5 Factors That Separate 5-Star College Football Recruits from Everyone Else
5-star is the highest ranking that can be bestowed upon a college football recruit, and it's undoubtedly an honor.
It's a ranking that comes with a ton of publicity and hype, but it also brings a heavy amount of responsibility, accountability and expectations.
The pressure is on when you're labeled as a 5-star recruit. College football recruiting is one of the more intense processes in sports, and it's one that requires 100 percent of a player's time and attention.
Everybody wants to land a 5-star or two, which means that everybody will be vying for said recruit's attention, time and ultimately, his signature.
The process leading up to sending in a fax on signing day can be filled with pressure, but it's no comparison to the pressure of living up to the lofty ranking on the field.
Everybody is watching, and the expectations are high.
It's not easy being a 5-star recruit, and it's certainly not an accidental process.
Here are five traits that separate 5-star recruits from the rest:
Note: Natural talent and measurables play a huge role. Such an obvious role, in fact, that they won't be featured in this piece.
5. They Started Training Early on
There are sometimes exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, 5-star recruits have been playing football for a very long time.
That's not always the case, as every now and then you'll find a naturally talented athlete who just started playing in high school, but for the most part—football is a huge part of growing up for 5-star recruits.
It normally starts in youth football leagues, where a kid is far more dominant than the rest of his friends. There's always those few kids that just seem to "get it" when it comes to football, and they excel from a very early age.
By the time the player hits high school, tucking the football high and tight or scraping over to a running lane is just as normal as anything else. That's when the natural skills and fundamentals learned at the youth level are met with coaching instruction, technique and strategy.
You can usually tell if a player has what it takes to be special from a young age. That's what makes youth football so important (amongst many other great reasons).
4. They Can Handle the Pressure
5-star recruits are constantly under the microscope, and that starts far before they earn a 5-star ranking.
From the moment an elite high school football player hits the field until the moment his college career is over—every move is watched.
Every tackle, catch or throw is analyzed and counted, but so is every fumble, interception or miscue. News always travels fast, but now we can get stats and analysis at the touch of a button on social media. It's feasible that everyday fans know about a recruit long before coaches are even able to give him looks.
The scouting process has accelerated, but those aren't the only areas of critique.
Twitter, Facebook and Instragram have all become ways for fans, coaches and media to keep tabs on a player, and one wrong Tweet or post could drastically impact a recruitment.
5-star recruits aren't always the smartest in this regard, but at the very least, they're able to handle the pressure. For a high school kid, they are under a tremendous amount of pressure, and they handle it better than most high schoolers would be able to do.
At the very least, what we see publicly are football players who are growing used to being in the media spotlight and public eye.
These are also players who can handle the pressure of being "the guy" for a team. They are able to carry and almost will a team into victory.
For 5-star recruits, pressure is normally not an issue.
3. They Are Students of the Game
As a high school football coach, I often look back at my high school career and kick myself for not taking the film room and strategy part of football seriously.
If I only knew then what I know now, perhaps I could have been something special.
I bring this up not to recollect on my "glory years," but to make this point. I was a fairly typical high school football player. I played on my instincts for the game and was able to hold my own. I didn't really play football from a cerebral standpoint, though, and that's what separates 5-star recruits from the rest.
They understand the game.
It took me becoming a coach to realize just how much of an advantage film study and knowledge of strategy can give you on the football field. 5-star players get that.
These players can see the game within the game, and that's because they've prepared themselves much like we do as coaches. When you can start seeing football as a strategic venue over a collision sport and see how everything starts fitting together to your advantage, it helps you be a talented football player and makes you even better.
5-star recruits are already naturally physically gifted, mind you, but through studying the game, they learn how to put themselves in the right position on a play-to-play basis—and that really puts them over the top.
Football is essentially a job at the college level, and it could even be looked at as an educational experience. College football players are expected to know "the game within the game."
Being a 5-star recruit means that you're on that level heading into your first season. Obviously you have to learn a new system in most instances, but you understand what it takes.
2. They Believe They Are the Best
Swagger. It's a word we use ad nauseam in the sports world (especially on the sports entertainment side of things).
While it can be applied in different ways, I firmly believe that swagger is a factor that separates 5-star recruits from everyone else.
The thing about 5-star recruits is that they know they're good. They've been excelling at football their whole lives, and they know that they're the guy the team will be looking to. They want the rock in their hands on the final possession, they want the coach to call their number.
Some of the best athletes of our time have possessed this swagger or drive, and it's literally willed them on during the course of their careers. Look no further than Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant in the clutch.
There's also that "cool, calm and collected" swagger that a guy like Aaron Rogers or Tom Brady possesses. No moment is too big, and no accomplishment is out of their range.
The game is always in hand when these players are on the field, and that's the difference in mindset that can win championships.
I dare say most 5-star recruits play football with this type of swagger and attitude.
1. They Work Harder Than You
You don't earn a scholarship to play college football unless you work hard for it. This is just a hands-down fact.
That statement is intensified and multiplied when you're talking about a 5-star recruit. These players take all of the aforementioned factors and work every day out of the year on them.
If playing college football is equivalent to having a full-time job, then being a 5-star recruit is like the intense training period before the job actually begins.
Football at the highest level is a 365 day-a-year commitment. The offseason starts the day after the season ends, with visits, camps, combines, 7-on-7s, weight training, film study and eventually spring practices.
It's a lifestyle, and it takes hard work and discipline. 5-star recruits start training early on, they can handle the pressure, they study the game, and they work so hard that there is no doubt in their mind that they are the best on the field.
Combine hard work with talent, and that's the formula for success as a 5-star recruit.