Guest Opinion
Return to Home Page

    The following Guest Opinion was written by someone who prefers to use only his initials. It makes for interesting reading.
    We welcome responses. They are posted at the bottom. Thanks.
    Send responses to silaryt@phillynews.com.


   Why is that more good student athletes from the Philadelphia Catholic league and Suburban high schools get football scholarships and or go on to play college football than their good Philadelphia Public league counterparts? Are the student athletes from the Philadelphia Catholic league and Suburban high schools really that much better than student athletes from the Philadelphia Public league?

   I was a standout high school football player that dreamed of receiving a college football scholarship too. I started most of my sophomore, junior and all of my senior year, and earned a co-captain position my senior year. During my senior year I was the starting right side offensive guard and defensive tackle and played the entire game from whistle to whistle including kickoff return/ coverage, and field goal attempts and coverage. I was the only captain and only linemen to play the entire game from whistle to whistle.  I played at 6'-0"  215 lbs, bench pressed 300 and was the then younger brother of a starting 6'-2   285 lb. offensive tackle for a Division I-AA University. I had write ups about my abilities in the Philadelphia Daily News, and routinely delivered college level hits at the high school level (causing opponents to lose their helmets.) In addition to hurrying quarterbacks, as a defensive tackle, I routinely chased down  running backs and tight ends from behind downfield on long-gain plays. At the time I was the smallest, yet strongest, hardest hitting, most athletic, fastest/quickest and toughest starting linemen on the team, earning the pulling guard position and racking up (as I recall)  5 solo tackles, 3 hurries and a half-sack a game at defensive tackle (these stats are comparable to the stats of current college players at Div 1, 1AA, 2 and 3 players- just read the bios of college players on team websites). I was the fastest, toughest, hardest hitting and most athletic big guy on our team, and that is why I played the entire game. During my senior year, I played my heart out in an attempt to get a scholarship, and in an attempt to disprove my coach's statement that I was too small to play college football. On my team at the time, there were two other lineman getting some attention from college recruiters and other high school coaches from around the league. The two linemen were 6'-5", 255 lbs, and 6'-4", 243 lbs respectively. And ironically, the coaches, players and I knew that I routinely outperformed these two guys in practice as well as my opponents during games. In fact, neither of these two guys had as much playing time as I had, yet they both received college football scholarships and went on to do well at the college level.

   In addition, to playing football, during my senior year I was the starting heavyweight wrestler, I weightlifted and ran frequently, I ranked 21 academically out of a graduating class of 450, I had a high GPA, and scored in the upper 900's on my SAT.   I was a member of the honor society and placed third in the race for class president. All of those accomplishments, I believed were worthy of a football scholarship from some university somewhere. So, I waited and waited.

   Despair started to set in after Wrestling Season and I wished that I played linebacker in high school instead of lineman since my size and ability was more suited to linebacker at the college level. However, the team needed me at offensive guard/ defensive tackle and that is where I played.  Now I will be the first to admit that I was too small at the time to consider playing the line at the college level, but I know that I had the size, skill, speed and ability to excel at defensive end,  linebacker or strong safety at the collegiate level, and I knew that the scouts out there in the stands were aware of that. So I waited and waited for that college football scholarship.

   Then it finally happened. Because of my senior performance, I finally received some scholarship offers. But, instead of receiving the football scholarship that I so desired, I received several academic scholarship offers instead. I was perplexed at the time. I thought that universities were more interested in my athletic ability than my academic ability. Boy was I wrong. So I write this message to the many high school players out there that dream of receiving that college football scholarship, please hit those books with the same intensity that you hit you opponents because your brains will take you further in life than your athletic ability. No matter how good your athletic ability may be, you cannot control whether or not you will receive a college football scholarship. Fortunately for me, at the age of eighteen I was aware of this fact so I pursued my academic career just as vigorously as I did my football career. And now instead of being a 6'1" 235 lb potential linebacker, I am a 6'1" 235 Architect making a decent living. Sadly, I know of far too many high school and college athletes that I have meet along the way that did not place enough emphasis on their academics, and now during their 20's and 30's they are paying a heavy penalty.

