At NEI, our goal is to bring you things that have never been done before. We also want to do everything in our power to help the kids and families in the Northwest. One of the issues that we’ve continuously heard from kids and their parents is that Colleges all run their camps in the Summer at the same time. It’s literally impossible to get to every different College and their camp. Another issue we hear a lot is that many kids and families just don’t have the time or finances to get to any of those camps. So in our own small way, and with a lot of our own time and money, we decided to help. In a 17 day time span, from Saturday, June 9th through Tuesday, June 26th, we visited and attended 13 different Colleges and their summer camps. This was far from a vacation however, as we looked at this as a business trip. Our goal was to capture as much footage of each school’s campus and facilities and bring that back to the kids and families of the Northwest. At the same time, it was a chance for us to develop relationships with these schools and their coaches, in order to better help all the great players of this region. We saw firsthand the results, as many of the schools we visited have ended up offering our kids. In fact, a couple schools who previously didn’t recruit the Northwest and didn’t even have 1 coach on their staff assigned to recruit it, now have assigned a coach to recruit this region. And that ladies and gentlemen, is what being all about the kids truly means. And at NEI, that is what we’re all about. They say the proof is in the pudding. Well, if you don’t believe my words, watch the footage from each College stop on our Tour and see for yourself.
Campus Tour Stop #11; Montana State University
The last stop on my College Tour was in Bozeman, Montana to visit the Montana State Bobcats. I was tired from 2 straight weeks of constant travel, but eager to check out the city of Bozeman and the Montana State Football program. They have recently become not only a power in the Big Sky conference, but a power Nationally at the FCS level. I wanted to see for myself why the Bobcats have become so successful and how they’ve stayed that way. By the end of my trip, I had all those questions answered and truly believe they are headed for a National Title in the near future.
My initial relationship with Montana State and their staff began with phone conversations I had with Jason McEndoo, their OL Coach. He’s a great person, great coach, and was a heck of a player in his own day. I’d never met him in person, but we had plenty of conversations about kids in the Northwest over the phone. Eventually he put me in touch with Brian Von Bergen, MSU’s WR Coach and the coach on their staff responsible for recruiting the Northwest. He’s done an incredible job of recruiting this region, as MSU has quite a few kids on their roster from this area. I had never met Coach Von Bergen in person, so I was excited to get to Bozeman and meet him, Coach McEndoo, and the rest of their staff.
When I arrived in Bozeman, it was immediately evident that it is a College Town. Everywhere I went, I saw signs in store windows, restaurant windows, and up on billboards that were supporting the school. Nestled in a valley just below the mountains, Bozeman is a very scenic looking city. Its population is about 40,000 people, and the student body makes up a good percentage of that. MSU competes in the Big Sky, which is the toughest conference at the FCS level. Since 2007, when Head Coach Rob Ash took over the program, MSU has improved its record every single year. Last year they made it to the Quarterfinals, only 2 wins away from playing in the National Championship Game. In 2010 Coach Ash was voted Big Sky Coach of the Year, and in 2011 he was voted the FCS Coach of the Year.
Overall I would give Montana State a solid B. Their facilities are nice but not spectacular. Bobcat Stadium is one of the best at the FCS level, and even better than a lot of stadiums of schools I’ve seen at the FBS level. The campus is gorgeous, and the city would be a great place to call home for any student athlete. Outside of football, there are a ton of activities that someone can have fun doing. With the seasonal change, it means those activities range from skiing or snowboarding all the way to hunting, fishing, and rafting. The football program itself has been a consistent winner this millennium, and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. Which means any kid attending MSU and playing for their football program will legitimately be contending for a league title and national title every year. The staff there is one of the best all around staffs that I visited this summer. The coaches are very personable, and also have very credible backgrounds. Distance could be a factor for kids from the Northwest, but remember that you’ll be playing schools like Portland State and Eastern Washington, so you’ll be coming home to play games every year. I hope you enjoy the footage that’s attached, as I truly enjoyed shooting it. We had about a dozen kids from the Northwest out at their summer camp this year, and I’d love to see about 2-3 dozen Northwest kids out at their camp next year. MSU is a successful program that just needs that little boost to make it to and win the National Championship. Hopefully, a couple Northwest kids can sign there and end up being the difference makers.
Campus Tour Stop #10; University of North Dakota
The 10th stop on my College Tour was to Grand Forks, North Dakota to visit the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. This was the most intriguing stop on my travels, and I wasn’t really sure what I was in for. I’d never been to North Dakota, didn’t know much about the football program or school, and didn’t even know what city it was in. By the 2nd day of my visit, I was calling kids from back home and their parents telling them how great the place was and that I thought they needed to get out to their July camp and see everything in person themselves.
North Dakota competes at the FCS level and is now playing in the Big Sky Conference. It’s on the eastern side of North Dakota and the city it’s in, Grand Forks, actually borders and carries over into Minnesota. On my visit I actually had one day where I watched camp then had lunch on their campus in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and later that night had dinner 15 minutes away from campus in Grand Forks, Minnesota. North Dakota was competing at the Division 2 level up until the early 2000’s, and actually won the Division 2 National Championship in 2001. Since their jump to the FCS level, they have had a lot of success and a lot of winning seasons. Their addition to the Big Sky Conference is huge and will be a very telling story about where the program is at and where it’s headed in the future.
In all my travels on this summer’s College Tour, there’s a history behind where I went and why I went there. North Dakota is no different, as I had a great reason to go. Greg Breitbach is the QB Coach and Offensive Coordinator there. We go back a long ways as he used to coach at Lewis and Clark College for Mike Fanger(new Head Coach at West Linn HS in Oregon)and actually helped coach for my Barton Football Academy when I ran camps there. He was an awesome coach then and is an even better coach now. As North Dakota is joining the Big Sky Conference, they only thought it natural to come and recruit the Northwest now. Coach Breitbach is the coach on their staff responsible for recruiting the Northwest, so we got in touch and have been in constant communication since. He’s done a great job so far in spotting and evaluating talent in this region, and has put out offers to kids that are definitely deserving of them. As we continued to talk about all the different kids in this region, as well as the North Dakota program and what they have to offer, the idea about me coming out there came up and I jumped on it. It would be a great chance to go visit Coach Breitbach in person and also see what North Dakota as a program and school had to offer potential student athletes from the Northwest.
