Former National Football League player Julian Jenkins recently visited Oakdale High School as a representative of the National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA) to educate parents and student-athletes on the necessary steps required to play sports at the collegiate level.
Jenkins, formerly with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a graduate of Stanford University, dispelled several myths surrounding athletic scholarships and how to go about getting one.
“College coaches are hungry for qualified student athletes,” Jenkins said. “College coaches start looking at kids as young as 12.”
However, Jenkins followed that statement with a caveat: students interested in a college athletic career need more than athletic skill — they need to have the grades, too.
Gone are the days when a talented athlete could skate by with the minimum requirement of a 2.0 grade point average.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to play college sports. If you don’t deserve to attend that school academically, you don’t deserve to play for that school,” Jenkins said.
Some of the commonly held myths Jenkins touched upon with the aid of a NCSA handout:
• Recruiting begins when you are contacted by a college coach during junior or senior year: False — due to the rise in need, the recruiting process is starting earlier than ever.
• College coaches initially evaluate talent by attending high school games and watching unsolicited video sent by students and families: False — college coaches request game film from reliable sources either online or digitally.
• College coaches discover talent by attending camps, combines, showcases, tournaments, etc: False — Most coaches attend tournaments, games and camps with a list of student-athletes they will evaluate, not with the hopes of discovering prospects.
• NCAA Division I is the only option for collegiate athletic scholarships: False — There are over 1,700 US colleges and universities that sponsor collegiate athletics and are able to offer financial packages. Eighty percent of those opportunities fall outside of Division I.
• Your high school coach is responsible for getting you a scholarship: False — getting recruited is a full-time job. High school coaches do not have the time or resources to take on this challenge.
“High school coaches have the hardest job,” Jenkins said. “They care about their athletes and sometimes they have those same kids for four years and they want them to do well, but they can’t get a scholarship for that athlete. And they get blamed for it.”
Jenkins went on to say that student athletes need to start building an academic and athletic résumé showcasing their skills with a highlight video along with verifiable stats.
“College coaches need to see what you’re doing,” Jenkins said. “And they can know in five to 10 plays what kind of player you are.”
Jenkins said students interested in going after collegiate sports opportunities have to be dedicated to finding the right fit and they have to be open to all opportunities, whether they come to them as a full-ride or a partial ride.
“You need to contact 50-100 programs,” Jenkins said. “You have to inundate colleges with you. Now that may sound like a lot but here’s the thing: you only need one program to fall in love with you. Find the best fit and find where you will thrive.”
And parents need to be involved, he said.
Without parental support, it’s difficult to navigate the process. Jenkins shared how his mother helped keep him focused when he was a 17-year-old teenager with the typical monosyllabic vocabulary. It takes commitment on both the part of the parents and the student.
“You need to envision yourself as one of those top players and commit to being the best you can be,” Jenkins said, addressing the students in attendance.
Following the end of the presentation, Jenkins remained to speak personally with parents and students.
Each student was invited to find out more about the NCSA by filling out a questionnaire. Athletes from all sports — ranging from tennis and golf, to swim, football, and baseball — were in attendance.
For more information about NCSA, go to their website at www.ncsasports.org or call 866-579-6272.