So they sell their schools to 17-year-olds whose heads are spinning from all this attention they are receiving from all these people they have never met, from all these places they have never been.
Four members of The Inquirer's all-Southeastern Pennsylvania team were among those who went through the football recruiting season, which is coming to an end now. For Central Bucks West's Rob Swett, the can't-miss linebacker, for Harriton quar-terback Kyle Helton, for linemen Chuck Henrich of Upper Darby and Ian Mulvaney of Coatesville, and their families, it was hectic, fun, confusing, educational and more.
"This was the easiest one I've ever been through," C.B. West coach Mike Pettine said on the day Swett announced he intended to be a Michigan Wolverine. "I didn't have to send out a lot of information about him. They all knew who he was. You name the school, they all called."
Helton's coach, Mike Korom, said, "Kyle said his head was spinning, but he enjoyed it. I'm glad he made up his mind early." Helton decided on Villanova.
Henrich did not have it so easy. He faced a dilemma common among high school seniors, athlete or not: Was his decision (in his case, Pitt) the right one?
"After we announced it, I sat down that weekend with my grandparents (with whom he lives) and looked at everything," Henrich said Thursday night. "We decided I'd be happier at South Carolina."
Mulvaney's story still has no ending. Those Division I college coaches who loved him so much from July through mid-December have all jilted him. He's now planning on attending a state Division II school.
"He was devastated," Coatesville coach Jack Helm said. "When he called to tell me, I could barely talk."
"We're talking about 17-, 18-year-old kids here," Upper Darby coach Jack Shingle said even before his player's reversal. "They change their minds. Until they sign that letter on Feb. 3, they're not locked in to anything."
THE STAR. Not only was Rob Swett the area's top player this past season, but he also played on the team that had that long winning streak a few years ago, Central Bucks West. For some college coaches, a commitment from one of Pettine's players means they have had a successful recruiting year.
"The calls started on July 1; and for the first three weeks, there were five or six every day," said David Swett, Rob's father. "During the season, we'd still get three a night. And every week there'd be one or two that hadn't called before."
The most persistent was Art Kehoe from the University of Miami, whose call to the Swetts came promptly at 9 p.m. every Wednesday.
"Coach Kehoe's from my home town (Conshohocken)," Pettine said. "He's almost desperate to get a player from West. It could start sort of a pipeline if they did. And the strange thing is, in all these years I've only had one player take a visit to Miami, Mike Rattigan (who went to Boston College)."
Swett visited Notre Dame, Penn State and Michigan, and canceled scheduled visits to Virginia and Florida State after deciding on Michigan.
"The school that my wife (Kimbra) and I favored was Duke," David Swett conceded. "But Robert said that Duke was fine if he was just going to school for four or five years. But he's got enough of an ego that if he were going to a school to play football he didn't want to go to a school where (the team might get its) butt kicked every year.
"We had read all the horror stories about recruiting. We thought it'd be awful. But all in all, it was not an unpleasant experience."
And did Rob Swett receive any family pressure?
"My dad went to Michigan State," David Swett said. "He told Robert he'd be a jerk to go to Michigan."
THE QUARTERBACK. Kyle Helton led Harriton to the PIAA District 1 Class AA championship last season. A starter since his freshman year, he interested some college coaches with his ability to run Harriton's Wishbone offense.
"They called from even as far as Oregon State when they found out we ran the Wishbone," Korom said.
"They'd call on a Saturday night," Helton said of Oregon State, "but I never really considered that a school for me."
Helton decided on Villanova, a school just a few miles from his high school. Like Coatesville's Mulvaney eventually did, he found out about the
college numbers game.
"I was told I had a scholarship from Georgia Tech, but I couldn't make a visit in December (because he plays basketball for Harriton)," Helton said. ''They needed five defensive backs, and they filled them (the scholarships) early, so I didn't have one there after that."
The in-season phone calls usually came on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, usually taking 10 to 15 minutes apiece. "They'd ask how I did in last week's game, how the team did, then they'd tell me about their games," Helton said. "Some would tell me where they saw me in their plans, and where I stood in the recruiting list."
He decided on Villanova, a Division I-AA program, because he felt comfortable there and he would play either wide receiver or defensive back. That means no longer getting pounded on as the quarterback.
