Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Weekend at Charlie's | by Mike

Last recuiting season, college football fans around the nation got many laughs from a series of articles written by a highly coveted defensive recruit from Florida. The recruiting diary expressed Willie Williams' wide-eyed wonder ("He took me to the hotel. This place was beautiful, nicest place I've ever stayed. It was called The Radisson."), but also helped make Williams' criminal past public knowledge. Williams was eventually welcomed with open arms at Miami.

Before Willie's run-in with the law on his Florida trip, a few posters expressed concern that Williams' coach would allow a newspaper to exploit his player's naivete. Either a coach or parent should have stepped in and either pulled the plug on the series, or demanded some form of editorial control over the series.

This year, another highly coveted defensive recruit from Florida has kept a recruiting diary for a local publication. However, safety prospect Ray Herring demonstrates what the recruiting process looks like when a recruit has a strong support system in place. His latest entry also sheds light on the recruiting experience at Notre Dame under Coach Weis.

The entire article is definitely worth reading. Ray discusses the new facilities, his meetings with academic advisors, and how former WR Bobby Brown, currently enrolled at ND Law after a brief stint in the NFL, helps out with recruiting.

Many passages should make Irish fans optimistic about their chances with Ray (who cancelled his previously scheduled visit to Tennessee after returning from Notre Dame). For example, he states:

We then broke up into groups and toured the facilities. My group went right to the stadium. We walked into the locker room and I thought to myself about all of the great players who have walked through here before me, players like Jonny Lujack, Paul Hornung, Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Bob Golic, Rocket Ismail, Tim Brown and Jerome Bettis, to name just a few.

All of the great coaches like Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz. All of the National Championships, all of the All-Americans, all of the tradition. I thought to myself, how blessed am I? The locker room has big open wooden lockers and a big ND in the carpet in the middle of the floor.

I met the head football equipment manager Henry Scroope who had all of the NFL jerseys of their former players hanging at the lockers. It was amazing how many there were!

It is tempting to interpret Ray's comments as evidence of Weis's recruiting prowess. While I believe Weis will ultimately prove to be an excellent recruiter, Ray appears to be the type of recruit Notre Dame always does well with. He is humble, with an appreciation for the opportunities his athletic talent has created for him ("how blessed am I?"). His comments about academics seem far more sincere than your average recruit ("It was cool because you can tell that everybody loves the football program at Notre Dame but nobody is going to give you anything just because you are on the football team. You're expected to earn your degree just like every student there. That is important because I won't be able to play football forever!").

However, the most encouraging sign for Irish fans is the great parenting from which Ray has benefitted. An earlier Florida Today article profiled Ray's relationship with his father. Just as Kory Minor's mother did, Mr. Herring has helped Ray appreciate that he is making a forty-year, rather than four-year, decision.

"He tells me to always have a backup plan," the younger Herring said. "The best advice he has given me is to put education first because at any point in life, football can be taken away. We talk almost every day and I've never, ever seen him get down. He keeps me going. I look at him and he's never quit, so I have no reason to."

Ray already comes from a great family. Hopefully, he will soon find out what it is like to be a part of the Notre Dame family, too.