Florida State just wrapped up the second of its two junior days, as a lot of excellent members of the class of 2015 came to check out the campus. But what happens at a junior day? Since it's closed to the media, I asked a high school coach who accompanied his recruit on the visit.
Junior days are really all about becoming familiar with the school, he told me. The event runs from 11-5ish, and that's a lot of time to spend at a school.
Recruits get to tour the facility and the campus. They see the meeting rooms, the weight room, the training facilities, the indoor facility, the academic advising facilities, etc. The goal is for the recruit to see what every aspect of their college football life would be like at Florida State.
The recruits get to meet Jimbo Fisher, and take pictures with the National Championship and Heisman trophies. They get to talk with their potential future position coaches, and the coaches show them how they could be used, what FSU looks for at certain positions, and often, how they can improve their skills for the upcoming seasons. Often, this is the first time the player will have met his future position coach, and his area recruiter will make the introduction.
The recruits also get to hear about the academic side of things, including the academic advising and tutoring program. Many prospects and their parents are quite impressed with the individual academic attention given to each prospect, and that's a major point of emphasis on the tour. Recruits often come away with the impression that the only way they will fail is if they don't put in the work, or don't take advantage of the individual help. Myron Rolle also talks to the recruits about the importance of academics, and the variety of academies avenues available to the players.
But perhaps the most interesting part of junior day is the player panel. This is something that FSU does extremely well, as current players are made available on a panel, and they can be asked anything.
Saturday, Karlos Williams, Scooter Haggins, Demarcus Walker, Wilson Bell, Jeremy Kerr and Nate Andrews were on the panel. It seems like there was a concerted effort to include a mix of veteran leaders and young players who are very recent to the recruiting process.
The coach's player came away very impressed. Anything goes with the player panel, but he felt comfortable sharing the following with me.
Players spoke of being aware of people who would want to have a friendly or romantic relationship with you, as it might be motivated by your potential to go to the NFL, and not out of a true interest in you as a person. The strong emphasis on the team being a family and being friends with each other is about trust, and knowing teammates have similar goals, and aren't trying to cash in on the potential NFL futures of one another. Having all the facilities in one place, including many classrooms, and Burt Reynolds hall very close by (with future player dorms planned) plays in to the feeling of a family at FSU.
The players talked about how everyone has a point at which they realize college football is a business, and that the level of dedication required is much greater than in high school. They said the earlier this happens, the better. They talked about how the strength and conditioning program can transform your body if you devote yourself. And they discussed how you'll quickly realize that the mental and effort side of the game will separate you from others, because everyone at this level, and especially at Florida State, are great athletes.
Karlos Williams said that he knows the coaches had his best interest at heart when they previously tried to move him to running back, and that he now knows he should have been at running back the entire time. He spoke of keeping perspective, and of being motivated by his girlfriend and young son, who were also in attendance.
The coach came away impressed that these players would take time out of one of their Saturdays to come speak to recruits, especially those like Williams and Haggins who likely won't be at Florida State by the time the next batch of recruits gets on campus. To him, that spoke volumes about their love for FSU, and it wouldn't happen if players didn't feel the family from within the program.
When the recruit leaves campus, FSU wants him feeling comfortable with the school and having an answer to every question about the program he might have. Though four full recruiting classes under Jimbo Fisher, it's safe to say Florida State has been doing junior day right.