Year after year, the Auburn University football team has been among the nation’s best. Helping the Tigers reload their roster with top-tier players is the job of Greg Knox, the team’s recruiting coordinator. Knox talks about how Auburn identifies each year’s new crop of talented ballers.
STACK: When do you start identifying prospective athletes, and how do you hear about them?
GK: We usually start identifying athletes in their ninth-grade years, and we usually hear about them from high school coaches. We also use recruiting sites to help us find kids and get their names, but most of the information comes directly from coaches.
STACK: Are the coaches ones you’ve had previous relationships with, or coaches who call you out of the blue?
GK: Over the 12 years this staff has been together, we’ve built relationships with a lot of coaches, so a lot of the calls are from people we’ve dealt with previously. But coaches from out-of-state schools do call up to let us know about a kid who has interest in Auburn.
STACK: How should a coach you don’t know approach you?
GK: Even if a coach doesn’t have a relationship with us, he can still call and say, “I’d like for you to look at one of my athletes; I’m going to send you a DVD or game film on him. He’s a good kid and his grades are solid, so take a look at him to see if you think he can play at Auburn.”
STACK: Do you prefer game film or highlight reels?
GK: For skill positions, highlights are great. For linemen, game film is best.
STACK: What are you looking for on the film?
GK: As in any business, you want your employees to give you effort—and college football is a business. If we’re watching an athlete on tape and he’s not hustling, running to the ball or giving his all, that will turn us off.
STACK: Beyond talking to the coach and watching film, what else do you want to know about the athlete?
GK: When we recruit an athlete, we check with his teachers, counselors and anyone else who has been around him to learn about his character and personality. Is he moody? Is he outgoing? Is he quiet? We want to know all the little things so we can put together a character blueprint.
STACK: How much stock do you put in the different high school athlete rankings?
GK: We don’t put a lot of stock in those, because we do our own athlete evaluations. If we believe in someone and he’s shown us that he can get the job done, it doesn’t matter if he’s a five-star athlete on one site or a two-star on another.
STACK: How do you evaluate prospective recruits?
GK: Our biggest evaluation comes when we get them at summer camp. We send out flyers about our camp to all the athletes on our list. We emphasize getting to our camp, because it gives athletes the chance to market themselves and showcase their skills. It also provides us the chance to evaluate them hands-on. We hope athletes come in here with the attitude of: “I’m going to Auburn’s camp to earn a scholarship.” And when they leave, I hope they’ve accomplished that goal.
STACK: How many camps do you run and how many athletes attend?
GK: We run about five camps during the summer with about 300 athletes per camp. The majority of those who attend have been invited.