The Most Bizarre Recent Sports Recruiting Stories

Nick DimengoFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2016

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh on the field during the first half of the Citrus Bowl NCAA college football game against Florida , Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

Last year around this time, I wrote a piece about why being recruited rules with cool instances from athletes and coaches who got showered with gifts and praise for their services.

Because being recruited is something that happens all the time in sports—whether it's college or pro—there are some really interesting, and bizarre, stories that fans have heard in recent years.

With Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh reinventing the book on how to recruit a player, here are some other bizarre tales from the recruiting trails over the past few years.

 

12. The Mom Who Forged Her Son's Signature

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 02:  Floyd Raven Sr. #5 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrtaes after blocking a punt by UTEP Miners for a safety in the first quarter at Kyle Field on November 2, 2013 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Look, I totally get it: When a mom sees her baby boy all grown up, the last thing she wants is that kid going away to college somewhere far away.

At least, that's what I think happened here when Floyd Raven's mom forged his signature and faxed it to a school in 2011.

Not only did his mom fake her son's John Hancock on his letter of intent, but she actually sent it to the Ole Miss Rebels when, in reality, Floyd wanted to become a Texas A&M Aggie. Well, that's awkward.

The kid called it an "honest mistake" because his mom wasn't aware that he had changed his mind, but this is more embarrassing than showing up to the first day of school with lipstick on a cheek from a kiss that mom just planted on you.

 

11. Rice University Gets A Commit After Sending Letter To Recruit's Cat

Just when you thought you've seen it all, something like this happens to completely change your mind—and, maybe even crazier, it actually worked!

While many college football coaches try to shower the player with pitches, the Rice Owls and their coaching staff decided to go after 3-star quarterback JT Granato's cat—yep, his cat!—sending a letter to the feline in a witty maneuver that convinced the signal-caller to commit.

Per ESPN, the letter read:

Kitty Granato,” read, “Please help us to get J.T. to choose Rice.” It then added, “Paw me in case you have any questions.”

It might not be customary practice to do such a strange move, but thinking out of the box is what can get a player's attention—and it worked to paw-fection in the Owls grabbing Granato.

 

10. T.Y. Hilton Puts His Trust In His Infant Son

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 26:  T.Y. Hilton #4 of Florida International celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown during the game against the Toledo Rockets at the Little Caesars Bowl game at Ford Field on December 26, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. Florida Internati
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Before T.Y. Hilton was snagging Pro Bowl berths in the NFL, he faced a tough decision, like all high school recruits, having to decide between the top schools he wanted to attend—and the manner in which he landed on his choice is a little peculiar.

Rather than see at which school he could get the most playing time or which program might help him make it to the NFL, Hilton put the faith in his then-infant son, Eugene, who had grabbed the hat of Florida International eight straight times while Hilton pondered between FIU, West Virginia and Oklahoma.

That's a hell of a lot of faith to put in a kid, but it's just one of the crazy ways that players will make a decision—and, in the end, Hilton stayed in his hometown, turned around the Golden Panthers' program and reached the NFL anyway.

 

9. Chuck Amato's Soothing Vocal Chords

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 9:  Coach Chuck Amato of the North Carolina State Wolfpack reacts after a touchdown was called back with 14 seconds to play against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels during an Atlantic Coast Conference game on October 9,
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

For any guy who knows how to sing, it's not far-fetched to use that to his advantage in trying to help swoon ladies at, say, a bar or something. But when Chuck Amato was the head coach at North Carolina State, the barrel-chested man used his pipes to swoon a recruit.

The funny thing is, Amato used his singing voice twice to get what he wanted.

The first time came while recruiting cornerback A.J. Davis to the Wolfpack, when Amato thought that Dean Martin's "Return To Me" would help get the kid back on his side—and it did!

Amato's second performance came while interviewing with the Florida State Seminoles to become their defensive coordinator, where he busted out the lyrics to ABBA's "Take A Chance On Me" to snag the gig.

Definitely a peculiar strategy, but Chuck Amato is two-for-two while using the odd method.

 

8. The Tennessee Volunteers Want To Put A Ring On Shy Tuttle

Some players love that flashy life of big lights and celebrities, so the Tennessee Volunteers took a chance and tried to persuade 5-star defensive tackle Shy Tuttle by mocking up a Rolling Stone cover of him next to Beyonce.

Tuttle, who was considered one of the best defensive tackle prospects in the nation, was well worth the effort, too, as he chose the Vols.

There's no word on if the big man has met Beyonce yet, but I'm sure he's working on trying to make it happen while he's donning his "Power T."

 

7. DeSean Jackson Doesn't Sign With Southern Cal For The Oddest Reason

SEATTLE - NOVEMBER 17: DeSean Jackson #1 of the California Golden Bears carries the ball during the game against the Washington Huskies at Husky Stadium November 17, 2007 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Before DeSean Jackson was burning up the gridiron for teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins in the NFL, he was just another hot prospect that nearly every team in the nation coveted.

And when it came time for his decision, Jackson had planned on being a USC Trojan, until, well, he thought the Trojan coaching staff betrayed him.

