Best College Football Recruiting Gimmicks from Last 5 Years
The curtain has been drawn on the high school recruiting process these past few years, as things like social media and the 24-hour news cycle have allowed casual observers to see how the sausage gets made.
Before the Internet age, recruiting was an arcane and corrupt process, filled with shady, under-the-table dealings, covered in a blanket of secrecy.
But now? Well...it's naive to call the process "squeaky clean," but at least the arcane part has gone away. Prospects get a platform to share the ridiculous pitches coaches make, and sometimes those coaches even make them in a public sphere to begin with.
Here are the best things we've seen the past few years.
Notre Dame's Pot of Gold
But then Notre Dame came along.
Whereas Kentucky saw fit to send "just 100-plus letters," Notre Dame began doing its "Pot of Gold" package for certain recruits this season. The package includes massive bundles of 477 letters—one for every player the Irish have had drafted to the NFL.
According to Rich Exner of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer (along with some independent draft research), Notre Dame's 477 is the second-most of any school in the country, just behind USC at 479.
For the sake of environmental sustainability, let's hope this gimmick doesn't prove too effective. Otherwise, the Trojans might try to one-up their fellow draft factory, wasting even more paper, as a means to send a message.
Urban Meyer's Puzzle
Notre Dame entices recruits by trumpeting pro potential. At Ohio State, Urban Meyer wants his kids more focused on the task at hand.
Four-star tight end Mike Gesicki, who has since committed to Penn State, received a strange package in the mail from Meyer this August. It included a personalized jigsaw puzzle titled "The Missing Piece," along with a picture of Gesicki wearing the Scarlet and Gray once the task was completed.
Again, the prospect chose to spurn the Buckeyes and head to Happy Valley, so we're not sure if Meyer will go back to this well in the future. But Meyer has always found success on the recruiting trail, and it's clear now that his creativity is part of that.
Oregon's Uniforms/Nike Affiliation
Look good. Feel good. Recruit with the best.
Oregon's association with Nike founder Phil Knight has been the ultimate recruiting uplift, helping turn a floundering program into a modern dynasty and powerhouse.
Of course, the system played in Eugene has always helped. Athletic recruits flocked to Oregon to play for Mike Belotti and Chip Kelly because they wanted a scheme that would showcase their ability to make plays. That's what the Ducks could provide.
Still, no one can deny the impact of the uniforms, which became a true game-changer in recruiting. With varicolored and neon outfits, Oregon became not just a good team to play for but the "coolest" team to play for, spearheading this current era of (sometimes unfortunate) uniform experimentation across the country.
But nothing can beat the original. And nothing ever has.
Mississippi State's Bizarre Class of 2014 Pitch
Credit Mississippi State for knowing its place.
Despite playing in the prestigious SEC, Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs know themselves to be underdogs for the top recruits in the Southeast. So in order to stick out, they know they have to...well, stick out.
Mississippi State took that to a literal extreme earlier this year, sending a bizarre stick-figure postcard to 5-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey. Earlier in the recruiting cycle, it sent Humphrey the now infamous "Can of Swag" and has also been sending people letters that scream "YOU'RE A BALLER!" in the mail.
In his seminal work, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde famously quipped: "There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."
No matter what people are saying about Mullen's recruiting, at least they are saying something. And something will always beat nothing.
Bronco Mendenhall's Art Skills
Bronco Mendenhall is a guarded and austere man who commands the respect of everyone around him, which is reflected in the physical, take-no-prisoners attitude of his BYU football team.
But he's also got an artistic side.
BYU commit Dayan Lake Instagrammed this hand-drawn picture of him in a Cougars uniform, purportedly sketched and sent by Mendenhall earlier this year. The portrait is based on an earlier Instagram of Lake's, which showed him in the exact same pose.
Lake, a 3-star cornerback, was already committed to BYU at the time, but Mendenhall sent him a trinket to remind him that he cares. Now that's how you secure a prospect.
Gary Pinkel Drops in on Dorial Green-Beckham
Helicopters are the recruiting gimmick du jour in college football right now, and no instance of "dropping in" on a recruit is more famous—and given recent events, more impactful—than Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel's pitch to Dorial Green-Beckham.
DGB, as he's colloquially called, was the best high school player in the Class of 2012. Missouri was considered merely a dark horse to land him. Working to catch up with the likes of Arkansas, Pinkel made a flying cameo to Green-Beckham's high school practice field.
It's hard to say when and where Green-Beckham changed his lean and chose to attend Missouri, but clearly Pinkel didn't creep him out or overstep his bounds by dropping in on the field. This might be how he stole the nation's top recruit.
Texas A&M's "SwagCopter"
Yes, the use of helicopters in recruiting is not unique to one university. Instead, they are used by countless schools across the country to help coaches arrive at high school football games in style.
But no flying device has the panache (or success rate) of Texas A&M's "SwagCopter," a giant maroon helicopter loaned to the program by a booster to aid in recruiting.
According to Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News, Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin said that "the helicopter is undefeated, as far as signees and commitments. That’s one thing I think we’ll just keep doing."
If it ain't broke, don't fix it...right?
Nick Saban Drops the Mic
The background: Photo renderings of NFL paychecks, adorned with the names of Alabama players that were drafted in 2013. The foreground: "$51,810,000."
"All nine members of...Alabama's 2013 NFL Draft Class signed a 4-year contract to play in the NFL," reads the poster. "The combined worth of those contracts was in excess of fifty-one million dollars."
Simply put: Come to Alabama. It will make you rich. Potentially sooner than later. Perhaps you can win a national championship or two along the way.
Why would someone say no?