When I landed I was immediately taken aback by the lush scenery. Summertime in North Dakota is beautiful and when I got to campus I was blown away by how nice the buildings, houses, campus, and facilities looked. North Dakota was having their football camp that day, and Coach Breitbach and his staff had just finished up their meetings. He met me in the parking lot and walked me all around their athletic facilities. After about an hour, their camp started so I spent some time in the stands and the rest of the time on the field watching the North Dakota coaches to see how they coached and how they interacted with the players. While on the field, I even met the Head Coach and had a chance to visit with him. Chris Mussman is a very good coach, and an even better person. He’s very personable and friendly, and does a great job representing the school and program of North Dakota. He’s been a very successful coach at every school and level he’s been at, and has North Dakota primed to be a National Powerhouse at the FCS level. After camp coach Breitbach took me on another tour of North Dakota’s Indoor Game Stadium and complex. On the attached footage you’ll see how cool the whole place is. It’s a huge location that houses their Indoor Stadium, Convention Center, Hotel, and Indoor Water Park all next to each other with a massive parking lot to accommodate all the people coming to one or more of the spots. After taking in everything there, we headed to dinner in Minnesota and spent time talking about both football and life. Not many coaches would take the time in the middle of running their summer camp, while also having a family at home, to go to dinner with someone like myself and take up their whole night. But that right there is what makes Greg Breitbach so unique and someone that I would feel totally comfortable with sending any of our Northwest kids out to, knowing they’d be taken care of both on the field and off of it. The next morning Coach Breitbach again met me early and showed me around the UND campus. I’ve been to a lot of campuses all around the country, and this is as good if not better than all of them. If you close your eyes and envision what exactly a college campus and town should look like, open your eyes and look no further than North Dakota. Again, when you watch the attached footage you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. A cool Characteristic of their campus that not many of us in the Northwest are familiar with that UND has is an underground tunnel system. I’m sure in the rainy Northwest at times we wish we had them, but at UND they do and they’re glad they do. In the winter time it gets pretty cold and they deal with a lot of snow. So to combat that, they developed a grid of underground tunnels that connect students anywhere on campus from their dorms to the campus. At one point on the footage you’ll watch, I actually walked down into one of these underground tunnels to give you a look at exactly what they’re like.
Overall I would give North Dakota a solid B. The only thing really holding me back from putting it at an A is the distance. Their facilities are pretty amazing, from their current coaches offices and practice field(was their game field until 2001) to their soon to be built $24 million dollar new football complex. Their game stadium and that entire complex are like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and the campus and city are exactly what anyone could want in a College experience. Their coaching staff is made up of great people that actually care about the kids in the program not only on the field but off it as well. They are playing in the Big Sky Conference now, so at the FCS level you’ll be playing against the best competition that level has to offer. And the icing on the cake for me was a fact that almost slipped through the cracks on my visit, and I was made aware of accidentally in passing by Coach Breitbach at dinner. North Dakota is the only school at the FCS level that has a private, chartered plane for their football team to every away game. No buses or standing in long lines at a commercial airport. The team hopes on the bus from their athletic facilities and heads to a private terminal where they exit the bus and jump right on the plane that only their coaches and teammates are on. If the footage you watched and the write up you read didn’t convince you that North Dakota is big time, then that fact right there should have just sealed the deal.
Campus Tour Stop #9; University of Montana
The 9th stop on my College Tour was to Missoula, Montana to visit the University of Montana Grizzlies. Growing up in the Northwest the University of Montana Football Program is a household name, and they have actually become a Nationally known and respected program the last 2 decades. I had heard stories about what the atmosphere was like there on game days, and every current or former player I’ve ever talked to can’t quit bragging about the school, program, and their experience there. I was excited to get there and finally see for myself what Montana Football was all about, and at the same time bring back the footage for all of you to see as well.
Though I hadn’t ever been to Montana, I’ve had great relationships with the coaches on their staff. Scott Gragg is the coach that I’ve dealt with the most. He’s a good guy and very knowledgeable when it comes to football and recruiting. This summer I met Legi Suiaunoa, who is Montana’s DL Coach and person on their staff responsible for recruiting the Northwest. We sparked up a relationship and have stayed in consistent contact since then. He’s very quiet, polite, and friendly. He’s a man of few words, but a man who gets the job done. Every kid we’ve ever talked about from the Northwest, he’s been spot on in his assessment of them. He does his homework and evaluates and follows up with kids as well as anyone in this business. I couldn’t imagine a better coach or person to recruit the Northwest and to represent the school and program at Montana better than Coach Legi. Anytime I’ve ever contacted him about a kid from the Northwest, he’s either answered the phone or gotten back to me as soon as he could. That’s the type of guy that does well in recruiting and makes a great name for himself. And as a result, it makes us want to go out of our way to help him in any way we can. On my trip to Missoula, Coach Legi was actually in Hawaii doing some recruiting, so I didn’t get a chance to visit with him. However, I saw him a week later at the Showcase Event at UW on June 30th, in which he was able to see, evaluate, and now recruit a lot of Northwest kids as a result. Another coach that I knew prior to my visit to Missoula was Ty Gregorak. We actually played together at Colorado, as he was a recruiting class ahead of me. He was a big time player, and ended up starting his coaching career as a GA at Washington when I was finishing my last 2 years of playing after transferring there. So Ty and I have a lot of history, and it was great seeing him while I was visiting there. He was in the process of coordinating and running their summer camp, so it was fun to see him in action. Ty is one of the funniest people I have ever met in my life, and I hope all of you get a chance to either meet him in person or at least speak to him on the phone.
