A few days ago, I tweeted about the who's who of college football coaches that descended upon Union County this week.
Some of the notable visiting coaches highlighted throughout local social media were Kirby Smart (Georgia), David Cutcliffe (Duke), Mack Brown (UNC), Nick Saban (Alabama), Dabo Swinney (Clemson) and Brian Kelly (Notre Dame).
These are not just any coaches; these coaches have made a mark on the game of college football, and all made it a point to visit a coveted group of student-athlete football players in our county. It's a big deal!
The attention football has received in the UC from recruiters and coaches has been a significant eye-opener over the last few years. The increase in visits from D1 college football programs is a testament to the quality of football played in our county.
How did this happen?
I site a few factors below that have transformed football here in Union County.
First, thanks to all the former county players that paved the recruiting road for our student-athletes of today.
Players such as Jamison Crowder (Monroe-Duke-NY Jets), Vince Sunseri (Marvin Ridge-Alabama-NFL Draftee), Darius Kilgo (Weddington-Maryland-Detroit Lions), Keith Duncan (Weddington-Iowa), Matt Wogan (Porter Ridge-Oregon) and of course Sam Howell who graduated from Sun Valley last June and went on to an incredible freshman year as the starting quarterback at North Carolina.
Big credit goes to Jamison Crowder, who has made a name for himself in the NFL, but one cannot overlook the impact that Sam Howell has had on recruiting.
I believe Sam's play as the top college freshman QB in the country in '19 helped to elevate the quality and frequency of college visits into the county.
It's evident to me that Sam's success and the other players mentioned (and not mentioned) that made the jump to play college ball and beyond have opened the eyes of many in the world of college football recruiting.
Credit also goes out to the quality coaching our athletes receive from middle school to high school football, as good as you'll see anywhere in the country. Middle School coaches and assistants at the high school level deserve special recognition. Volunteering their time to teach and guide players with no fanfare or pay. They are a credit to our community.
Aside from the coaching in our area is a player's accessibility to former professional athletes that offer their services as well as trainers and facilities dedicated to sports conditioning and specialization training- none of which existed when I moved into the area in early 2003.
When Charlotte and the Carolinas received an NFL team and the Panthers started play in 1995, the sports landscape changed in the area and so did the resources available to athletes of all ages.
What does this all mean? Will the trend continue?
Let's face it; we live in a football-rich county with quality student-athletes. If they continue to work hard and dedicate themselves to getting better every day, so will the visits from high profile college coaches and programs.