Social media websites become powerful tools for players seeking scholarships
Saturday, January 15, 2011
by Jeff Greer
Top photo by Brandon Kruse/The Palm Beach Post; bottom images from YouTube
Atlantic senior defensive end Wedley Estime was a virtual unknown when the 2010 high school football season started. Never having played organized football before, it was no surprise that he had zero scholarship offers.
But by the end of a breakout season, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Estime had made a name for himself. Soon, schools such as Minnesota, Kansas and Florida Atlantic, among others, began calling.
And YouTube helped spread the news.
While highlight tapes may never lose their place in college recruiting, the more recent emergence of social media - especially YouTube - has made the dissemination of game film far easier (and cheaper in some cases) for both high school and college coaches. It's made players like Estime, who didn't play in any national or regional all-star games, more accessible to recruiters.
"Because of YouTube, these guys are blowing up," said Atlantic's defensive line coach Kelcey Brooks. "(Estime) hasn't even reached his potential."
As Estime's season progressed, Brooks began calling college recruiters, telling them about his star player, who runs an impressive 4.6 in the 40-yard dash. After the season, Brooks put Estime's highlight reel online and sent the link to recruiting coordinators. Coordinators usually then disperse the tape among staff members to decide if they want to offer a scholarship.
Since being posted on YouTube, Wedley's reel has gone viral.
The video (scroll to bottom or click www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJFqT_f6WjQ) lasts five minutes, includes audio of Drake's song "Forever" and shows Estime's best tackles, sacks and quarterback pressures. It also includes phone numbers for Estime, Brooks and Atlantic head coach Chris Bean. It has had 1,610 views as of Friday afternoon.
Video guru Randy Kurlander, owner of Greenaces-based Exclusive Video Productions, Inc., extols the wonders of social media, too. Kurlander, who has been filming Palm Beach County high school games since 1984, employs more than 10 videographers who shoot area high school games every Friday night.
Kurlander edits the tapes for team film sessions, and he keeps a side log of key plays for players who want highlight reels. If asked, he produces a hard copy DVD version of the player's highlights and uploads the video onto YouTube for free.
He said social media sites like YouTube have made the recruiting process smoother because it allows recruiters to weed out talent from a much larger pool of kids.
"Recruiters don't have to get on a plane to see a kid that they've heard about," Kurlander said. "They can view their progress with instant access week to week."
Recruiting used to be based almost solely on school reputation and pre-existing relationships with coaches and recruiters. VHS tapes (and then DVDs) were sent to schools via snail mail, and being named to a blue-chip All-American in a national publication was the best way to get noticed.
Now recruiting sites like Rivals.com and Scout.com feature profiles of thousands of prospects. And free sites like YouTube and BeRecruited.com or paid sites like American Football Monthly's AFMfootballrecruits.com serve as conduits to highlight film.
All it takes is an email to a college recruiting coordinator - "Recruiters do everything on the Internet," said Marshall recruiting coordinator and Glades Central legend JaJuan Seider - to at least get some attention.
"It makes the process easier," Jupiter Christian coach Bill Powers said. "It's not an end point; it's a starting point."
Estime's season - 11 sacks, 70 tackles, four forced fumbles and two pass break-ups - certainly opened eyes in the county. But his highlight tape on YouTube made his talents accessible nationally.
Call it a product of the times.
"He's going to be a monster," Brooks said. "If I had YouTube when I played, everything would've been so much easier."