Montana is a school in the FCS level and plays in the Big Sky Conference. Last year they made it to the National Semifinal Game, and only a few years before that won the National Championship. In fact, Montana has appeared in and played in more National Championship games than all of the other Big Sky schools have combined. In the State of Montana there is no Professional Football Team, so Montana Grizzly Football is like the Pro Team in Missoula. The fan support there and passion for the program is similar to what SEC schools experience, just on a little smaller scale. Their game stadium holds over 30,000 people, which is one of the largest at the FCS level. A lot of schools have big stadiums, but they are always empty. Not at Montana. They sell out every home game, and tickets for a home game are almost the equivalent to the value of gold. Outside of their game stadium, Montana’s facilities are nothing too special. Their coach’s offices and meeting rooms are solid, and their weight room is average. You’ll see on the attached footage that their locker room is a bit lacking, but games are won on the field and not in a locker room. The school is located right at the base of the Mountains, which makes it an absolutely beautiful and scenic place. Something that I think is unique and really cool about Missoula is all the outdoor activities that someone has access to. In our footage you’ll see an interview in a shop located right between the game stadium and the coach’s offices. They had Kayak’s, Tent’s, Inner Tubes, Fishing Gear, etc. that you can rent or buy. There are lots of lakes, streams, and rivers in Missoula, as well as the aforementioned Mountains.
Overall I would give Montana a B-. As far as playing a high level of football and winning at the FCS level, it’s as good as it gets. The game stadium is not only one of if not the best at the FCS level, it’s also a lot better than many FBS level schools. There are so many different hobbies and activities that a student athlete has at their disposal playing and going to school at Montana. The coaches there are all good people as well. The facilities are subpar, and Montana is in a time of turmoil and transition. That being said, I think that any kid with the opportunity to go and play there will have a great experience. You’ll always be competing for a league and National Championship. Game day at home will be an environment and experience that kids dream of playing in when they grow up. Playing in the Big Sky means you’ll be in the “SEC of the FCS level”, and also means you’ll come home to the Northwest a few times a year to play away games against Portland State, Eastern Washington, and Idaho State. I had a great time on my visit to Missoula and the Montana Grizzly Football Program. I hope you all enjoy the footage that I brought back, and hope you take the time to research their program and even better yet go see the place for yourself.
Campus Tour Stop #8; Northwestern University
The 8th stop on my College Tour was in Evanston, Illinois to visit Northwestern University. This was another school and program I wasn’t very familiar with, so I was anxious to see what it was all about. To get there, you actually fly into Chicago. After driving through the city and its traffic for over an hour, I ended up getting to Evanston, which is located only a few miles away from downtown Chicago. I had always wanted to visit Northwestern, but I couldn’t justify a flight out there and all the time it takes just to visit for one day. Two words were able to solve my dilemma: Chicago Showcase. The “Chicago Showcase” is an event held at Northwestern every summer that includes over 650 kids from throughout the country and over 65 different Colleges and Universities in attendance. By getting out there for that event, I was able to see Northwestern and all that the school and program had to provide. At the same time I was also able to network with dozens of other schools and the coaches on their staffs, and continue to plug all the ballers we have here in the Northwest.
Northwestern is a private school that competes in the Big 10. Their Head Coach is Pat Fitzgerald, a man I go back with a long time. When I played at Colorado in 1999, he was a Graduate Assistant Coach just getting into the business. I always knew he would become a great coach, as he was always a hard worker and very likeable. I was excited to see him on my visit, and upon arriving on campus I headed over to the football offices. I only had to wait in the lobby about 3 minutes until Coach Fitzgerald came walking up to give me a hug. We talked for a few minutes and he told me all about the school, program, and city. He told me all the places I needed to see and get footage of, and gave me some good background about each of them. After my talk with Coach Fitzgerald, I ran into Mick Macal. Coach Macal is the QB Coach and Offensive Coordinator at Northwestern, as well as the coach on their staff responsible for recruiting the Northwest. We had spoken over the phone, but never in person. We talked for a few minutes, but he was extremely busy as the camp was about to start and he was helping run it. In our conversation, he did mention that they really want to start recruiting the Northwest hard. He asked about a few kids, at which time I started throwing out all the names of the other great players from the Northwest I thought they should be recruiting. From there I walked into the game stadium where all the campers for the event were checking in. I was absolutely amazed at what I saw. It was like a meat market, literally. As each player checked in and got his camp shirt, he had to get his height and weight and then walk under the stadium ramp to get to the field and sit in the stands. As they walked through that tunnel, different Coaches from the over 65 Colleges and Universities lined the way on both sides. As I walked by all of them in the tunnel on my way to the stands, I couldn’t help but have my head on a swivel looking straight at each Coach’s shirt to see what school he was from. Programs from every level were represented, including schools such as: Yale, Columbia, Harvard, Cornell, Illinois State, Indiana State, Butler, Penn, Carnegie Melon, North Dakota, etc. They soon started camp and at that point I got a chance to walk around and see all of their facilities.
Northwestern is a big time academic institution. They have success on the field and recently have had winning records and competed in bowl games. However, what they ALWAYS do is graduate their players and set them up for a long and successful career after football. The student academic services building there is top notch, and the resources for student athletes to study with tutors in private computer labs and rooms is very unique. The coach’s offices and meeting rooms for the football team are really nice. The locker room is also high quality. The weight room is the one part of my visit that I found lacking. It had good quality equipment, it just wasn’t very big and wasn’t up to par with other big time FCS schools that I’ve been to. The same goes for their training room. It gets the job done, but isn’t anything that they’d highlight to a recruit or their family on a recruiting trip. Conversely, their Indoor Practice Facility was the only of its kind that I’ve ever seen. It had an almost full field they could use, and then a door through a wall in one end zone that led to another smaller Indoor Practice Field. When you see the attached footage, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Not every visit on my College Tour did I get a chance to see the campus itself. I did at Northwestern and I now see why its students have such a great experience. Being a private school, a lot of money is pumped in by donors. So the buildings and architecture, as well as the landscaping and maintenance are all first class. Being in the Midwest, they get the best of each coast. North, South, East, and West all converge there and bring their own styles. So throughout campus and the city, you’ll see people and places that remind you of L.A. all the way to Miami all the way up to New York.