"A coach from Temple called and said I wasn't being fair to myself to go to a I-AA school, that I was a I-A player," Helton said. "I think he's right, but I'm not going back on my word."
Helton's experience was fun, as usual, at the start, but began affecting his classwork near the end.
"When the letters started coming in 10th grade, I was flattered," he said. "Then the phone calls were even more impressive. And when they come to school to see you, that's the best. But the last couple of weeks were starting to get hectic.
"The coaches would come to school to meet with me in mornings (in
December), and I'd be called out of class. It seemed to always be Spanish or Trig. I had a letter sent home that I had missed too many Trig classes because of that."
Helton said that only one college coach called ahead of time to actually schedule a visit during school hours. He was from Villanova.
THE LINEMEN. Chuck Henrich is listed as 6 feet, 5 inches and 270 pounds, and Ian Mulvaney at 6-3, 275. Those numbers are apt to make college coaches' heads spin.
Yet both were almost left out of the recruiting rush, Henrich because of a coaching change at Pitt, his first choice, and Mulvaney because of the numbers game that Helton mentioned. "Kentucky had been calling me every Tuesday night. We set up a visit, and at the last minute they backed out," Mulvaney said. "That was really disappointing. All season long, they had me thinking about going to Kentucky. Then he (the Kentucky assistant coach) called and said he was sorry, but he's got some bad news."
Mulvaney's news was all bad. He heard the same from Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech, and indirectly from others.
"I'm disappointed in Temple," he said. "They said in a round-about way that I was a second-hand player, that if their top recruits turned them down then they'd come back to me. I told them I don't know if I'd be around by then."
Mulvaney seems determined to attend one of Pennsylvania's Division II colleges now, possibly Lock Haven, which has a course of study in computer animation, which Mulvaney wants to study.
Henrich visited Pitt, Maryland and South Carolina (where he attended camp last summer), then canceled visits to Virginia and UCLA.
He lives with his grandparents, Rich and Betsy Phillips, and as you might expect, the recruiting grind was different for them.
"It was hell," Betsy Phillips said. "It seemed like the phone never stopped ringing.
"But we had some questions we asked all of them. We put together a list with Coach Shingle of what we wanted to know." The list included things such as times of practices to make sure there would be enough study time.
The whole process was new to Henrich, his grandmother and even his coach, and Henrich admits to making some mistakes, which partly explains his switching from Pitt to South Carolina.
"A coach from another school" - not Pitt, he said - "gave me bad information about South Carolina, and that affected my decision on Pitt," Henrich said.
Among the questions he, his grandmother and his coach asked of all recruiters were some about a school's graduation rate, its academic offerings, and time allotted to athletes for study.
"South Carolina gives more academic support for the athlete," Henrich said, "with mandatory study halls and counselors. And it has a specialized course in criminal justice, which I want to study."
Like Helton, Henrich saw his classwork suffer in December, when the college coaches would visit Upper Darby and pull him out of classes.
"I kept up a 2.9 average during the season, but I think that's going down," he said. "You'd think they'd take you out of study hall or during lunch, but it always seemed to be during a class." He said there had been at least 12 visits from college coaches in December.
Unfortunately for players, the confusion and rejection suffered by Henrich and Mulvaney (and Helton when he learned that Georgia Tech did not have a scholarship for him) is too often more the norm than the relatively easy time that Swett had.
"My advice is to make a list of who you're interested in and weed the others out," Henrich said. "I let everybody contact me, and I spoke with all of them. And when you get a questionnaire, tell the truth. Don't blow up your
size by a couple of inches or pounds. They're going to find out the truth."
Swett, Helton and Henrich have made verbal commitments to Michigan, Villanova and South Carolina, respectively. They can change their minds until they sign a scholarship agreement with those schools; Feb. 3 is the first day of the signing period. All seem certain to sign with their announced schools; there were no doubts expressed about any of their decisions.
Then after they sign, the harder part begins.
"Everybody's made to feel that they're the best," C.B. West's Pettine said of the recruiting game. "The kids are under the delusion that all they have to do is show up. A lot of kids want to hear that they're going to start right away."
But none of this year's group expressed that.
One thing they all seemed to have learned since July 1 is patience.