Christmas for most comes in December, but in the world of college football, the new toys and gifts appear under the tree in the Month of February! That day is known as National Signing Day! The day where young men decide where they would like to spend the next 2-5 years of their lives representing their respective universities on the grid iron. It’s an extremely tough and grueling decision to make, especially when you are experiencing some of the absolute best sales jobs you have seen in your young life. College coaches scour the land and internet to find “the next big thing” in college football. Whether it be on the sidelines of a high school game in Arkansas, a living room in the state of Florida, or a small diner in the “Lone Star” state of Texas, the promises are flying around like a pig skin on a Saturday afternoon at Centennial Bank Stadium. College coaches are selling their football programs, academics, conference, accomplishments, playing time, etc. Make no mistake about it, these are some really good sales pitches being made, along with hard to resist promises. These programs and coaching staffs rely on these new crops of recruits each and every year because they are “life blood’ of EVERY program!
National Signing Day over the last 10 years has become a craze, to say the least. With the addition of social media, it has become a 365 day, 24/7 interest of fans across the country. Now every fan feels as if they “are in the know” and in fact have become somewhat of recruiting experts. With this, the decision becomes even tougher for the young men who aren’t even sure what they want to have for their next meal, let alone, what university, coach, or conference they want to play for or in the next 4 years of their life. Social media has began to allow fans from all over the world into the lives of these prospective student-athletes. Even though it is an NCAA violation to interact with recruits via social media, it happens daily and is impossible to regulate. Therefore, the pressure begins to reach an all-time high as N.S.D. approaches for both the coaching staffs and recruits. The pressure is felt from the fan bases, more so than ever before because of the rise of social media and the internet, by making it more of an open book. You know about commitments and decommits moments after they happen. So you have one fan base extremely happy after a commitment, while multiple other fan bases disappointed, some to the point unkind words, posts, tweets, etc directed at the recruits. These 18-22 year old men are put in a no win situation from the start. They are absolutely going to disappoint someone! Whether it’s a coach, fan, or family member, multiple people are going to be letdown by this one, single decision. Is it fair? The answer is no, BUT life isn’t fair. Along with all the praise and accolades they have received throughout their football careers, comes the flip side of things and it’s known as criticism and accountability. Both, a part of becoming an adult, but not always easy to adapt to. Student-athletes sign National Letters of Intent to participate in athletics, in exchange for some, or all of their college education paid for. It’s a high stakes game with HUGE rewards in the end! They have an opportunity to play a game that so many played on some playground or street in their respective cities, while emulating their favorite football players that came before them. An opportunity to play a game in front of thousands of rabid fans, while getting a college education, and developing lifelong relationships is certainly worth the negatives that come along with the commitments made on National Signing Day!
As the final hours and minutes countdown before National Signing Day, I can’t help but think about being a kid at the age 14, experiencing my first Arkansas State football game. Looking out on a field as green as I had ever seen, with the loud popping of pads ringing through the air. I loved sports tremendously prior to that day but most of my experiences as a spectator to that point were with my favorite professional teams, only on television. At that moment, I became hooked on AState athletics. At the time, my mother and I lived less than a mile from then Indian Stadium. It wasn’t hard for me to hop on my bike and make my way to the stadium to watch my newly, beloved Arkansas State Indians. Tickets weren’t hard to come by either. Most of the time I was able to run across someone looking to give tickets away. Each and every time, it made my day! With my new fandom of the Indians, I began to really research the rich history of the program so that I could have a better understanding of my newly acquired favorite team. With that, trying to understand where all these great athletes came from and how they made their way to Jonesboro, Ar. It’s then that I began to read and hear about this big day known as National Signing Day. Throughout the years since, I have been extremely in tune with this awesome day in February, where every big fan gets to celebrate the newest additions to their favorite University. We have come a very long way since that Fall day in 1990 where my passion began for Arkansas State. We are now the Red Wolves but will NEVER forget where we came from! Indians laid the foundation for what we have today and we will forever remember all those great accomplishments. We used to say “It’s Our Time”, now it’s the nation’s time, time to realize WE ARE THE ARKANSAS STATE RED WOLVES and WE ARE ALWAYS RISING! As I lay my head on my pillow tonight, I will do so with the same excitement as little ones around the world do on Christmas Eve, while await the arrival of good ole Saint Nick because National Signing Day truly is, my College Football Christmas Day!