(photo via oanow.com)
With six seconds left in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship game, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson finds his receiver in the end zone and throws the winning pass to defeat No.2-ranked Alabama. Not even Hunter Renfrow, the wide receiver who caught the title-winning pass, would have guessed a 5-foot-10, 155-pound sophomore walk-on would be named a champion.
The recruiting process is anything but simple. College coaches go head-to-head and fight for the top recruits in the country. But what about the forgotten high school players? The ones with less than a two-star rating. The ones who are seen in coaches’ eyes as being undersized? The ones who don’t get the hype, the internet buzz, or the profile on ESPN?
Tyler Horn, former offensive lineman at University of Miami, knows all too well the frustration of being an underrated player in the recruitment process. During his senior year in high school, Horn dreamed of playing college football, but there was one big problem: He was a no-star recruit.
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When he started to receive mail from NCAA Division I schools like Ole Miss, Tennessee, Auburn, Louisville, and Arkansas about their programs, it was thrilling.
“It was awesome that universities were destroying whole forests just to send me information about their programs. I was special, I thought,” Horn said. “But I soon realized these letters are generic pieces of paper they send to thousands of prospects, regardless of their rating. I existed as a name in a Excel sheet somewhere, but not in the minds of coaches. I was not special. I was still completely under the radar.”
Josh Allen, former star quarterback at the University of Wyoming who now plays for the Buffalo Bills, endured the same experience, being ignored by every coach his senior year of high school.
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Horn hung on to hope and battled an unsettling amount of patience before he was offered a scholarship to play at the University of Miami and earned two stars.
Height is a major issue for high school athletes and can jeopardize players in the recruiting process. It’s an essential part of what coaches are looking for in players. The problem is that the 6-foot and under players sometimes have superior athleticism and make a valuable component to any team.
Examples of this type of player include Hunter Renfrow (Clemson), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Will Hastings (Auburn).
Renfrow was a walk-on at Clemson and took a redshirt his freshman year at 5-foot-10, 155 pounds. He started in 10 games his freshman year and has caught four touchdowns in two national championship games against Alabama.
Baker Mayfield, a 6-foot-1 quarterback, was a walk-on at the University of Oklahoma his sophomore year. He was the winner of the 2017 Heisman Trophy and was the first overall NFL Draft pick for the Cleveland Browns this year.
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Coming out of high school as a two-star recruit at 5-foot-10, 172 pounds, Will Hastings didn’t graduate with any Division I offers. So when Auburn University offered him a spot to walk on as a kick specialist, he took it. Head coach Gus Malzahn moved him to wide receiver after being unimpressed with his performance in preseason camps. Last year, Hastings was one of six walk-on players to receive a full scholarship.
The important thing to remember is that every recruiting experience is different. In an article he wrote for The Players' Tribune, Horn says it’s important to trust the process.
“Whenever I feel doubtful about the future, I just remind myself that in the span of one week I went from having no options to attending a school a thousand miles away on a football scholarship,” Horn said. “A lot can change in one week. To the high schoolers in that position this week, I see you. Be patient. Best of luck.”