By: Benjamin Wolk
There came a time, early in Deejay Dallas’ recruitment, when he noticed a distinct change.Already well known in local circles, Dallas watched as many of the other top recruits in the state and nation picked up dozens of college football offers on a whim. Fans started interacting with them on a daily basis, and their brand began to build despite it being amid the high school offseason.
Then, he became one of those recruits. At a Valdosta MVP camp after his sophomore season, Dallas had two offers, from Georgia State and Missouri. He was named the camp’s top defensive back, which caught the attention of virtually all the recruiting services.
Naturally, in today’s social media age, outlets like Rivals and 247Sports took to Twitter to let people know of the under-the-radar recruit’s achievements. Before long, Dallas lost that unheralded moniker.
“That’s how my name got out there. Being from Brunswick, a small town, you have to use social media to get your name out there,” Dallas said. “Once that stuff went out, my name started getting hot. Coaches started following me. The views from my Hudl went up from 700 to 7,000 in a matter of days. Social media helped me out a lot.”
Hudl, an online tool often used for athletic highlight reels, has become social media helper No. 1 for recruits. Simply enough, every player can have their own recruiting page, much like other social media sites. It’s a way for coaches — and fans — to check out potential future players without traveling all over the country to watch them play.
It’s made life easier for coaches, but it’s allowed players to get noticed in ways they weren’t able to prior to the social media era.
”The best way that student athletes can benefit from social media is just by posting their highlights and profile sheet, including all their physical information, GPA, test scores stats and awards,” Brunswick High head coach Larry Harold said.
Dallas spoke with one of his recruiting mentors and former Glynn Academy quarterback Greg Cross, who went through his recruiting process in the mid-2000s. For a variety of reasons, Cross went the junior college route before ending up at Pittsburgh. But he’s reminded Dallas on numerous occasions to take advantage of the self-branding social media culture presented to modern-day recruits.
“If he had Twitter back then, maybe it would’ve helped him out. Me, I have such a big platform,” Dallas said. “They had to send actual video tapes. Twitter would’ve helped him out. Me, having that platform I have with Twitter now, you have to take advantage of it and actually use it.”
They had to go all the way to the post office to mail hard copies? Oh, the horror.
All jokes aside, the easy access of college recruiters is a blessing for today’s high schoolers. So much is made of the mistakes players make that cost them scholarships that their ability to pick up more and more offers because of their public branding is often missed.
Ben Brandenburg used to be the director of recruiting operations at Georgia. Now he works directly with the UGA Athletic Association to help implement digital, social media and branding strategies. He’s witnessed, and begun to master, the team-side of the social media transition.
It’s not going away, and he recognizes that, in many ways, players hold much more recruiting power in the social media age.
“It doesn’t seem like anything that’s going to change anytime soon,” Brandenburg said. “A lot of these guys would rather direct message than talk on the phone. You’ve got to be willing to make that step to stay relevant or, plain and simple, you’re going to lose the top recruits.”
Hence the addition of all the top coaches in America joining the Twitterverse or creating Facebook accounts.
Rules that prohibit coaches from visiting players homes or calling players’ cellphones often don’t apply to the social media realm. There are policies in place that eliminate public communication — posting on Facebook walls or tweeting to a timeline — but direct messages are typically fair game even when text messages aren’t.
Once again, it’s a win for the player. With social media a preferred form of communication, colleges and coaches have had to alter their lifestyle to cater to the recruit. But it’s also allowed coaches from the West Coast, Midwest and South Florida to correspond with players in Georgia’s southeast corridor.
“Social media used in the right way can be a helpful tool in recruiting,” Harold said. “It allows college coaches to reach a large number of kids and build relationships with them from a far distance.”
And that’s exactly what happens.
On close to 10 occasions, Dallas can count coaches who added him on Facebook or Twitter, so they could communicate with a player they’d never actually met. To stay within the rules, it would be Dallas who would make a call to a head coach who was on the other line ready to extend the highly-touted recruit a scholarship — an offer concocted directly through social media.
But the social media game, and it has become a game for many recruits, doesn’t always end with a commitment.
In many ways, Dallas’ began when he sat on a radio set about to announce his decision to attend Miami. He pulled up his Periscope account — a live broadcasting app and another new hit in social media branding — for users from all across the nation to watch as he threw on a Hurricanes jersey. His decision was made, but the minds of other top recruits were yet to be determined.
Georgia fans have witnessed players like Richard LeCounte III from Liberty County take to Twitter to get the attention of some of the state’s other top prospects. Dallas has taken that same strategy for his future South Florida home, reaching out to Miami-area players and guys in Maryland and elsewhere in the nation to gauge where they stand in recruitment, letting them know his desire to play with them at the next level.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be that recruit’s decision. It’s going to be between him and his family where he chooses. But I will say, I’ve been trying to recruit the best players in South Florida, the best players in the country through Twitter to come play with me in Miami,” Dallas said. “Using Twitter, I don’t have everybody’s number. Twitter is a way for me to reach out to them. I don’t always know them personally, but I know them through Twitter. It helps me see where they’re at in their recruitment process and communicate with them on a daily basis.”
This post originally appeared on thebrunswicknews. Copyright 2016.