It’s always nice when people are looking forward to your visit. Greetings are genuine and welcomes are warm. This is especially true for football coaches on the recruiting trail.
Depending on the college coach — and the respective talent at each particular school — the reception can have a wide degree of variance.
Different schools have different skill levels and each year the talent can fluctuate. If a big-time coach shows up at a high school to make their annual rounds and there’s nobody on the team of that school’s caliber, some high school coaches can be almost apologetic.
“Sorry you came all the way down here Coach, but it was sure good to see you. Hopefully we’ll have something for you next year if you stop by.”
For coaches from some of the lesser-known college programs, high school coaches are thrilled to see them, but also warn those same college coaches that a few of their players might not be.
Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has been the recipient of many different receptions throughout his career. For 15 years he was received as a Cornell coach. For six years he was visiting schools as a Western Michigan coach. Eight years he recruited schools for Duke. Then he spent four years at Oklahoma State walking into high schools with the Cowboys logo on his shirt or hat.
Now, however, he is at Ohio State, and he enjoys being able to bypass the velvet ropes a bit.
“High school coaches are great,” Knowles said back in May. “They try to treat all of us the same. They really do, because of the opportunities for their players. But yeah, there is a special pride for me to now be at an elite school like Ohio State. You can joke with your buddies when you walk around because when they show up you’ll be like, ‘Hey step aside, Ohio State’s here.’ Guys you know you can joke (with), but we all know it’s true. When you were sitting there at the lower level, you’re like, ‘Look at that guy from Ohio State, he just gets right in.’ So now I get to wear it. Like I tell the recruits, ‘Look, it took you 16 –- however old they are now, 16, 17, sometimes 15 — took you 16 years to get here, it took me 56 years to get here. So let’s go be great together.’ But it’s definitely a lot of fun.”
As a Buckeye, Knowles says he “absolutely” has access to a higher level of recruiting talent than he’s ever had before. He is also better equipped to get the most out of each of those recruits than he was at any previous stop.
Players are also turning out to be more receptive than they’ve ever been before.
“The reputation of Ohio State and Coach [Ryan] Day and Coach Mick [Marotti] and everything that’s been built here, that reputation automatically puts you – you’re able to deal with any recruit that you want,” Knowles said. “The best in the country. And they’re responsive because they know that Ohio State is going to help them accomplish their goals. So yeah, it’s an entrée to anyone.”
While many things have changed over the last eight months for Jim Knowles, one thing that has stayed the same is the purpose. Winning and development have always been the goal, but now those goals are actually larger and yet more attainable.
“I look at ‘coach’ like from coming from the word ‘stagecoach,’ like carry someone from point A to point B,” Knowles explained. “So now you say ‘Look, for these top level guys, their pay so to speak is what I can do for them.’ To carry them from point A to point B. So they have to look at it and say, ‘What are you going to do for me?’ And I’m able to say, ‘Well, here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna put you in these positions. And oh, by the way, we’re also going to win the national championship,’ and that’s something that you can’t say everywhere.”