Overall I would give Northwestern a solid B. I didn’t meet all of their staff, but knowing the Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald and the quality of coach and person he is, I can’t imagine he’d have anyone on his staff that wasn’t knowledgeable about football and full of integrity. The athletic facilities were good not great, and the program is very competitive in the Big 10 and always a contender to play in a bowl game each year. The campus is gorgeous, and the degree you’ll walk away with from there can compete with any you’d receive from an Ivy League school. Evanston is really a great college town, and the cool thing about it is that Downtown Chicago is only a short distance away. Of all the big cities I’ve been to, Chicago definitely is at the top of the list. Another possible downside to Northwestern for our kids from the Northwest is distance. The cost and length of the flight to Chicago is not cheap or short. However, if you’re getting a full scholarship and don’t mind travelling and experiencing a different culture, Northwestern is a perfect fit. The benefit to playing at a school that’s not consistently in the top 25 is that they are always in need of good players, and those players can come in early and compete right away. Take a look at the footage from my visit. If you’re looking to play College football at a high level, in a big time league, and get a great internationally renowned education at the same time, Northwestern could be the school for you. If not, at least get out there and have some of their deep dish pizza. I did, and now those “Chicago Style” frozen pizzas at the store just don’t taste the same.
Campus Tour Stop #7; Michigan State University
The 7th stop on my College Tour was to East Lansing, Michigan to visit the Spartans of Michigan State. Being a west coast guy, I wasn’t very familiar with this region or program. I knew that in the past Michigan State had won numerous National Championships, and that recently they’ve won at least a share of the Big Ten Championship numerous times since the start of this millennium. I also knew about Michigan State basketball and Tom Izzo, which I got a chance to see on my stop and you’ll see on the footage. Out of all my stops, this was the one I was most excited about to get out and see, and it didn’t disappoint.
Last year MSU signed David Fennell, a DL from Sunset HS in Oregon. The coach on their staff responsible for recruiting the Northwest is Brad Salem. I got in touch with Coach Salem months ago and we sparked up a good relationship. Eventually it led to me heading out to East Lansing and seeing the school and program first hand, and I’m glad I did. When I got to the football offices, Coach Salem was waiting to meet me. He’s the RB coach for them, and a great one at that. I watched him at their camp working with the RB’s, and he’s a great technician as well as a coach all the kids can relate to. He showed me around the football complex, and the place blew me away. Immediately I felt the history and tradition of the program, going back many years before I was even born. During one 14 year span in the 50’s and 60’s, MSU won 6 National Championships! That puts them up there in an elite category only a handful of schools in the entire country can claim. The coolest thing about MSU’s athletic facilities was how their weight room was connected to their indoor practice facility, which was connected to their 2 and a half full grass and turf outdoor practice fields. I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since. Everything about MSU’s football facilities, academic facilities, and program are 1st class. The Clara Bell academic center was top of the line, with computer labs and study hall rooms and tutorial rooms. The players lounge area was one of the best I’ve seen. It was equipped with a pool table and big screen TV’s and video game consoles with couches, as well as tables and bar stools for just lounging around. The coaches offices, team meeting rooms, and locker room are all big and quite astounding. And last but definitely not least is their game stadium, which seats an abysmal 75,000 plus. While there, I saw the construction that was putting in two 1,500 square feet big screens on one side of the stadium endzone, and a 5,000 square foot big screen closing in the other endzone. The National Championship and Big Ten Championship banners up throughout the stadium let you know that you’re in a place that is used to winning. Retired names and numbers of former players also let’s you know that MSU is a place not only to expect success as a Collegiate football player, but also a place that helps get you ready for an NFL career as well.
Overall I would give Michigan State an A-. East Lansing is a beautiful city, and a great College Town. The program has been successful, and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. The academic facilities are quality, and the athletic facilities are some of the best I’ve ever seen. The coaching staff seems to be top notch, but I didn’t get to meet all of them. However, the ones I did meet impressed me. I mentioned Brad Salem and just want to highlight him for another second. He’s a rare breed in this industry. Coaching at a big time school like he is, he could easily have brushed me off. He did just the opposite though. He showed me around on a day when they had hundreds of kids on campus for their camp. I knew he was busy and being pulled a million different directions. But he knew I was out there on behalf of all the Northwest kids and families, to come home and give you all the attached footage to watch and write up to read. He made it clear that the Northwest is an area they’d love to really get a foot hold in, and knows that there’s a lot of talent here. The only reason I didn’t give MSU a solid A is because of the distance for Northwest kids. It does make it a little more difficult to have family and friends come see you. So the school and program is not a place for a kid who’s a home body and not very independent. On the flip side, for kids that have no problem leaving home and want an experience that few other programs and schools throughout the country can offer, MSU would be a great option. I’d love to see a dozen kids a year head out to their camp in the summer to see the place for themselves. It would also help to let their coaching staff watch each kid workout in person. If you’re fortunate enough to get recruited by them or get an offer, most likely coming from Coach Salem, you’d be crazy to not have them at the top of your list. If you don’t believe me, check out the footage from my visit and see for yourself.
Campus Tour Stop #6; Utah State University
The only thing I knew about Utah State was that they almost beat Auburn the 1st game of the season last year. Other than that, I couldn’t have told you what city it was in or what league it was in. All of that has changed, and I’m glad it has. The 6th stop on my College Tour this summer, it was without a doubt the biggest pleasant surprise and a place I am now a big advocate for.
