Originally created 01/31/00

Prospects market themselves



To those recruits who think they're not being spotted on the recruiting radar, consider the story of former Lakeside star David Rivers as an archetype of how to open college's eyes.

Rivers spent his first two seasons at Lakeside as a defensive back, moving to quarterback as a senior. Since the recruiting lists usually begin during a player's junior season, very few schools noticed that Rivers broke most of Lakeside's passing records and earned all-area and all-state honors.

He was a prized prospect who slipped through the recruiters' nets and needed a jump-start.

"A lot of good kids get overlooked in the process," said his father, David Rivers. "A kid can mature late or be in a position that it's tough to be noticed."

The younger Rivers wrote certain schools to gauge interest. In response came the obligatory form letters.

What Rivers did next probably did more toward him getting a scholarship to Virginia than his games against Evans or Westside. Rivers made a highlight tape, roughly 10 minutes long, and began to market his exploits.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and for high school recruits, the personal highlight tape may be worth thousands of dollars toward the coveted college scholarship.

Rivers sent his highlight reel to Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Virginia. Only Georgia Tech had expressed any interest in him before, but it had dropped from the quarterback market when Quincy Carter committed. For the other three schools, his video package would be Rivers' introductory calling card.

"It seemed like as soon as the Virginia coaches saw David's tape, they called him right back to see if he'd like to make an official visit," his father said. "They called on Wednesday, and David went on Friday."

These days, most high school seniors are chronicling their seasons on video, as players, coaches and family members are getting crash-course sessions on film splicing.

Not every school can scout a player live. And statistics and numbers can be inflated, so colleges won't take them at face value.

"A video tape can open eyes real quick," Georgia's Jim Donnan said. "You might not have seen or heard about a kid, but if you see on tape that he has the skills, then you try to find out a little more about him."

Said Newberry assistant Donny Suber: "I've got about 45 to 60 tapes on my desk that we get to evaluate. It used to be 16-millimeter film and a projector. But now the technology with camcorders and VCRs has progressed so much that we check certain players and get interested in them from what we see on film.

Kentucky's Hal Mumme tells the story of his prized tight end, James Whalen. Whalen played his prep career in Portland, Ore., quite the distance from Lexington, Ky.'s Big Blue.

Whalen created his own highlight package, air mailed it to Mumme, and soon after Whalen went from unknown to All-American.

"The tape really works, I think, when you're dealing with schools that are out of state or at a distance and might not be able to see you in person," Rivers Sr. said.

So in today's high school offices, coaches are creating informative reels to send off to prospective colleges.

"We'll get all our game tapes, go through them and find the plays that really show off a certain player's skills," Strom Thurmond's Brian Smith said.

"It's like we spend most of our time from the end of the season to signing day either making tapes or sending them off. It gets kids who may not be at the glamour position the chance to show themselves off quickly."

Midland Valley's Eric Weathersbee, a defensive lineman prospect, hooked up two VCRs to his television and copied his best tackles, his best blocks, his best sacks onto one 15-minute tape.

Weathersbee marketed himself to about 15 colleges. When Liberty watched him during practice at the North-South All-Star Game, they called his hotel room and asked whether he could send them his tape.

"Imagine if I didn't have it," Weathersbee said. "What would I be able to tell them?"

Just as Rivers showcased his senior season, Greenbrier's Michael Hicks used his video to remind scouts of his explosive ability.

A high ankle sprain hampered Hicks' senior season, causing him to miss five games. His father, Michael Hicks Sr., had video taped his son's early games.

"We tried to show off Michael's skills, his ability to run and catch, his ability to play as a cover cornerback," said Hicks Sr., who played at Kansas State in the late 1960s.

"This is so different from when I was being recruited. There are so many players out there that might not ever get seen, but if they've got their own tape, it could be that foot in the door they need."

Reach Rick Dorsey at (706) 823-3219.