Signing Day An Exciting Time For Fans, Players Alike
By David Seawright, kicker at California
This time of year is ripe with speculation for college football fans across the country as blue-chip high school players sign the dotted line and commit to play for the program of their choice.
With another edition of National Signing Day come and gone, Cal fans are celebrating yet another top-20 ranked class of recruits. Eleven high school All-Americans highlight this year's recruiting haul of 22 players, including numerous marquee performers on the defensive side of the ball.
In many ways, recruiting is a right of passage to enter the world of big-time college football. Every player has been through it before, but experience in the post-recruiting world of college football certainly provides a different perspective on the entire process.
Certainly, Cal football fans have plenty to be excited about. A peek through the history books shows the impact a single recruit can have on the program - one has to look no further than Aaron Rodgers, who went from being an unknown junior college quarterback to starting for Cal to starting for the Green Bay Packers in Sunday's Super Bowl.
Other similarly influential names pop up when one considers talented recruits making the decision to come to Berkeley (Marshawn Lynch, Desean Jackson, Jahvid Best and Keenan Allen are the most recent examples that come to mind), making optimism regarding this year's class a reasonable response.
Yet Cal football history also reveals that often times it is the most unheralded recruits who make the largest impact on the program. Super Bowl winning linebacker Scott Fujita (now of the Cleveland Browns) walked-on for the Bears. Pro-Bowl center Alex Mack (also of the Browns) arrived in Berkeley as a two-star recruit. Tyson Alualu, last year's tenth overall draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, was a three-star recruit, as was graduating senior Cameron Jordan, another likely first round pick.
All this is to say that recruiting rankings are by no means a safe bet and college football players are the first to support this notion. Success at the collegiate level requires much more than raw talent; one must have tremendous work ethic, injury resistance, toughness, and a relentless attitude.
Moreover, history shows that at least one member of each year's signing class will never make it to campus, be it for academic or personal reasons. Others will never see the field as injuries end careers early or depth leads to the decision to transfer.
Surely there is excitement surrounding the Cal football program following another successful recruiting cycle, but it is safe to say that this excitement is sobered by a realistic understanding of the challenges of playing college football in the Pac-10.
And yet the fact remains the same: one recruiting class - at times, one player - can alter the entire dynamic of a team and create a title contender (just as the Auburn Tigers had a recruit named Cam Newton who signed this time last year). It's just a matter of signing the right recruit, and only time will tell whether or not that happened.