   I write this message not to be preachy or to sound like a nagging parent or guidance counselor. Instead, I write this message to enlighten high school students, college recruiters and coaches alike. While I am currently a successful Architect, I still wonder about what I could have done at the college level, had I received a college football scholarship.  I wondered for years why I never received a football scholarship. But, now at the age of 34, I look back in retrospect and now understand why I did not receive a college football scholarship. I played high school football in Philadelphia, PA's Public League, a league known more for producing good college and professional men/women basketball players, not football players. PL football never gets the press and respect that its Catholic league and Suburban league counterparts receive in the press, and that limits the exposure and likelihood that a reasonable amount of players from the PL will receive football scholarships. I recently viewed a web site outlining the Pennsylvania high school players to receive football scholarships, and a scant 3 players out of the 40-team public league received scholarship offers. I have also researched the rosters of all college teams (via the internet) within a 500-mile radius of Philadelphia to see how many players from the PL are playing college football. What I have found is that far too few PL athletes are playing college football in general and especially in comparison to their Catholic league counterparts. That's outrageous. This must change!!! Penn State rarely recruits players from the PL, but when they do get players from Philly they become the team's standout players i.e. Blair Thomas and Chafie Fields. PL football is a vast resource of potential talent that should be tapped into. I often wonder if I had attended a Catholic league school or suburban school and performed the way that I did on the gridiron, if I would have received some attention from colleges?

   While in college I met a friend who himself was (admittedly) a decent PL football player (not great or outstanding) in 11th grade and moved to suburban Massachusetts during his senior year of high school. While in Massachusetts my friend stood out amongst his high school peers in Massachusetts and played in the State's High school football all star game against players that were eventually recruited by schools like Penn State and Boston College. Had he stayed in the city, and the PL in particular, the likelihood of him playing in the Pennsylvania state all-star game would have been next to impossible. Of the two mammoth linemen from my high school team that went on to play college football at Delaware Valley College and Temple University, one became the captain of Temple University's Team and the other eventually earned a tryout with the Philadelphia Eagles. Neither of the two mammoth linemen from my high school team were heavily recruited. Both were good players with comparable skills as my own, but had less playing time than I did.  I often wonder if they had attended a Catholic league school or suburban school and performed the same way that they did on the gridiron, if they would have received more attention from colleges?

   I did not receive a college football scholarship because the high school program that I played for was so poor that I had to wear two different jersey numbers 71 and 73 because there were not enough jerseys for the entire team. Also, we did not have the funds to film our games, nor have the personnel/ resources to keep player stats.

   And last of all, I believe that I did not receive a college football scholarship because I played during the early 1980's, before the advent of the Internet. I believe that had I played high school football today with the same grades, size and ability along with today's prevalence of video cams and the internet, I would definitely receive a college football scholarship. But, had I received a football scholarship, I would probably not be the person that I am today, a successful young Architect. I have no regrets. Although, in the interest of helping other PL football players in their attempt to earn college football scholarships, I have begun developing a college recruitment guide for public league student athletes. I have conducted surveys with college coaches and college players from the Public league and my findings are interesting. According to most college players that have responded to my college football survey, the skill levels of college scholarship football players is not much greater than the skill levels of good high school players. Most college players that I have spoken too insist that if given the chance, many of their good high school teammates could compete and succeed at the college level, if they were willing to work hard.

   So again, I would like to say that not all deserving high school athletes receive athletic scholarship, particularly those from Philadelphia's Public League. So to maximize their potential, I recommend that they hit their books with the same intensity that they hit their opponents because after all, their athletic ability will not last as long as their knowledge of computers, communications, mathematics and economics.

Sincerely
MRH
"All Public Architect"

RESPONSES . . .

