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Two Different Paths; Same Result
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The big time college recruit is about to announce his decision on where he’ll play football at the next level. TV crews trickle into his high school. Friends and schoolmates come out for support. Hats with familiar university logos are placed in a row on a table. The smiling high school student sits down with his family, says a few words and then slides a hat on. Applause.
No this is not how yesterday’s national signing day went for high profile prospects like Robert Nkemdiche or Vernon Hargreaves III. In fact this happened seven years ago in High Point, North Carolina, when four star cornerback prospect, and current Charger, Marcus Gilchrist announced he was going to Clemson.
In June of 2006 Rivals.com’s Mike Farrell had this to say about Gilchrist:
Gilchrist is a solid cover corner and a special teams demon. His quickness and ability to change direction make him one of the most dangerous return men in the country and he can turn and run with almost any receiver. Gilchrist has good speed and reads the receivers well and his ball skills are superb.
At that time the defensive back out of T.W. Andrews High School in North Carolina was the website’s 42nd ranked prospect in the nation. Gilchrist had offers from some of the biggest programs in the country but chose Clemson, the school that had offered him a scholarship a few days after he had received his first letter from the Tigers.
Gilchrist would play four years at college both as a cornerback and a special teams standout, making good on his promise as a talented teenager. Due to his play, he was selected 50th overall in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft.
Yet not every player signs their letters of intent with TV cameras and crowds. Fast forward a year to 2012 when the San Diego Chargers selected Kendall Reyes out of the University of Connecticut one pick higher than Gilchrist, with the 49th overall pick. Despite the similarities in draft positions, Gilchrist’s and Reyes’ college recruitment couldn’t have been more different.
Reyes was a three sport athlete from Nashua, New Hampshire, not exactly a hot bed for college football talent. Rated a two star recruit given a rRvals.com rating of 5.1 (which, according to the site means “5.4-5.0 Division I prospect; considered a mid-major prospect; deemed to have limited pro potential but definite Division I prospect; may be more of a role player”), Reyes was not highly sought after outside of New England, garnering few scholarship offers. After signing with UConn in November of 2006, Reyes’ high school coach Jason Robie said:
"He's 6-5, he's coming off the edge and he's getting back there quickly. He's an imposing figure. He's got those long arms. He kind of changes the way rollout teams play against us. When (quarterbacks) do drop back, he can get there."
Reyes was just one of the many 18 and 19 year olds that ended up in Storrs to play football in 2007. The biggest name on that list was Jarrell Miller, a linebacker who was one of the biggest commitments the Huskies had ever brought to campus. Reyes was just another player trying to make the team.
After redshirting his freshman year Reyes became a force of nature in the Big East. He was named to three consecutive All Big East teams and would finish 10th all-time at UConn with 31.5 tackles for a loss (meanwhile Miller would leave the football program in 2008). All this would lead to Reyes’ 49th overall selection in the 2012 NFL draft.
So as you continue to engross yourself in which star prospect is headed to which school, just remember that a lot can happen in four years.