Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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Football players rush the field

Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing

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Signing Day is exciting for football program and fans

On Feb. 1, college football's National Signing Day, the atmosphere in Peden Stadium was a mixture of excitement, anxiousness and enthusiasm. 

Football coaches and administrators sat faithfully by their phones in hopes of the long-awaited response, "I'm going to be a Bobcat."

National Signing Day is the day when high school seniors officially commit to join a college's football program and a day when football coaches see the results of their yearlong recruitment process.

"It's the first major decision in an 18-year-old's life," said Jason Grooms, assistant athletic director of football operations. "They're basically choosing their future. You want everyone to feel comfortable with it, and you want them to be happy with it."

For a college football coach/recruiter, persuading athletes to choose their school over another is not easy. Recruiters spend long periods of time on the road in order to build relationships with high school athletes and their families and coaches.

"It's a lot, but it's the life blood of your program to have great, quality players," Grooms said.

Ohio University Recruiting Coordinator Brian Haines, who also coaches the team's tight ends, said the beauty of the Ohio University Athens campus along with the outstanding support from faculty and administrators makes his job a little easier.

"A lot of the kids that we're recruiting, all the other Mid-American Conference schools are recruiting, and some outside of the conference," Haines said. "They're able to hear our president speak when they're here on campus about the school's support and how he goes to the games and is in the locker room. All these things mean something to the kids."

Grooms said the Bobcats' recent play also gives Ohio University an advantage against other football programs.

"Winning helps," he said. "We've had a great stretch here, and things have been going very well for us on the field, which in turn helps recruitment. So it's one constant cycle."

Grooms said football recruiters emphasize the importance of character to their candidates.

"Character is number one for us because you want a quality individual that can come in here and handle the workload of academics and handle the football aspect, be a good person and do the right things day in and day out," Grooms said.

On National Signing Day, teams are sometimes faced with the flip-flopping of athletes from one school to another. Although this is disheartening to the recruiters, the feeling of receiving that one confirming phone call on this day makes all the difference.

"It's exciting because you know the future of your program is going to keep building and growing," Grooms said. "There is a sense of accomplishment because it's been a yearlong process of cultivating that relationship to the point when they say 'I'm a Bobcat.'"

Grooms compares the recruitment process to "developing a little brother." The recruiters get to know the athlete that they are trying to sign and cultivate mutual respect. Recruiters get to meet the student's family, coaches and other role models in order to strengthen this bond.

"This is more than just Ohio University football getting kids," he said. "It's about the University as a whole getting good kids."

For more information about Ohio University's 2012 football signees, click here.