I actually got in touch with Utah State very randomly. Matt Wells is their QB Coach and Offensive Coordinator. Many years ago, he was a coach at Tulsa. At that time we had a QB named Dave Johnson from Southridge HS in Oregon in our Barton Football Academy. He ended up signing Dave there, and Dave ended up being their starting QB and taking them to the Conference USA Championship game. With our history now explained, a few months ago I received an email from Coach Wells looking for a QB, in his words the next “Dave Johnson”. That got us in touch, and from that point we have stayed in constant contact. It led to me making the trip out to Logan, Utah, which is where the campus of Utah State is located. Coach Wells was an amazing host, and an absolutely great person. He showed me around their entire athletic complex, and introduced me to their entire staff. I was blown away by their facilities, and even more impressed with the coaches on their staff. You can view all of that on the attached footage, but I’ll go through and explain everything to you from a firsthand account.
Let me first give you some facts. Utah State is in Logan, Utah and has a population of 50,000 people. The school itself has an enrollment of 26,000, which is a big number. I think those numbers are great for a couple of reasons. The city isn’t too big where there are millions of people and you never see the same person twice. But it’s big enough that you have all the different kinds of restaurants, shops, stores, etc. that make life convenient. I also love the fact that over half of the city is the student population, because that makes Logan a big time College town. Utah State competes in the WAC(Western Athletic Conference) right now, but in a few years they will head over to the MWC(Mountain West Conference). Their Head Coach is Gary Andersen, who took the job a few years ago. They’ve consistently improved under Andersen’s helm, and ended up with a winning record last year culminated with a post season bowl game, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, to be exact. I mentioned their staff and how highly I think of them. I’ll mention 3 names that stood out to me. The 1st is the aforementioned Matt Wells. He is exactly what you want in a College Coach, both as a student athlete or for a parent sending their son to play for him. He’s young, energetic, and passionate. I’ve seen firsthand how he recruits, and the thing I’ll say is that he’s 100% genuine in his approach. The 2nd name to mention is Mike Samford. I go back along way with Coach Samford, as he was coaching at Notre Dame when I came out of HS and recruited me there. He’s a veteran, and been around this business more years than most of the kids he’s recruiting have had birthdays. He coaches RB’s and TE’s at Utah State, and is so knowledgeable about the game that he has forgotten more about football than most of us will ever know. His son is the Recruiting Coordinator at Stanford, so coaching and success runs in the family. Coach Samford is another coach that what you see is what you get. He’s very honest and has a lot of integrity, which is a rare trait in this industry nowadays. The 3rd name I want to mention is Head Coach Gary Andersen himself. I got a chance to sit in his office and talk with him. I also watched him at his camp talking to kids and their parents. Coach Andersen has a very calm demeanor about him. He’s the kind of guy I would hate to play poker against, as there’s not much change in his facial expressions or body language. What I can say without hesitation after talking with him is that he’s truly about the kids. Yes he’s getting paid a lot of money to be the Head Coach, and with that comes the expectations of putting a winning team on the field. With that being said, Coach Andersen makes sure that every kid on the team has his position coach in constant contact with them, and makes sure every kid has an academic plan and are meeting their set goals. Utah State is the first program I’ve ever heard about that the Head Coach makes sure that over the off season, every position coach must have a certain amount of personal contacts with his players weekly. And these conversations are not just about what they’re doing in the weight room, film room, or field. They are checking in on the kids and seeing how they’re doing and how classes are going. Basically they are making sure they develop relationships with their kids, and especially for the kids that are far from home they are giving them some stability.
Overall I would give Utah State a solid B. Their facilities are great, their coaching staff is as good as it gets, their program is on the rise, and the school is in a great city in a great location. Logan is a clean, modern, and very safe city. Every view from campus and their facilities is gorgeous. Utah State did not have a single coach responsible for recruiting the Northwest before this year. They extended an offer to Wyatt Houston, a TE from Horizon Christian HS in Oregon while he was at their camp and he committed on the spot. At that point, they made the decision as a staff to make the Northwest an area of emphasis in recruiting in the future. Matt Wells is now the man in charge of recruiting this region, and I couldn’t think of a better coach or man to represent their school and program. I also couldn’t think of a better person for a parent to send their son to, knowing that he’ll be taken care of while away from home by someone who cares about more than just what they do on the field. As the Northwest is putting out more talent than at any time ever before, and Utah State is a program on the rise looking for players to take it to that next level, I couldn’t think of a better marriage. So this is a call out for every kid and parent to look into Utah State, and if you’re an under classmen to make sure you get out to Logan and check out the program and school next Winter, Spring, or Summer. And to all you seniors looking for a home, I promise you that Utah State would meet or exceed everything you could ever want in a College experience as a student athlete.
Campus Tour Stop #5; Weber State University
Heading over to Weber State I had no idea what to expect. I’d never been to Ogden before, and didn’t know any of the coaches on the staff. I didn’t know much about the program or the school either. I just knew that it was in the Big Sky, which is the “SEC” of the FCS level. By the time I left Ogden, I had 2 coaches on the staff I now call “friends” and brought back footage that I think you will agree shows Weber State in a very positive light.
