As a speaker, I have a passion for speaking on two subjects. I deliver the Stoke the Fire Within motivational keynote and workshops to corporate and school audiences to help inspire people to reach peak performance. I also have a fire for speaking on the college athletics recruiting process. That goes back to my days as WSBT TV Sports Anchor when I saw many area families struggle with understanding the recruiting process.
My oldest son just finished his freshman season as a NCAA cross country and track and field athlete, and had a remarkable experience. Both of my daughters want to be college athletes.
From time to time here in Charlie’s Corner, I will write on how athletes connect with scholarships and the right fit at the next level. For example, it is very important to understand there are all kinds of levels of college sports. I remember being at a Warsaw game when Kevin Ault (former Mr. Basketball) was playing. Former IU Assistant Coach Dan Dakich came up to evaluate him.
As it turns out, Kevin played at Missouri State (formerly Southwest Missouri State), which is a mid level D1 program. Former Plymouth star Randy Davis just wrapped up a solid four years at Ball State, which you would say is mid level D1. Some thought he should play at a lower level of college sports, but I always thought he had the inner fire and ability to play at a school like Ball State. He showed that he could handle that level of college ball.
A lot of local kids (and parents) get caught up in D1 and think they can play at that level when it’s most likely not going to happen. If you have the God given physical ability and size as well as the commitment to play at that level, then great. However, there are other very competitive levels of college sports. I wanted to share with you how a very, very good northern Indiana athlete found that a high level D2 program was right for him.
Rod Laureys is a police officer who finished the recruiting process earlier this year with his son Justin, an extremely talented and smart quarterback from 4A Clay High School.
Justin Laureys was a 4 year starter at quarterback in a very competitive Conference, the N.I.C., that had 3 teams play for State Championships in different levels following the 2011 season. He set the school single-season marks for passing yards, pass completions and passing touchdowns. He finished 22nd all-time among all Indiana high school quarterbacks in passing yards (one place behind current Washington Redskin and former Florida Gator Rex Grossman). At 6’1 and 180 pounds D1 programs recruited him to a degree, but in the end he signed with D2 powerhouse Minnesota-Duluth.
“I remember the Minnesota-Duluth coaches in our house for a Visit,” said Rod, Justin’s Dad. “They said if Justin was 6′ 3″ they wouldn’t be there. They wouldn’t have a chance because the big D1’s would get him. We did have a coach from a major D1 school get word to us after Justin had a big junior year that they were really hoping he would keep growing because if he didn’t reach 6’ 3” they would not consider him.”
That’s one of the realities of recruiting. It’s not always right (look at the size of Drew Brees as his lack of height led to little interest from D1’s in him when he was in High School) but height and other measureables often dictate whether a certain level of college will look at an athlete. Not every school is set in stone on those kinds of things, but a lot of them are at the high levels.
I had a mother tell me one time when I was speaking in SEC country that an SEC assistant told them they would not consider recruiting their very talented 6-foot QB because they were recruiting 6’ 7″ offensive lineman and he wouldn’t be able to see over them in their passing attack, in that coaches opinion.
While speaking at a high level Volleyball showcase event, I had one D1 coach tell me they would not look at girls unless they were certain heights and could jump and reach certain levels, whereas another mid level D1 coach there told me she was not as caught up in those things.
Schools like Notre Dame, Purdue and Ball State showed interest in Justin along the way and kept up on him, but as time went on Rod realized they needed to look at good D2’s so they wouldn’t get caught empty handed in recruiting.
Minnesota-Duluth, who went 15-0 in 2010, found Justin in the NCSA Athletic Recruiting Network and immediately liked what they saw academically and athletically .
“They contacted Justin,” said Rod. “We researched them and went up for a visit. We learned they are a powerhouse in football (D2 National Champions in 2008 and 2010). After our first visit up there they wanted to come down to South Bend to see us. They said they like to see where kids come from to get to know them better. Their offensive coordinator and another coach came down just to specifically visit Justin . We thought they might be seeing other kids while here, but they came just to see him and spent 2 1/2 hours with us. Those National Championship rings were on their fingers.”
“What I picked up then,” Rod said, “was that there was a different mentality with the D2 than the D1. They seemed a little more laid back and more concerned about school and him as a person compared to some of the ‘your life will be over and you will be ours’ mentality of some D1’s. About a week and a half later we went up for an official visit. They paid for everything including a nice hotel. It was so well organized. Justin had their quarterback from their National Championship team as his host. The thing he stressed a lot is how they are such a family there. We met with the head coach a couple of times.
We learned they had found Justin through NCSA. Normally, they don’t go as far away as Minnesota to Indiana to get a quarterback, but they liked his tape so much and the caliber of player that he is. They run a Pro Style offense and they could see him running it one day.”