MRH,
   As great of a player that you say you were (which I am not doubting, so don't take this the wrong way), let's be realistic with a couple of things. Your lack of scholarship interest had absolutely nothing to do with what league you played in; it was the fact that you were a 6'0” 215 lbs lineman. When college coaches recruit, they recruit not on the player that you are, but the player that you can become. The fact that you were a hard hitting, workhorse of a football player means very little to someone who is recruiting for a Div I university. Even with extensive, extensive weight training, by you senior year of college you could have been at the most 6'1”, 245.     At that level, you size just would not have cut it for the position that you wanted to play.
   That doesn't mean that the way colleges recruit is right, too often good undersized players go by the wayside simply because of their size. But, there are rare exceptions where small guys get recruited and do well, but, they have to be something very, very special. Barry Sanders, 5'7”, Emmit Smith 5'9”, Zack Thomas, 5'10”.
   Even just these three, while undersized, have one undeniable thing in common; speed. If you aren't the biggest guy in the world, you better have some wheels that can back it up. But, for lineman at the D1 level, size drastically outweighs speed.
   And here's something else to consider, maybe the fact that you waited to get recruited instead of actively trying to get recruited had something to do with the lack of interest from scholarship granting schools?
   While in your particular case the league you played in had nothing to do with you not being recruited, that doesn't mean this problem doesn't exist. There probably have been cases where certain players didn't get noticed because they played in a certain league. But, your case should not be used as an accurate example of this.
---- The Pulse

MRH
  To get a college scholarship you have to have a size that people can work with at the college level. I can believe that the scouts to your 2 biggest guys over you not becuase they thought you were better but because they thought they could make them better than you. Your size was not going to work with your position. College scouts first look at a players potential.
-
--- no name

I agree with the man's opinion based on the statistics I've seen and from my
personal encounters with some of my high school peers. I graduated from NEHS
in 2001. We had an outstanding team and as juniors most of our starters
recieved recruiting letters from many Division IA and 1AA schools such as
Rutgers, Temple, Kentucky, Syracuse, Penn, Villanova, and Virginia. As we
became seniors the letters declined even though our talent became even
better. A guy like Cameron Murphy who was 6-3 320 lbs started 3 years on a
team that played in probably the toughest division in the city. He is at FAMU
and had a great spring practice and is looking forward to the competition and
challenge of starting this year. Another under-recruited player was Brent
Grimes a great athlete and student. He was probably the best offensive player
in the pub but didn't get a lot of recruiting interest from Division I
schools and decided to go to a top Division II school Shippensburg. The pub
usually only gets maybe 3 or 4 Division I signees every year and the Catholic
League and Surburban Schools get 10-20 every year. I don't feel that the
level of competition is far off because the few pub players that get the
opportunity to play Division I ball go on to do great things such as Charles
Way(NE/Virginia), Blair Thomas(Frkfrd/Penn State), Chafie
Fields(Mastbaum/Penn State), Marcus Godfrey(Mastbaum/Temple), and Russell
Newman(NE/Temple). I believe that its also the players responsibility to go
out and send tapes to schools that they are interested in so that they have
the opportunity to decide whether they are a fit for their team. The all-star
game is always filled with recruiters but they have already signed their
players and are just looking at their players to see what they can do to
better them so if the players stop thinking that recruiters will come to them
and they take the initative and send them 2-3 game tapes I believe the pub
may get some more Division I signees. So far this year I believe they have 3
signees Ryan Gore(George Washington/Temple), Maurice Bennet(George
Washington/Lafeyette) and Tariq Sanders(Central/Temple). I believe that Phil
Evans(Bartram), Chris Poindexter and Darien Hardy(NE), Kyle Bell(George
Washington), Tracy Williams(Frankford), and Boe Davis(Ben Franklin) are all
Division I caliber players who would enjoy success in the Conference 10, Big
East or some at the ACC level.
---- anonymous
   (Ted's note: Thanks for this contribution.)