Weber State has gone through a lot of transition this year. After being named the new Defensive Coordinator in January, Jody Sears was named the new Interim Head Coach in April. He spent the last few years at Washington State as their Defensive Coordinator under Head Coach Paul Wulff. I got a chance to visit with Coach Sears during camp and he was a great guy. With a resume like his, there’s no doubt he’s a great coach. The thing I liked the most was the fact that he was also a great person. He took the time to come over and talk to me and ask questions, when he had no idea who I was. That to me just spoke to the quality of his character. He has also assembled a very good staff. 2 names to specifically mention are Matt Hammer and Justin Rascatti. Justin is the QB coach and a fine one at that. During camp I watched the drills he was doing and listened to the things he was saying, and I was very impressed. In fact he’s such a good young mind, that Peyton Manning and his passing academy, which is the best in the nation, invited Justin out there this summer to help coach. I’ve been around this industry a long time and have come to know when I see a young coach that is headed places, and Justin Rascatti is definitely a name to remember. The other coach that really stood out to me was Matt Hammer. Matt is the RB Coach, Offensive Coordinator, and Recruiting Coordinator for Weber State. He’s another really young, energetic coach that has his stuff together. I got a chance to speak with him extensively at camp, and talked a lot about our Northwest kids. At the time, they didn’t have any coach responsible for recruiting this area. After our visit, Matt is now recruiting the NW for them and even had planned on coming out to our Showcase Event at UW. Unfortunately, the wife of one of their coaches passed away during child birth and he had to stay back for the funeral and wake.
As far as the campus and facilities go, I was pleasantly surprised. Nestled into the mountains, the entire campus of Weber State looks like the background for a postcard. You definitely feel the altitude when you’re there(around 5,000 feet), and everything is either walking up a hill or down one. Parts of their facilities were average at best, but others were as nice as any you’ll see at any school in any level. Their locker room is really nice, with spacious lockers and a pretty cool layout. The game stadium is really nice, with the visitor side bleachers built into the mountain in the background. The weight room is average in size, but has all the top of the line equipment you could want.
Overall I would give Weber State a B-. There’s nothing bad about the place that I could point to. I had a great visit there and feel like it’s a place that I can really see a lot of our Northwest kids attending. Their program is making the effort to improve, which is evident with the new hirings and promotions of coaches like Coach Sears, Coach Rescatti, and Coach Hammer. But they need players, and in the Northwest we got them. A hidden gem no longer, this area is ripe for a school and program like Weber State to start actively recruiting. And hopefully with my new found relationships with their staff, we can be a conduit to start making that happen.
Campus Tour Stop #4; B.Y.U.
The 4th stop on my College Campus Tour was in Provo, Utah visiting the BYU Cougars. Like most of you, I had never been there and had stereotypes in my mind of what it would be like and what the people would be like. Founded as an LDS school, otherwise known as Mormon, I thought I’d see people preaching on the corners and judging myself and anyone like me that’s not Mormon. I had the vision in my head of Provo being like an Amish community, with no running water, just well water and horses and carriages. That was the furthest thing from the truth. Provo was gorgeous, modern, and the people were some of the nicest and least judge mental I have ever been around.
Barton Football Academy and myself have a very good relationship with BYU, its coaches, and its program. Over the last 7 years, we’ve sent over 10 of our kids on scholarship to their program. That includes their starting QB the last 2 years in Jake Heaps, who started as a true Freshmen and true Sophomore. Brandon Doman is their QB Coach and Offensive Coordinator, and he was the one that I worked with during Jake’s recruitment out of HS. He and I have a great relationship and he’s truly one of the good guys in this profession. I looked forward to visiting with Coach Doman and finally seeing what Provo and BYU were all about. On top of being excited to see the campus and facilities, the day was also special as Billy Green, a QB from Kings HS in Seattle was there and about to workout. If he had a good workout, Coach Doman had hinted that they were going to offer Billy that day. So with the emotions flowing, I arrived on campus and met up with Coach Doman.
We met inside their football building, and it is a special place. Immediately you look around at all the trophies, pictures, and awards and know you’re at a place with a rich history and tradition. BYU is one of the most successful programs over the last 30 years, consistently having winning records and playing in bowl games. The entire coaching staff was hanging out around the building as recruits and their families continued to arrive for their camp later that day. During this time, Coach Doman walked me around the entire building showing me all that they had to offer. From their coach’s offices, to their team meeting room, to the weight room, to their locker room, and even their nutrition center, the place is amazing. Then I walked across the street to their indoor facility, which is the largest in the entire country, and I was speechless. After seeing all of that, I was still wanting to see the game stadium. So we took a quick stroll down the road and unlocked the gates into Lavelle Edwards Stadium. If you lived in the dark ages your entire life and don’t know who Lavelle Edwards is, he happens to be one of the most successful Head Coaches in the History of College Football, and a legend at BYU and in the state of Utah. Because the gates had been locked, no one but myself and 1 other person were in the stadium. It’s a pretty unique feeling to be in such a massive and historic landmark all by yourself with no one else around. I looked around and pictured game day with over 60,000 people in attendance, decked out in Cougar gear cheering their team on. I headed back to the practice fields to watch the camp that was just beginning. I got a chance to finally meet Kelly Poppinga, who is the coach on their staff responsible for recruiting Oregon and Washington. He’s a great guy, young and very energetic. I also got a chance to speak with Bronco Mendenhall, the BYU Head Coach. I had met him in the past and spoken with him a few times, but never on his own turf in his environment. The thing I can say about Coach Mendenhall is that he is 100% real. A lot of Head Coaches are used car salesman, telling you whatever they think you want to hear. Or they just act holier than thou, not even giving you the time of day if they think you’re beneath them. Coach Mendenhall is a very religiously devout, family man. When we talked he asked me questions, and then actually listened to the answers like he really cared. As an expectant parent myself, I would only want to send my son to a program and coach that I believed cared about his well being and saw him as more than just a means to winning football games. If I had a son who was being recruited right now, I’d feel very comfortable sending him to play for Coach Mendenhall and the BYU Cougars.
