Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Note: Part III of the Battle of Michigan will be in the works in the next couple days, and should be up soonafter.

There is a running joke in certain college football circles that Nebraska doesn't measure their recruits by stars from recruiting rankings, but by "heart." Nebraska has essentially zero home base for recruiting, and they're basically in the middle of nowhere, so it's hard to attract the top of the tier elite talent like Florida, Texas, Alabama, USC, Ohio State, etc. Therefore, they must compensate by finding the scrawny, under-sized, lunch pail types that play with so much HEART that they wear their HEARTS on their sleeves and give their HEARTS to Nebraska.

It's a joke...with some truth to it. But it's not just a Nebraska thing. It's an applicable variable at just about every major college program in the country. You could be the freakiest of freaks, a 6'5, 200 pound receiver with pogo sticks for legs and a dilithium engine attached to your back. If you don't give it your all and dedicate yourself entirely to the program you're a part of, you will fall by the wayside. It doesn't matter what your measurables are, how many stars you have in your recruiting profile, or how many schools offered you a scholarship. There is an intangible heart factor that must always be measured somehow and taken into account. When you're a high level BCS football coach, every time you offer a scholarship, every time you call a kid, every time you visit a kid's home, every time you speak to a kid, every time you accept a commitment, you do so while asking yourself a couple questions: Does this kid have the fire in his heart to excel at this level? Does he have the strength inside him to accomplish what's required? Is he willing to go above and beyond what is needed to work his way to the top?

Every once in a while, coaches miss in this evaluation. It happens everywhere. It's not especially common, and there aren't many trends to track to weed out the process. It's just random. Sometimes the high school all-american manbeast with offers up the wazoo just doesn't adapt when he has to. When this happens, and you lose a player that had so much hype and so much potential, everyone tries to figure out what went wrong so they can avoid it in the future, and they almost always fail, because it's something that can never be figured out entirely. Player A will flame out, and you can learn all about why and try to tweak your methods - and Player X will still flame out years later, no matter what you did differently. It's a human condition thing. Sometimes the fire just isn't there. Sometimes the heart is lacking. And when that happens, you have to try to temper your disappointment.

When the heart isn't there, all that potential you once saw is just that.

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