At this time last year, the roller-coaster recruitment of Eddie Vanderdoes was just beginning.
After going through the process, the UCLA standout who 247Sports recently named a Freshman All-American, can identify with the situation a handful of the nation’s top prep prospects are facing in the final hours before National Signing Day on Feb. 5.
“I don’t think people understand that the last month and a half or so of the recruiting process is probably the worst thing in the world in terms of it being so stressful,” Vanderdoes said. “I couldn’t sleep at night because I didn’t know where I was going to go for the longest time.”
Vanderdoes, a 5-star prospect ranked by 247Sports as the nation’s top defensive tackle prospect in the 2013 class, inked with Notre Dame on signing day.
However, as Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times detailed, the 6’4”, 305-pounder eventually wound up at UCLA after an arduous appeals process turned out in his favor.
Vanderdoes said the most enjoyable parts of his recruitment were going on visits, meeting the players at every school and learning about the different cultures each school had to offer.
“The perks are kind of cool, too,” Vanderdoes admits. “You’re kind of highlighted as a top guy. It’s definitely fun going to camps and stuff like that. “
But the twists and turns in his recruiting process, which also included an early commitment to USC in the summer of 2012, provide plenty of lessons for fellow recruits about the pitfalls that come with the celebrity attached to a 5-star ranking.
For starters, after attaining that rating, the spotlight becomes magnified, as does the attention from fans, media and coaches alike. It only intensifies as schools make their final pushes before signing day.
Vanderdoes said that fans view the rankings of each player as “eye-candy” that makes them more important to the overall class ranking of each school.
“I think fans misinterpret the recruiting process as being a piece of cake,” Vanderdoes said. “They think that all you have to do is go on visits and pick a school. They think it’s that basic when it’s way more detailed than that.”
Despite the venom from fans on social media, he learned quickly to ignore the noise on sites such as Twitter.
“It’s something you just have to put aside and not really entertain people who are firing shots at you,” he said.
The calls from reporters also became a nuisance, especially in the last month before signing day. Even coaches ramped up their aggressiveness in terms of communication during that period.
While some recruits become enamored with the attention and make a mockery of the process, most players are simply trying to decipher the messages from each school and make the best choice for such an important decision.
“It’s real difficult when you’re that young and expected to be that mature and you’re supposed to grow up that much faster than everybody else while making a really important life decision,” Vanderdoes said. “You are not just picking a school. That’s a decision that will dictate the path you take in life.”
In his case, the third try was a charm. Vanderdoes found his perfect landing spot, and Jim Mora's club landed a player who made an immediate impact on its defensive line last season.
Despite his long journey to Westwood, Vanderdoes said that his only regret was making an early commitment instead of weighing his options. In fact, his best advice to recruits in a similar predicament is to recognize and understand the power that they hold in the process.
“Don’t let the process control you because the schools that really want you will always be there,” Vanderdoes said. “If you are not ready to sign or commit, then don’t do it. Take your time and make sure it’s the best thing for you.”
Sanjay Kirpalani is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.