Overall I would give BYU a B+. The combination of great academics, vibrant campus life, top notch facilities, great coaches, and quality of program make this a place that would give a kid a great experience as a student-athlete. It’s also a very clean and safe place, which is another thing that I know is very important to parents. The other myth that I want to debunk is that only kids who are Mormon can go there or get recruited there. BYU has kids on their roster that are not LDS, and currently are recruiting many that aren’t as well. In fact, as I mentioned earlier about Billy Green being there at their camp, I got news at the end of the day that made the day even better. After having a great camp, coach Doman and Mendenhall asked Billy and his father Bill to come back the next day and visit them in their office. At that time, they offered Billy a full scholarship to be a QB there, which he wanted to accept at the time but wasn’t allowed, as coach Mendenhall required that he go back home and talk it over with his family and HS coach Jim Shapiro before making the decision. A week later it was official, Billy Green is now a QB commit for the class of 2013. I said earlier that I would feel comfortable sending my own child or family member to BYU. Well, Billy Green is like family to me and there’s no place else I would rather him be attending than BYU. Just take a look at the attached footage and you’ll see why BYU was one of my favorite stops on my College Tour this summer.
Campus Tour Stop #3; University of Utah
After my stops at Nevada and Wyoming, I headed off to Utah. I had great visits at the previous 2 schools, a large part of that due to the fact that I knew some coaches on their staff prior to arriving there. I wasn’t sure what to expect at Utah, as I didn’t know a single coach on their staff and had never spoken to any of them before. I also hadn’t ever been to Salt Lake City before, but I kept an open mind and hoped this visit would be as good as the first 2.
Utah just joined the Pac 12 last year, and had an up and down season. In fairness to their program, they dealt with more injuries than most teams do in a season. Despite all of that, they still had a winning record and played in and won a bowl game. Since the turn of the new Millenium, Utah has had 2 undefeated seasons and played in numerous BCS games. It’s located in beautiful Salt Lake City, right at the base of the mountains. The campus itself is separated from downtown, so you really get the best of both worlds as far as having a campus life, but also having a major city located less than 10 minutes away. Salt Lake City has a population of over a million people, and the student enrollment at Utah is 31,000.
Only a few minutes into the Utah summer camp, I met Grant Duff. Grant is the LB coach at Utah and also the coach responsible for recruiting our NW kids. I could tell right away that he was a great guy, and I watched him for a few minutes coaching and it was very apparent he’s a great coach as well. At the lunch time break, Grant and I walked around and he showed me all of their athletic facilities. From the video that I shot, you’ll be able to see all of them. What stood out to me right away about Grant was the fact that he was willing to do this. We had both heard of each other before meeting, but he went above and beyond to show me around and talk me through everything about their program. Mind you he was right in the middle of their summer camp, and at a lunch break where most of the coaches went to their office to get in the shade and kick their feet up. During our walk and talk, he expressed to me his desire to really break into the market of kids in the Northwest. All of the kids he mentioned and talked about he was spot on, so I knew this was a guy who really had this recruiting thing figured out and someone for real to deal with. After our facility walk through he had to go back and coach the afternoon session of their camp.
At the conclusion of camp, Grant again met up with me and we drove/walked around the Utah campus. Again, you’ll be able to see all of the footage on our attached video. I was truly blown away with the breath taking views that students enjoy on campus. All of the buildings seemed brand new, and their were tons of open spaces with fields, benches, etc. that students had access to just to hang out between or after classes.
Overall I would give Utah a B+. They have been a consistently winning program for the last 2 decades, and now for our Northwest kids it’s even better because they joined the Pac 12. Their facilities are outstanding, and they have a lot of construction happening that when finished will give Utah some of the most modern, top of the line facilities not only in the Pac 12 but the entire country. The campus of Utah is beautiful, and the scenery is even better. I love the fact that the school is located in a place that student have their own college campus, but also have a big city and all the things that come with it located only minutes away. And the clincher to me is Grant Duff, the man on the Utah staff responsible for recruiting the Northwest region. He is a great guy and someone that I now consider a friend. He’s a great coach, great person, and the type that any parent should feel comfortable sending their kid out to knowing that they’ll be well taken care of. Grant even made the effort to get out to the Showcase Event at UW last weekend. He’s really making strides in this region and building a name for himself and the program of Utah. I recommend that any and all of you reach out to him and find the time in your schedule to get out there and visit Grant and the Utes program. If you have even half of the positive experience I did on my visit, you’ll be glad you went.
Campus Tour Stop #2; University of Wyoming
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I arrived on the campus at the University of Wyoming. Located in Laramie, the State Capital, the population of the city is around 30,000 people. After landing and taking in the scenic mountains in the background, I felt as though I couldn’t breathe. And that was for good reason, as the elevation in Laramie is 7,300 feet. To put that into perspective, in Seattle and Portland we are at sea level. The weather was beautiful and I caught a great time to make my first visit.
Wyoming football is a program on the rise. They were in and out of the Top 25 rankings from week to week last year, and had a good enough record that they were invited to play in a bowl game. Head Coach Dave Christensen took the program over a few years ago, and they’ve been making strides ever since. I was excited to get to Wyoming for a couple of reasons. First off, their starting QB last year was Brett Smith, a West Salem HS in Oregon graduate. He is a Barton Football alum and earned Freshmen All American status last year. I wanted to get out to Laramie and see exactly what the place he calls home looks like. I got a chance to meet up with Brett out there, as he was busy doing team summer training. It was cool to see how far he’s come, and how big his name is out there now.
I was also excited to go see Coach Pete Kaligis. Pete is a great guy and someone who I’ve come to know as a good friend. He had coached at Washington when I played there, so we have a long history. Pete is the OL coach and also in charge of recruiting Oregon and SW Washington for the Cowboys. He has done an amazing job of recruiting this area, as the Cowboys brought in almost 10 kids from the NW in last year’s recruiting class. Pete took the time to show me around the campus and facilities, and the result is the footage that you’re able to watch connected to this write up. The thing that makes Pete such a great recruiter is two fold: First, when he watches and evaluates a kid and likes him, he’s not worried whether or not anyone else has offered that kid or not. If he likes him, he’ll offer him. The second thing that really separates Pete is that he genuinely cares about the kids. Of course he’s recruiting them and wants them to come to his school. But he truly wants the kids to do what’s in their best interest, even if that means going somewhere else. I’ll give you an example. Wyatt Houston, a QB/TE out of Horizon Christian HS in Oregon was being recruited by Pete to Wyoming. Wyatt eventually chose to commit to Utah State. Upon hearing the news, Pete asked me for Wyatt’s email. Later that day, Wyatt told me that Pete had sent him an email congratulating him on the offer and commitment to Utah State and wishing him the best of luck. Those kind of things are rare in this industry, and that’s why Pete has developed such a good name among recruits, their parents, and HS coaches.