According to a Los Angeles Times report from 2006, Jackson woke up on national signing day in 2005 believing that the secret of him playing for USC had been outed by the team's coaching staff, prompting him to reverse course and sign the dotted line to attend UC-Berkeley.

Who knows if that's what really happened or if he really did just have a change of heart, but it's a lesson for coaches everywhere—never assume anything when it comes to teenagers on signing day because you never know what might happen.

 

6. The Alex Collins Debacle

Danny Johnston/Associated Press

I mentioned the strange story of Floyd Raven's mom earlier—who forged her son's signature and faxed his LOI to a different school—but Alex Collins' mom took things to a whole different psychotic level in 2013.

That's because Collins' mom hijacked his announcement ceremony, literally stealing the commitment papers to the Arkansas Razorbacks and going into hiding because she wanted her son to stay close to home and attend the University of Miami.

A 5-star running back prospect, Alex Collins ultimately convinced his mother to sign the papers for him to attend Arkansas, despite her doing everything she could to get him to play for the Hurricanes.

 

5. Jim Harbaugh Climbs Trees And 'Netflix And Chills'

Look, after seeing the energy that Jim Harbaugh brought to the Michigan Wolverines in his first season back at his alma mater, I'll be the first to applaud the guy for turning the program around quicker than most people imagined he would.

Still, the guy is absolutely cuckoo when it comes to recruiting techniques.

He has climbed trees to impress recruits and, even weirder, has either spent the night with various players and/or "Netflixed and Chilled" with them, too, even accompanying a few of them to school the next day.

 

4. Tennessee Volunteers Football Coaches Go Topless

Wade Payne/Associated Press

During his tenure as head coach of the USC Trojans, it was believed that Pete Carroll had been known to rip his shirt off to both impress recruits and get them stoked to, potentially, join the Men of Troy.

Turns out that one of his assistants at USC, Lane Kiffin, decided to bring the practice with him while head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.

Although Kiffin isn't believed to have gone all Hulk Hogan on his own shirt, a few guys on his coaching staff did just that, ripping their tops in two, while wide receiver Markeith Ambles, tight end Brian Vogler and defensive tackle Denzel McCoy were visiting Knoxville.

There are a lot of things that coaches will do on the recruiting trail, but showing their dad bods isn't one that I'd think would be too effective.

 

3. Bryce Brown's Bizarre Plan

MANHATTAN, KS - APRIL 30:  Running back Bryce Brown #4 of the Kansas State Wildcats during the Spring Game on April 30, 2011 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas.  (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

It's always sad when a top recruit like running back Bryce Brown doesn't pan out, but, seeing how his recruitment went down, it could have probably been predicted before he even chose a college.

Brown, who Rivals had as the top-rated player in the 2009 class, could never make up his mind on his future football plans, flip-flopping from the Miami Hurricanes to a bevy of other schools and, ultimately, signing with the Tennessee Volunteers before ending up with the Kansas State Wildcats.

Of course, that didn't come without tons of drama.

SI.com details the entire situation, but to sum it up, Brown had his trainer and mentor, Brian Butler, hint to schools that the player would skip college to play in the CFL, set up a website that charged money for exclusive updates on Brown's recruitment, and because of it, he became a target of NCAA investigation.

Schools began to just give up on Brown because of the ridiculous plan, and his story is one of the strangest ever in football recruiting.

 

2. Bo Pelini Wrestles A Recruit In Living Room

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Tough, old-school and competitive: Those are just a few ways to describe former Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini who, while at the school, tried everything he could to try to bring talent to Lincoln.

One of the ways was challenging a recruit to a wrestling match in his family's living room.

While at the house of 4-star offensive lineman recruit Tanner Farmer—a former state champion wrestler—Pelini talked smack to Farmer, asking the kid to prove that he had the toughness to take his future head coach to the carpet.

Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald breaks the situation down beautifully, no matter how weird it is:

I bet you can't take me down, Pelini joked with Tanner. Farmer hesitated. Pelini is pretty tall and in good shape. But he's not a wrestler.

Go on, boy, Brian told his son. If he wants to go, go.

You scared to take me down? Pelini said to Tanner.

The strongest player in Nebraska's 2014 class got Pelini in a hold and lifted him up in the air. There, a potential takedown turned into a big hug between coach and player.

“It was a cool moment,” Brian said.

The kid did wind up with Pelini and the Huskers in 2014, so the coach's challenge did work out.

 

1. Kevin Hart's Fake Commitment

Every high school football player—whether or not they're highly touted—dreams of that moment when, on recruiting day, they can sit in front of cameras and announce to the world their college football intentions.

For Kevin Hart, a former Nevada high school player, he wanted that moment so badly that he actually organized a signing day for himself—unbeknownst to any of the schools he had narrowed on his list down.

Holding a press conference for himself in 2008, Hart chose between Cal and Oregon, announcing that he would play for the Bears, which sent everyone into a wild cheer.

Problem was that neither college actually offered him a scholarship, leaving Hart to explain the hoax once it was discovered that he was lying about the entire thing.

Truth be told, it was a joke funny enough for the other Kevin Hart—you know, the comedian who does crazy things himself—to pull off.