Annenberg Radio

Fourth and long

How two football players have navigated college recruitment during the pandemic

High school football in California has looked much different this year. Players in California face a disadvantage in recruiting due to the strict COVID-19 restrictions on high school sports. Gabi Sorrentino explains.

**********

With five seconds left in the game, Kyren Racheal’s team is down by a touchdown. The whistle blows, Racheal sprints down the field. The quarterback unleashes a pass into the endzone where Racheal has two defenders on him. He leaps up for the ball and...

That audio was from a WCA Football Winner Circle League post.

For Racheal and his team, this was the highlight of the seven on seven tournament, where high school football players participate in non-contact games during the offseason in order to keep in shape and get in front of college scouts. It was the best play of Racheal’s high school football career, but more importantly, that play may be his ticket to a college football scholarship.

“That was arguably the best highlight at that tournament you know. That play gave me a lot of publicity during this quarantine, you know. That play actually blew up.”

That seemed to be the case until COVID-19 touched down in Los Angeles, putting high school football on a hiatus that lasted a year.

Racheal is now a senior at Long Beach Polytechnic high school. He currently has no serious college football offers. Racheal said he felt robbed of so many experiences this year, and maybe even the college offer that could have shaped his life.

“There’s a lot of anger behind it, because I was looking forward to my senior year, I was one of the kids that wanted to participate in every senior activity. A lot of my family members told me that once you graduate high school , you’re going to want to go back, once life gets started you’re going to want to go back. And I was looking forward to my senior year, you know as far as hanging out with my friends, participating in clubs, activities, I just wanted to be a part of it. And now that I can’t it’s like I never had a senior year.”

California high school football players have faced a disadvantage in recruiting this season. They have been forced to sit on the bench while schools in other parts of the country were given a full season with few to no restraints.

On February 26th, California high school football teams resumed their season, but only if their county had a daily case rate of 14 or fewer per 100,000 people.

Some players considered transferring schools and moving to another state in order to play and hopefully get noticed by recruiters in the stands. Moving was not in the cards for Racheal, who decided to stay at Long Beach Poly.

“I love Long Beach too much to leave it.”

He decided to use social media to tell his story and show his potential to recruiters. Working out on the field, distanced outdoor workouts with teammates, staying after practice and doing Facetime push-ups were a few things he did during the offseason to prepare for future games.

Players are not the only ones who have had to make adjustments due to the pandemic. Marshall Cherrington directs recruitment strategy for USC football. He says Covid has forced him to change the way he communicates with prospective players.

“Just trying to be able to get our faces in front of the kids still, get coaches’ faces in front of the kids, still, I think that has been imperative for us. And trying to make it as much of a feel like it in person experience as possible.”

Online recruitment is a new challenge that universities and players have had to overcome this year. Cherrington has shifted his focus from not only the player, but the people that surround him. Meeting and recruiting someone over Zoom makes it difficult to get the full-picture of their character. Cherrington has been speaking with players’ family and friends.

“The biggest thing is trying to get to really dig into the people around them, who they surround themselves with and listening to those people’s opinions on the kid as well.”

That audio was from a Simi Valley High School football fan who posted a video of Throckmorton throwing a touchdown on Twitter.

Travis Throckmorton had a different experience. The Simi Valley high school starting quarterback currently has three Division one college football offers.

Prior to the pandemic, schools such as Stanford and Cal had their eye on Throckmorton and reached out to him often. However, that changed during the pandemic.

“It’s definitely slowed down, which is tough and definitely why I need a season because it’s been over a year since any of these coaches have seen me play.”

Throckmorton considered transferring to a high school in Texas to play this season. There, high schools were able to begin play in August and September of last year.

But, he’s already attended three high schools in three years, so he ultimately decided that he did not want to endure the transfer process for the fourth time.

“The whole transfer process and starting over again just seemed like a giant pain. And I don’t know if I could do it again. It just seemed really hard, but we just stuck it out and just hoped that it would happen. But I mean, we still have next year, which is good. But I mean, we definitely need this season.”

Throckmorton has been sending clips of workouts and passing to college coaches even though he would prefer to be sending them game film.

“The message we’re sending all throughout last year, from March on was just keep working, keep putting in the work and it’s going to show, you know, when the season does come, of who’s put in the work and who hasn’t.”

California’s governor, Gavin Newsom lifted the ban on high school football in February. Racheal and Throckmorton have both had the chance to play and prove themselves in three games this season. For Racheal, time is running out and the uncertainty of a college scholarship still remains.