I also want to quickly give Coach Chris Tormey a shout out. He’s the Cowboy secondary coach and Defensive Coordinator, as well as the man responsible for recruiting the State of Washington. He’s a great guy and another great recruiter. I’ve known him for a while as well and had a great chance to visit with him while in Laramie. He really wants to sign a bunch of kids from the NW as well, and thus far has put his money where his mouth is.
I was excited to meet Head Coach Dave Christensen. Not only had I never met him before, I had never even talked to him. Knowing that, and knowing how a lot of College Head Coaches are, I didn’t expect much time or effort from him when I was there. The exact opposite ended up being the case. After Pete introduced me to Coach Christensen in the middle of the field during camp, he walked up and down the field with me for half an hour just talking. That right there tells you the quality of man that he is. During my conversation with Coach Christensen, it became apparent very quickly why Wyoming is doing so well and headed in the direction that they are. He’s an excitable guy, someone who is just very passionate about his work. During camp, he walked around from position to position and literally watched every single kid take their rep. Most Head Coaches take a stroll around the field so everyone can see them out there, then they leave. I went to some College Camps where I didn’t even see the Head Coach the entire day. So what Coach Christensen did absolutely blew me away. The other thing that was immediately noticeable was that he really cares about all the kids that play for him. He wants them to have the best College experience possible, both as a student and as an athlete. He also mentioned to me that next year for our Showcase Event he and his WHOLE staff are going to get out here and be in attendance.
As far as the campus and facilities at Wyoming, I was pleasantly surprised. Like many of you, I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to catch a cab from the airport to campus or a Wagon. I’d never been there and the vision I had of the place was something in the direction of “Little house on the prairie”. However, it was nothing like that. In fact, I did end up taking a cab not a wagon from the airport to campus. As we came into town, the 1 thing you could see from any spot in the city was War Memorial Stadium, the place where Wyoming plays their home games. The city of Laramie itself wasn’t huge(30,000), but it had every amenity you could ask for. Subway, McDonalds, and all the other different restaurants and fast food chains you can think of are out there. The only difference is that instead of having 4 Subways, they only have 1. Instead of 4 McDonald’s they only have 1. The Campus at the University of Wyoming is very big, but very open. There are a lot of buildings, but not many of them more than 1 story. Campus is spread out, so if you go there I highly recommend you take or buy a bike. The thing that stood out to me the most was how friendly everyone was there. Every person I walked by smiled and said hello, and anyone that I stopped to ask a question took the time to stop and actually help me out.
The athletic facilities were pretty impressive. The thing I liked the most was how centrally located everything was. The indoor practice facility, the game stadium, and the football complex were all located right next to each other. The football building houses the coach’s offices, player locker room, training room, and weight room. If you head outside of that building, about a 30 second walk away is the indoor practice facility. This is a huge building that houses a full length and full width football field. With the weather that hits Laramie in the late fall through the early spring, this building is essential for the football program. It allows them to get all of the work or practice that they need during or outside of season, without being affected by the wind, rain, or snow. About a minute walk from the indoor practice facility and the football complex is the game stadium, War Memorial. I’d seen games on television, and played video games in the stadium, but never seen it in person. I actually got chills when I walked onto the field, just thinking about what it’s like on game day and envisioning all of our NW athletes playing there.
Overall I would give Wyoming a solid B. The biggest downside about it is actually getting there. But once you do, you’ve got everything in a college town, campus, and athletic facilities you could ask for. They easily have one of the best staffs in America, and have a program that will be a consistent Top 25 team in the polls on a yearly basis. They are doing things the right way there, both on and off the field. After spending time in the city, on the campus, and with the staff around the football facilities, I’m totally sold on Wyoming. Not only do I put my blessing on kids from this area going there, I recommend it. And if what their starting QB Brett Smith, a NW product, just did last year as a freshmen is any indication of what your experience will be like, I think you’ll want to go check the place out yourself.
Campus Tour Stop #1; University of Nevada
Nevada was the 1st stop on my College Tour, and definitely a memorable one. One of my good friends is Nick Rolovich, their QB coach. We go all the way back to our Junior College days in San Francisco, and have known each other and been friends ever since. He was a great QB at Hawaii as a player, and the last few years he was the Offensive Coordinator at Hawaii. This winter he was hired as Nevada’s new QB coach, and he’s been hitting me up about getting some of our good Northwest talent out there ever since. I was excited to go check Nevada out, as I hadn’t ever been to that Campus before. As you’ll be able to see by the footage, it didn’t disappoint.
Nevada has been a team that has continuously been in the top 25 or right on the bubble this entire millennium. A few things immediately stood out to me. First off, how beautiful it was. The city of Reno, both downtown and the campus, as well as the surrounding areas like Lake Tahoe, are both clean and picturesque. The 2nd, and most important thing that stood out to me, was the coaching staff itself. They are absolutely great people first and foremost. They are friendly, and you can tell they genuinely love what they do and care about the kids. I know how tiring it is running long camps and having to speak with a lot of people before, during, and after. These guys were amazing. They spent lots of time with us during their camp, and personally toured our entire group around their facilities after camp. At one point or another, every coach on the staff came over and introduced himself to us, and then spent time talking with us.
Overall the grade I would give Nevada was a B+. It’s a great city, great campus, great coaching staff, great team, and has good but not great facilities. I definitely recommend everyone of you not only watch the video from my tour, but find a time to get out and either go to their summer camp, watch a game in person, or visit them during spring ball.