Thursday, January 19, 2012

RECRUITING: IT'S HARD TO BE A 'MAN' WHEN YOU'RE STILL A 'BOY'

Gunner Kiel
My father told me when I turned 18 years old that just because by law I’m considered a man doesn’t mean I am one.

He would say: “Son, you may look like a man, but to be a man you must act like a man. Until then, you are still a boy.”


This brings me to high school recruiting and the spectacle we have allowed it to become.

It seems 18-year-old “boys” these days look at recruiting like an episode of The Bachelor. They court a lot of different people, waver back and forth on whom they truly want to be with, offer false hopes to those they know are not a consideration, and at the end ... they present a rose to the winner in a huge ceremony with cameras and a huge television audience.

It’s really kind of pathetic if you think about it.

For instance, let’s look at the recruiting journey of class of 2012 quarterback prospect Gunner Kiel out of Indiana (Columbus East High School).

The 6-4, 200-pound signal-caller had offers from just about every school in the country, but chose to commit to nearby Indiana University last July.

Then, in October, he decided to check out some other schools while still being committed to the Hoosiers. In November, Kiel pulled his commitment from Indiana and a month later gave his verbal to LSU.

Then ... days after the Tigers were shut out by Alabama in the BCS Championship Game, Kiel rescinded his verbal to LSU and committed to Notre Dame — his third suitor in less than a month.

Sounds like a biography of Kim Kardashian, doesn’t it?

I understand that picking a college can be a tough decision, especially for a “boy.” But there has to be an adult present to make these boys understand what a “commitment” truly means. It’s an engagement.

No, you’re not married, yet. And no, if you decide to break off the engagement there won’t be any consequences other than hurt feelings.

A “man” would understand the value of a commitment or engagement. It is your word. It is your promise. So, before you make that kind of major decision, you have to be completely sure that who you pick is the right one. If you’re not sure, take more time.

I mean, put the shoe on the other foot for a moment. What if you were in love with a girl. You got down on one knee and proposed to her and she accepted your engagement ring. Then, in the time between the engagement and the wedding day (signing day), she’s still dating other men and eventually tells you, “No thanks! I’m going to marry another guy instead.”

Wouldn’t feel so celebratory, huh? You certainly wouldn’t want it publicized.

“Men” also don’t treat commitments like a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” — i.e., having an assortment of hats to go through before picking the one you want.

Again, shoe ... foot.

Imagine the same girl has your picture and three other guy’s on a table. And just imagine sitting there thinking about all the time, effort and energy you have put into being with her and she’s going to treat it like a child’s game.

Now, Kiel is just one of many recruits recently who have used their commitments like those plastic promise rings you get out of a gum ball machine.

Of course, I don’t really hold these “boys” completely responsible for their actions. We have created these monsters. We are the ones who make them celebrities, write about their every move, gush over their abilities and make them household names. And we do all of this for a “boy” who hasn’t ever played one game against a “man” in his life.

It’s no wonder why they walk around with a sense of entitlement. Their brains aren’t seasoned enough to process it all. They are who we have created.

It’s the Under Armour and U.S. Army All-American Games. Televised practices with former NFL coaches. It’s Recruiting Nation on ESPN.com. It’s Rivals.com. It’s Scout.com. It’s 12 hours of Signing Day coverage.

So, when you’re wondering how these young “boys” can actually walk around like the world is their game show, just remember ... we “men” are the ones giving them audience.

— You can follow Lee Hudnell on Twitter @LeeHudnell_TBT