“They said they would want to red shirt him his first year,” said Rod. “The coach doesn’t believe in throwing kids in right away so he would be at the coach’s hip for the first season and Justin would be involved in calling plays from the sideline. His second year he would have a chance to be starter. They made an offer to him while we were there and said they would like an answer soon. Justin and I talked about it a lot and one thing we discussed that he didn’t want to go to a D1 and possibly never get on the field. Here he could possibly win a national championship. They have that history.”
Although it is getting the cart ahead of the horse and they don’t talk about it, but there is that possibility that five years down the road Justin could be a pro prospect. Exceptionally smart at quarterback, it is not beyond reason to say he could one day play at the pro level, and the NFL finds prospects whether they are at LSU or Wabash College. Justin looked at possibly walking on at a D1 but they didn’t want to take that chance because you never know what’s going to happen with the walk on route, whereas they ended up getting a ‘real thing’ offer from Duluth.
At the Division 2 level they partial out scholarships compared to D1 football where it is a full scholarship or the walk on route.
“They made a very good offer to Justin,” said Rod, “that will get close to a full scholarship if he performs. What was so helpful about NCSA was that when they made the partial offer I didn’t know if that was good or not, so I contacted NCSA Recruiting Coach Scott Alexander and he confirmed that it was a very good offer for a kid that would redshirt the first year.”
“Working for the St. Joseph County Police I am very concerned about the safety of a community that my child will be going to college in,” said Rod. “When we got there I looked into the safety in Duluth and found out the crime rate was slim to none. We were so impressed by Duluth. It is right there on the water built into the hills or mountain you could say. It is beautiful. In the winter it is nice because all of the buildings on campus and even the city are interconnected so if it is a bad weather day you can still stay in sandals and shorts all day because you don’t have to go out. They told us how supportive Duluth is of the teams and that if Justin wanted to stay part of summer to train he could have a summer job ‘like that!’”
A major point Rod made to me was that after they had made all their visits they realized that Minnesota-Duluth REALLY wanted Justin. As I always say when I speak on recruiting, one of the biggest factors is realizing who REALLY wants you. Rod said he could tell that other schools were interested and all, but not like Duluth.
When I speak on recruiting or counsel families on the phone, I tell them just how competitive high level D2 can be. In my years as a sports broadcast journalist, I reported on D2 national power Cal State Bakersfield every day for 3 years (they are now D1). I learned first hand how good D2 can be. They had a 6’9″ basketball power forward that could tear down the goal with his thunderous dunks while I was there.
Justin Laureys is one of 20 recruits for Minnesota-Duluth football this year. To give you and idea of the kind of talent and size that goes there, here is information on some of the other recruits:
Connor Randall OL 6-4 295 Eagan, Minn. (Eagan H.S.)
Jacob Sass OL 6-6 240 Waseca, Minn. (Waseca H.S.)
Cameron Hehn OL 6-6 265 Waukesha, Wis. (Pewaukee H.S.)
Beau Bates LB 6-0 215 Excelsior, Minn. (Minnetonka H.S.).
(Beau landed All-Lake Conference (first team), Minneapolis Star-Tribune All-Metro (second team) and Associated Press All-State (honorable mention) acclaim last fall after setting a Minnetonka High School single-season record for tackles with 145. He carries a 3.9 GPA)
Beau Bofferding WR 5-9 170 Marshall, Minn. (Marshall H.S.).
(Beau was a Minnesota Mr. Football finalist and topped the state in regular season rushing touchdowns with 27. He wound up his senior year with 1,423 yards on the ground, another 431 pass receiving yards and 37 total touchdowns.)
A kid like 5-9 Beau Bofferding is probably not going to have Big Ten schools knocking down his door, but high level D2 will be a great challenge and place for him and his talents.
As I always state, there is talent at all levels of college athletics. It is about finding the right fit for YOU and using your athletic abilities to get a quality education and set yourself up for the next 40 years.
If you need help with recruiting, there is contact information below. I am a big believer that the NCSA Athletic Recruiting Network out of Chicago can be a major asset for you, and would be glad to talk to you about how it works. I have delivered “How to Find Significant Scholarships and the Right Fit for your Athlete at the Next Level” at Warsaw, Wawasee, Tippy Valley and other schools. This is a subject I am passionate about and would love to help you understand it.
Charlie Adams is the author of Stoke the Fire Within. He delivers a variety of motivational keynotes and workshops to Corporate and Educator audiences. He also speaks on the college athletics recruiting process to help northern Indiana families understand how to navigate the confusing process. Since 2006, he has hosted over 25 Group Travel Experiences for Edgerton’s Travel known as ‘Travels with Speaker Charlie Adams.’ To bring Charlie in to inspire your people or event, or learn more about his motivational programs, you can go to StokeTheFireWithin or reach him directly at [email protected]