Young football recruits see different paths to scholarships

Young football recruits see different paths to scholarships


Folsom High School's Austin Mack passes the ball on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, during a high school football skills camp at Sacramento State, where players go through drills under the eye of college coaches from across the country.

Folsom High School’s Austin Mack passes the ball on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, during a high school football skills camp at Sacramento State, where players go through drills under the eye of college coaches from across the country.

hamezcua@sacbee.com

Carlos Wilson didn’t have to attend the Sacramento State football camp last week.

The senior receiver and defensive back for Inderkum High School is one of the top recruits on the West Coast and has scholarship offers from a handful of schools that were in attendance at the no-pads event. He doesn’t have much left to prove. This camp was about talking to coaches and cementing relationships.

Wilson’s experience was in the minority at the camp. At a camp with more than 1,900 participants, top recruits faced far less pressure compared to someone trying to get their foot in the door. A player like Wilson didn’t need an introduction to coaches. They know who he is and he’s is on the school’s short list of potential recruits.

Part of the reason Wilson went to the Sacramento State camp was nostalgia. He’s been going to this camp since he was in eighth grade. He wasn’t able to participate last year because of a knee injury that forced him to miss his entire junior season in 2021. He still came last summer and chatted it up with coaches. Relationships lead to scholarship offers.

Just because he’s a top recruit doesn’t mean he can take this camp lightly. He knows in order to make it to the later stages of a recruitment with some of the top schools, he has to be on his A game.

“You come here to show everyone you are what they think you are,” Wilson said. “You can’t take it lightly. You have a point to prove and you have to make a statement. (At the last camp) I was trying to make a name for myself and now I’m trying to keep that name.”

He added, “After a school offers you, it becomes more personal. After the offer, it comes down to trying to build a relationship with the coaches.”

The same can be said about Folsom junior quarterback Austin Mack. Coming into the camp, he had a handful of scholarship offers from schools across the West Coast. On the first day of the two-day camp, Mack received verbal offers from Pac-12 programs Arizona, Colorado, Oregon State and Washington State.

Mack came to the camp last summer with an offer in hand from Cal. Because he was well-known coming into the camp, it made the process of getting an offer that much smoother.

“I would be talking to a group of coaches and as soon as I finished talking to them, a whole new group of coaches walked up to me,” Mack said. “It kind of happened back-to-back-to-back-to-back.”

Mack added about the pressure of coming into a camp as a top recruit, “At the end of the day, I have to produce. Even though I have all these offers, it’s not going to matter if I don’t perform. That’s the main thing. … It’s still (about) playing how you play. There’s a reason you have those offers. It’s really about showing what you can do.”

What about the unknown recruit?

For every blue-chip prospect who rolled into campus at Sacramento State, there were hundreds of high school players who were unknown to the 240-plus college coaches in attendance.

The goal is different for every camper. Some are trying to perform and get their name out there, with the end goal being a scholarship offer. Others want to participate because their friends are there. Or some are just there for the instruction from the Sacramento State players and college coaches.

Rocklin senior quarterback Joey Roberts is one of the top returning players in the Sacramento area. At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Roberts could be viewed as undersized by college coaches for the position. He went out and competed against other quarterbacks who are labeled as big-time recruits.

“You come in kinda as the underdog,” Roberts said. “Nobody really knows you. As soon as you start making those big throws, they start asking, ‘Who is that?’ That feels good.”

He added, “You need these camps. It’s how you get yourself out there.”

Another quarterback who is in the same shoes as Roberts is Granite Bay senior quarterback McCade Long. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he passes the eye test for coaches looking for a quarterback.

Camps like these help get players like Long closer to a scholarship.

“(Going to this camp) is all about exposure,” Long said. “It builds your confidence for the season and practicing with your real team.”

Whether it’s a player looking to expand the numbers of offers he has or another just hoping for one scholarship offer, the goal remains the same: outperform the competition.

“It’s cool to be around people that do have offers,” Long said. “You get to see both worlds. You get the chance to perform and show out in front of all these coaches. You don’t get to do that real often.”

Young football recruits see different paths to scholarships

Cameron Salerno is a prep sports reporter for The Sacramento Bee. He is a lifelong Northern California resident and has written freelance stories across the north state. He attends Sierra College and is studying journalism.

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