We asked Sam Handler questions about his recruitment to UCLA and what advice he has for prospective college athletes.
Why did you choose UCLA over any other colleges?
In the recruiting process, UCLA stood out to me as opposed to other schools I had visited because it was the complete package in regards to the perfect combination of top notch academics, great coaching staff with tons of NFL experience, great facilities and a second to none location being in Los Angeles. UCLA is a nationally recognized school and is the most applied to school in the country so when I received the call from Coach Mora (our head coach) I had no hesitation in committing. I was a part of Coach Mora’s first recruiting class when he took the head coaching job in 2012 and viewed the program as a whole as a stock on the rise. Most importantly, my parents told me when picking my school to chose a school if football were to be taken away from you that you would still enjoy being a regular student at and UCLA fit that criteria to an extreme as Los Angeles has so much to offer.
When did you know you wanted to play football for UCLA?
I first knew I wanted to play football at UCLA when I came to their 1 day camp for high school football players in 2010. I was blown away by the campus, facilities, and overall city of Los Angeles. I was born and raised in Illinois, so coming to Los Angeles for that camp was such a culture shock and I knew from that moment on that UCLA was where I wanted to go.
What was your recruiting experience like?
My recruiting process was a roller coaster of emotions. Certain things went the way I planned, while others didn’t but in the end it all worked out for the best. It was frustrating and confusing at times but it is a very educational experience in that you learn a lot about yourself and how college football is a business.
Did you feel like you had enough information going through the process?
I was very fortunate in that I had an older brother, Gus Handler, who played at the University of Colorado and had previously gone through the recruiting process so for myself and my family it was nothing new. We learned how to read coaches and see who was truly interested and who was simply playing the part.
How important was your official visit? Why or why not?
My official visit was the icing on the cake in that you get to see a day in the life of a student-athlete, and my visit to UCLA simply gave me more confidence in my decision to commit there. Any unanswered recruiting questions and concerns about the school should be answered during an official visit as you are that much closer to making your decision of committing or not.
If you had to give advice to an upcoming college football player, what would it be?
Advice that I would give to any high school football player going through the recruiting process is to work your tail off on the field, in the classroom, and when no one is watching. If you truly want to play college football, then subconsciously you should always be making smart decisions and decisions that will help achieve that goal of playing NCAA football. There is a high level of responsibility needed to play college sports and you can never start to early in making smart decisions as a football player, student and with friends/family. At times recruiting may be frustrating but if anything let it motivate you to work harder and don’t let it get to you too much. If you can honestly look in the mirror and say you gave it your all then it’ll all work out.
What was the biggest challenge for you going from high school football to college football?
The hardest transition from high school football to college football was obviously the increased speed and size of the players, but also how to balance school, football and your social life. At times it can be tough but it’ll all benefit you greatly in the long run because these time-management skills you attain from being a student athlete will help you later in life when athletics come to an end.
How important was your relationship with your position coach?
My relationship with my position coach was great as we saw eye to eye on several things. We were also both honest and open with each other. As a college football player the strength and conditioning coaches, at times, feel like your position coaches also because you spend majority of your time through the season and in the off season with them.
Last one – if you were stranded in a locker room for 3 years with 1 team (pro, college, high school, different sport, etc) what team would it be?
If I were stranded with any level football team I’ve been apart of it’d be my college team at UCLA as my friends from UCLA will be my close friends forever. Also the team is so culturally diverse that you truly hear & see everything and get a taste of different people.
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Posted on June 20, 2016 in Half Time Talk
When doing research in the recruiting process for my daughter I came across the LRT Sports website. I was immediately intrigued as this was another dimension of the recruiting process that many people don't even consider. My daughter and I could "short list" schools based on the education she was looking for, as well as the opportunity to play her sport. LRT Sports not only gave us pertinent information into the recruiting process with different interviews of coaches and players, it also gave us insight into current and/or former players' opinions on the coach of that school in her sport. We could use this information to re-prioritize my daughters list of schools based on this feedback. I have many friends that are, or will be, going through this process shortly and I highly recommend using LRT Sports as part of anyone's recruiting process.
The college process presents a myriad of challenges. Factor in athletics and it becomes even more daunting. Now, add the fact that you have zero experience with sports. What is a the mother of a college bound student-athlete to do? LRT Sports has truly lived up to its promise. It has kept "the college recruiting process honest and easy by providing first hand information about coaches, schools and the recruiting process." Their interviews with current students, coaches, and professional athletes have provided realistic guidance. I am much more informed because of LRT Sports! The coach ratings are the most helpful. LRT Sports interviews allow us to hear from students as to how the adults are impacting not only their athletic experience but also how they are helping to shape their adult self.
The C.A.L.C. was thrilled to have Keirsten Sires come and speak to us on multiple topics relevant to high school athletics today, including recruiting. Keirsten reached all of our students and left them with great strategies that will not only help on the fields, courts, and mats, but also in the game of recruiting. She was a true professional and delivered a wonderful message.
Now that the recruiting process and the related stress is over, I wanted to thank you for your guidance. You did so much more than we had expected. Once you started the process by matching the best academic schools first, not the best sport programs, I knew you were the one. The way you laid out a timeline of contacting coaches, visits, and camps completely took any guesswork out of the plan for us. All of the student athletes that you put us in touch with gave us a look from the inside, and made us more comfortable knowing what was coming. Finally, using your website as a resource for knowing what to expect from different coaches based on former recruit reviews gave my son confidence before our meetings. There is no way we could have figured this out on our own, you really put us in a great position when decision time came.
I think hearing from other athletes is very beneficial. To be able to learn from people’s mistakes, and to be able to have access to those voices is really helpful; especially voices that have been there and done that. It’s very important for people to have access to information that could benefit them, and in this case there are many voices that can help the next wave of athletes.
If you have something that’s going to spell [the recruiting process] out for you… it’s so valuable. I think what everyone at LRT Sports is doing to spread the word and help advocate and educate athletes on the recruitment process is incredible.
Without question would have used LRT Sports. It would have probably been one of the most valuable tools that I could have had. If you want to know what these coaches are really like then I think this is the best tool out there. I’m really glad you are allowing recruits to have a resource like this moving forward.