Football Recruits: Why Does Your Character Matter?

It’s no secret that college football coaches are looking for strong athletes. College coaches are always on the lookout for football recruits who can help their team win games and championships. What’s often overlooked, is that coaches are also looking for good character. Why is that? 

Coaches know that character matters on and off the field. A football player with good character will be a positive influence on his teammates, and he’ll be more likely to stay out of trouble off the field. 

College Coach’s Perspective

The team at Signing Day Sports is well-connected in the college football world. Today, readers will hear from a source who works as a Director of Player Personnel with a Power-5 school. 

Their insight into what college football teams look for is in line with our resident experts, Matt Seiler and Ryne Rezac. Regarding a student-athlete’s character, it’s made clear that character considerations are heavily factored into recruitment.

“The character of athletes is important to a program because it helps build a culture that will lead to winning and success on the field and it will maintain a healthy program off the field,” said the football official. 

For example, if a player has a history of getting into trouble off the field, that is a red flag that may indicate they may be unable to handle the pressures of playing college football. On the other hand, if a player is known for being a hard worker and being respectful to teammates and coaches, that is a positive sign that they will be a good addition to the team.

It’s clear to see, in lieu of what was laid out by our source expert, how an athlete with questionable character could inflict harm on the entirety of a program. 

From the perspective of a college football staff member, it’s imperative that they do their research on recruits in order to ensure that bad character doesn’t hinder their team.

“We do as much due diligence as we can on a prospect,” said the Director of Player Personnel. “We may talk to counselors, teachers, or administrators. We’ll ask for attendance records and disciplinary history.” 

“I would say with confidence that all programs check a recruit’s social media for any red flags.”

Research goes deep at the collegiate level. Social media is a major point of emphasis today. Digital platforms have become an increasingly easy one-stop shop for a college recruiter to write off a prospect entirely. 

Particularly after the pandemic, high school athletes have overwhelmingly taken to social media to document much of their lives. If anything turns up that calls a prospect’s character into question, it’s already game over. 

What Can Recruits Do?

Keep in mind the types of things you always hear your coaches say. They’re said for a reason, believe it or not. Informative articles, such as this one, wouldn’t be as common if recruits continually acted accordingly. 

Lo and behold, we will continue to hear examples of high school athletes acting out of hand and decimating their chances at receiving an athletic scholarship. Don’t let this be you. 

Student-athletes are held to a high standard. Whether this is fair or not, is a question for another time. But because of these standards held by college programs, along with NCAA guidelines and coaches’ varying expectations, this will continue to be the case.

As a Director of Player Personnel, our source reminds us of essential qualities that are expected of all recruits. 

“Work ethic, attitude, effort, teamwork, and leadership capabilities are some of the examples that we look for,” they said.

While these things are intangible, and sometimes can’t be seen from afar, don’t let them fall by the wayside. 

You never know who’s advocating for you, or even against you. Teammates, coaching staff, and even opposing players/coaches may have something to say about an athlete who’s being recruited. Don’t hand them the ammunition to derail your recruitment. 

Strong Character Traits to Focus On

A former Director of Player Personnel for UC Davis wrote a column about certain traits that stand out the most when evaluating prospects. 

Here are some listed below:

  • Coachability
  • Mental toughness
  • Competitiveness 
  • Work ethic
  • Leadership
  • Poise

He continues on to discuss doing “the right thing” – which is difficult even for me to grasp. The “right thing” can be a moving target, and it’s understandably difficult for a teenager to understand seemingly arbitrary rights and wrongs. 

“Along with being the face of a team and program, comes the responsibility of doing the right thing all the time,” he writes. “Not only when the cameras and coaches are around, but also when nobody sees it.”

Maybe it’s a judgment call that can only be made in the moment. But certainly, taking proactive steps will ensure that you, as a recruit, are being given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to your character. If you are able to show the aforementioned qualities through your character, maybe an error in judgment isn’t weighted as heavily. 

As the former UC Davis official states, recruiters want student-athletes who are consistent, and that they feel they can trust. If this isn’t the case, they simply won’t be brought to the program in the first place. 

If you weren’t already, make sure to spend time working on your character. This goes for all avenues in life: off the field, on the field, in the classroom or at home. Even your social media presence should be accounted for (especially your social media presence). Your character is something that helps your football recruiting journey rather than something that hinders it. 

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