Since the addition of Coach Heck in 2023, the company has gained additional credibility in the recruiting space and the direction of the company has been altered in an overwhelmingly positive way. His team of Craig Smith, Matt Seiler, JJ Kilgore, Cody Sokol, and Javier Gonzalez have taken it upon themselves to reshape the college football recruitment landscape.
Hecklinski’s knowledge and expertise in college football recruiting has allowed for the SDS team to update its strategy and provide a more hands-on experience for the student-athletes that use the app.
Jeff Hecklinski’s Background
Hecklinski brings with him 25 years of coaching experience, 20 of which were at the D-I level. He is well-respected in the sport after spending time with some of the top schools around the country. With more than two decades of college coaching experience, his recruiting abilities are second to none. But his experiences go deeper.
As a high school recruit, he committed to the University of Illinois but ended up transferring to Western Illinois. He became only the second quarterback in school history to pass for more than 5,000 yards and ended up topping 6,000 by the time he graduated.
He would go on to play professionally in the Arena Football League. At this point, he has experienced just about everything there is to experience regarding recruitment and collegiate success.
Now, he has the opportunity to impart this wisdom on those who come after him. What brings him to work everyday is an unyielding motivation to help athletes get their opportunity to shine on the brightest stages. And he takes every opportunity possible to do so.
“Throughout my career as a coach and recruiter, I have seen firsthand the challenges that young athletes and their families face in navigating the college recruiting process,” said Hecklinski. “I am excited to help these young men and women position themselves for success in achieving their dreams of playing at the next level.”
Below Heck, is a team of equally talented and experienced experts in their field. Meet “The A-Team” as they’re known around the office.
At the helm is Craig Smith, SDS’s Chief of Development and former director of player personnel at San Diego State University. Smith brings a wealth of experience from his time in various roles within college football. His expertise in management and coordinating social media efforts has played a pivotal role in enhancing the student-athlete experience on the SDS platform. With a background rooted in the intricacies of football operations, Smith’s strategic contributions have been instrumental in the company’s ascent.
Supporting Coach Heck in the evaluation realm are Matt Seiler and J.J. Kilgore, whose work at Arizona State’s football program drew praise from coaching staff. Seiler, the former Coordinator of Player Evaluation, and Kilgore, a player personnel expert who held various roles while at Arizona State, operate behind the scenes, meticulously analyzing prospects to paint a comprehensive picture for SDS users. Their dedication to evaluating thousands of prospects annually showcases a commitment to bringing the best talent into the SDS fold. Cody Sokol, a retired professional football player and experienced college football coach, adds further depth to the team, bringing his on-field experience to the recruiting landscape.
Javier Gonzalez was the first Hispanic head coach in the history of the SWAC. His unconventional journey from law enforcement aspirations to coaching reflects a passion for mentoring young athletes. Gonzalez’s experience at a handful of college football programs, along with his insights into the HBCU experience, enriches the SDS team’s understanding of the recruiting landscape.
The Team’s Impact at SDS
Hecklinski has already spearheaded partnerships that have pushed SDS to the forefront of collegiate football recruiting. The brand is becoming nationally recognizable, thanks in no small part to his vision for the company.
Signing Day Sports’ app does its job, but without the proper guidance and foundation of understanding, recruits didn’t know how to properly utilize the app’s capabilities. It was after noticing this issue that Hecklinski called on his connections in the college football world.
Soon after Heck took the wheel, the SDS team entered into agreements with a handful of reputable recruiting brands such as the U.S. Army Bowl, Chris Hixson and QB Universe, Legacy Football, and the VTO combine events. He’s also created the SDS college exposure combines that are live streamed to college coaches around the country. Safe to say he took the ball and ran with it.
By creating these partnerships and hands-on experiences, thousands of athletes have been onboarded and educated in the blink of an eye. This foundation has been a springboard for other users to come on the app and follow their peers and competitors on their recruiting journeys.
Beyond forging key partnerships, Hecklinski emerges as an inspiring speaker, seamlessly blending motivation and education. His ability to connect with aspiring student-athletes – evident in the U.S. Army Bowl National Combines – goes hand in hand with his plans for an educational video catalog covering critical aspects of college recruiting. Hecklinski’s influence is not just rooted in his extensive coaching background; it’s a genuine commitment to empowering athletes, making him a driving force behind SDS’s transformative journey and the success stories of the athletes it serves.
Participating in live events has allowed the SDS team to develop a model for seamless digital education. Learning the entirety of the app from the perspective of the athlete was imperative.
After a handful of live events over the last year, the SDS team has learned what works and what doesn’t. They’ve been able to teach recruits the impact of our technology and allow the athletes and their families to take back control of their recruiting process. Heck plans to move to a digitally focused model in the near future.
As Heck likes to say, “It is time for the athletes to own their process.”
Future of Signing Day Sports
With Heck’s team having already spent considerable time around the country at varying events, and many more on the calendar for 2024, the goal is to move to a scalable, digital model.
It was necessary for Heck’s team to spend time on the road in order to optimize their strategy communicating the app’s purpose, user interface, etc.
“Brands are built one person at a time, one day at a time, and one event at a time,” said Hecklinski. “Soon, the same methods will be applied digitally.”
Signing Day Sports will soon be rolling out a video catalog of educational videos hosted and taught by Hecklinski. Its content will include videos that discuss college recruiting in a broad sense such as the transfer portal, eligibility, and NIL.
Also included will be more niche topics such as best practices for communicating with college coaches through personal twitter direct messages, text messages, responses to camp invitations and questions from coaches. These educational pieces will also consist of in-app tutorials and explanations on how to navigate and own the recruiting journey.
This is where the in-person experience is so valuable for our team. Instead of communicating in real time with one person at a time, the video catalog can communicate the same information that recruits need to hear at the click of a button around the world.
“We are in the business of creating relationships by bringing coaches to players and players to coaches,” explained Heck.
With all the information they need at the tip of their fingers, student-athletes will be more inclined to take control of their recruitment from day one. No more waiting around.