with that sort of self-motivation, great work ethic, and resiliency that I call grit.

Mike Gutelius
First is always academics. If they are not qualified for us academically, I am not interested in how good they are. The second is love for the game. Do they love it enough to cut the non-essential parts of their life down enough to be a champion?

Rich Lackner 
Academic admissibility.

Jonathan Michaeles
Ability and character.

Sherman Wood
GPA and SAT/ACT scores. We have higher admission standards than most, and we don’t look at a film until we see grades.

Chad Martinovich
Character, academic excellence, and athletic ability.

Related: Athletes’ Tips on Balancing Your GPA and Football

Q: What’s the best way for a recruit to get on your radar?

Tony Reno 
Film, transcript, and HS Coach evaluation.

Tim Murphy
These days, it’s really easy for you to get on a coach’s radar if you have an interest in a particular school or a particular league. With the advent of the digital age and with Hudl video, it’s really easy to just send them your video. In about a half-hour, you could set it up to send it to 20, 30 different coaches just at the touch of a button. Utilizing your Hudl video, your highlight film, your high school film, which is critical for college coaches to review. It’s very simple to do, and especially with kids so digitally inclined these days.

Mike Gutelius
The best way is to share Hudl highlights and academic information. Filling out an online questionnaire is key to making sure we have all the necessary information.

Rich Lackner
Complete an online football questionnaire for us.

Jonathan Michaeles
Send us your academic profile early.

Sherman Wood
Email.

Chad Martinovich 
Fill out a questionnaire on our website, send us a film link, and send transcript/test scores.

Related: Reaching out to Coaches

Q: What are the dos and don’ts of being recruited?

Tony Reno
Don’t: Guys who BCD (Blame, Complain, Distrust).

Mike Gutelius
Do: Update your Hudl with recent highlights often. 
Don’t: Dismiss any schools because recruiting is a strange process, and you never know which school is the best fit until you check things out.”

Rich Lackner
Be a great communicator, and be honest.

Jonathan Michaeles
Be responsive to all communication.

Sherman Wood 
Do: Be honest. 
Don’t: Get hung up with levels and want to tell everyone you signed on Twitter.

Chad Martinovich
Recruits should represent themselves and their family well with their words and actions. They should communicate with others directly rather than having a parent do it for them.

Related: What NCAA Head Football Coaches Look for in Recruits

Q: What’s the best advice you can offer a recruit?

Tony Reno
Take care of your 20 sq feet and close the circle.

Tim Murphy
The thing I would tell kids in high school who are interested in playing college football is to maximize your best opportunities, concentrate on your schoolwork. If you do a great job in school, you know that football comes easily from the standpoint of something you love and something you naturally work hard at. To maximize your best opportunities, do a great job in school, and that’s gonna give you the best opportunities going forward to a school you wanna go to as opposed to a school you may have to go to.

Mike Gutelius 
Stay on top of your academics and find the best fit for you with or without the sport. Remember that this is a 40-year decision, not a 4-year decision.

Rich Lackner 
Make good decisions in all aspects of your life.

Jonathan Michaeles
Keep marketing themselves.

Sherman Wood 
Go to a school that is selective. If there are no standards going in, what does it mean when you come out?

Chad Martinovich
Challenge yourself with the classes you take in high school and work hard to excel in them in order to give yourself a variety of options when looking for a college.

Q: What jumps out to you when you review a recruit’s highlight tape?

Tony Reno
Speed and power.

Mike Gutelius
Acceleration and change of direction, as well as physicality and aggressiveness.

Rich Lackner
Flexibility, speed, “motor,” and someone who gives 100%.

Jonathan Michaeles
Speed and athleticism.

Sherman Wood
Do they make plays? Effort.

Chad Martinovich
We look at how athletic he is first and foremost.

Sources: High school figures from the 2018-19 High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations; data from club teams not included. College numbers from the NCAA 2018-19 Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report.

YOUR JOURNEY STARTS HERE