According to NCAA statistics, about 5.7 percent, or approximately one in 17, of all high school senior boys playing interscholastic football will go on to play football at a NCAA member institution. While the probability of making a college football roster is very slim, each student athlete must maximize his chances of doing so.
Division II, University of Central Oklahoma Bronchos running back, Terry Threatt, spoke to me at length about some of the pitfalls he encountered during the college recruitment process and what led to his decision to transfer from Oklahoma State University after his freshman season. He also offered some valuable advice to current high school football players on how they should approach the college recruiting process.
The 5-foot-10, 197 pound Threatt attended Idabel High School in rural Oklahoma and put up impressive numbers during his junior and senior seasons. In 2005, Threatt amassed 1,759 yards on 245 carries, and had 15 touchdowns. During his senior season in 2006, his carries were reduced to 185, but he still rushed for 1,179 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Threatt performed at a high level at the Rivals.com NIKE Camp held at Texas A&M in College Station, TX in April of 2006, where he shined as one of the best receiving running backs. He also attended the Oklahoma State University minicamp that summer. Based on his success at these camps, Threatt said "It showed me I could compete with top-10 talent." While this may have been true, Threatt's talent and potential went largely unnoticed by college coaches.
In high school, few schools recruited Threatt and he only received interest from the University of Missouri and Division I-AA Grambling State University. He ended up spending his first college season on the practice squad at Oklahoma State University, where he made the team as a walk-on.
I asked Threatt his opinion as to why he received such limited exposure coming out of high school. Threatt responded that a big reason he didn't get more exposure was that his hometown of Idabel, OK was a rural place with no airports nearby.
Even if you are located in the most rural of areas, in today's day and age, college coaches will find a way to get to you if you are talented. There was obviously more to the story.
Threatt found himself in the unfortunate situation of having a first-year head coach who was unfamiliar with the recruitment process. After the Rivals.com camp, the University of Missouri expressed interest in recruiting Threatt. He received a phone call and a letter from the Tigers, but their interest waned quickly after several requests to his high school coach for more information went unanswered.
Although it would be easy for Threatt to badmouth his old coach, he graciously said:
"I don't want to put too much blame on him because he didn't have the contacts or the understanding of the networking process. He was a first-time head coach and didn't know how to get players recruited yet."
Instead of complaining about his circumstances, Threatt took proactive steps on his own to gain exposure at the end of his junior year. He mailed out a bunch of his highlight tapes to college coaches. He was in charge of his own destiny.
Unfortunately, at this point, "it was too little too late," according to Threatt.
Even though Threatt had competed neck-to-neck at summer camps with top recruits like current starting Oklahoma State University running back, Kendall Hunter, he couldn't recover from his lack of exposure early in his high school career and move up in the rankings.
Players across the nation are already ranked at each position by the time they enter their junior year. Once their senior year comes around, the pundits evaluate these rankings and simply move players up or down the charts. Typically, new players are not added to the rankings.
After Missouri fell through the cracks and Threatt declined Grambling State's offer, he walked on at Oklahoma State University.
As one of the best high school players in the state of Oklahoma, being relegated to the practice squad was disheartening to Threatt. "It was a really hard pill for me to swallow knowing that I had the talent to compete on that level," said Threatt. "The coaches at OSU made it seem like it was a privilege just to walk-on," but Threatt was not as impressed and wanted a chance to showcase his ability.
After completing his first year at OSU, Threatt made up his mind to transfer. The first person he called was his high school coach, who this time around was better suited to help him find another school that would accommodate his desire to play immediately. His coach gave him a list of schools, information on offenses that would be a good fit, and contacted several coaches on his behalf. Threatt ended up enrolling at D-II University of Central Oklahoma in the Lone Star Conference.
This summer, Threatt participated in a training camp at his old high school with three Idabel graduates of the 08' class, all of whom are starting their careers at Division I teams. On August 1, Threatt started training camp at the University of Central Oklahoma.
I asked Threatt what is the biggest piece of advice he can give to an aspiring D-I player going through the college recruitment process.
"I would tell the younger guys that the process starts your freshman year. If you try to get in your senior year, nothing is going to happen. It's an ongoing process. I waited until my junior year and it was a little too late to try and go to camps."
Terry also emphasized the importance of academics and ambition in making it to the next level:
"Focus on the classroom. The coaches really want to see you do well. I didn't get serious until the end of my sophomore year. Set achievable goals and be ambitious."
Despite all the setbacks, Threatt knows he can't change the past, but he is optimistic as he moves forward. He has set some ambitious goals for himself. He aspires to win the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is awarded to the Division II College Football Player of the Year. He added, "I don't know if I can do it my first year, but I can do it my second year if I get playing time and work hard."
Threatt also hopes to be invited to the NFL combine by the end of his college career and get drafted. He acknowledged that it will be a pretty difficult road ahead of him, but if the opportunity arises, he will take it.
In my opinion, Terry is mature way beyond his years, has a positive outlook, and he will make his mark not only at the University of Central Oklahoma, but nationally on the Division II football scene.
Terry will continue to keep you updated on his progress in his column as a Featured AccessAthlete on The Real Athlete Blog.
On behalf of AccessAthletes, we would like to thank Terry Threatt for taking time out of his busy schedule to do an interview with The Real Athlete Blog. Matthew Allinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.