Three top high-school seniors tell what it’s like having a courtship with college recruiters.

Share story

I’ll share a secret with you: I’m not a standout athlete. Never have been, and I’m slowly facing the reality that it’s not changing the older I get.

I’ve passed the age where I can be considered a top prospect — I’m 24, by the way. But with national signing day coming up Wednesday, I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be a top football recruit. Only a rare few are labeled in this category — 6.5 percent of high-school football players compete at the NCAA level, according to a 2013 NCAA report, less are awarded scholarships. According to, only 2.4 percent compete at the NCAA Division I level in the sport.

We invited some of those top guys in our area — Bellevue’s Mustafa Branch, Newport’s Calvin Throckmorton and Federal Way’s Chico McClatcher — into The Seattle Times office to get some insight into this question. And if there is one thing I learned, it’s that these guys have completely different experiences. To imagine what it would be like to be a must-have recruit, I’d have to draw from them all. At least this way, I can make my imaginary recruitment, well, awesome. So here’s to my best-case recruitment scenario.

As a newly-minted top recruit, there’s really only one obvious place for me to start, and it’s at Stanford. That’s where Branch, a Cardinal commit, drove an autonomous car. Or in other words, Branch drove a car that is capable of driving itself.

(That’s about 1,000 times better than Throckmorton’s trip to Arizona State: It started pouring and people, not used to the rain, ran shirtless down the streets. Throckmorton claims he did not join in the fun, and in my made-up recruitment, I’ll stick with the offensive lineman’s decision.)

Was it the same as a normal car? “For the most part,” Branch reported. The mechanical engineering department — most of his visit revolved around academics, not athletics — didn’t allow Branch to sit back and allow the car to drive itself, unfortunately, but maybe that comes when he arrives at the school.

McClatcher didn’t drive any automobiles while on his visit to Washington, but the future Husky did talk to the equipment manager. When he arrives on campus as a student, he’ll have the opportunity to have his feet molded in order for Nike to create a cleat that fits him perfectly.

I’m a sucker for new equipment myself, but in real life I wouldn’t have something tailored specifically for me. So this is intriguing.

I don’t prefer one brand over another, though. McClatcher heavily favors Adidas — they’re much lighter — and it’s not ideal to switch brands, but the perfect fit is appealing. And it’s all about making fashion statements, anyway.

“I’m like Deion Sanders,” McClatcher said. “I like new stuff, new gear. You look good, you play good.”

Maybe if I was close to the athlete McClatcher is — he’ll be a slot receiver at Washington and play a role similar to that of John Ross and Jaydon Mickens — I could get behind that ideology. But I’m not, even in Imaginary Recruitment Land.

The official visits are an important part of the process, but it’s clear that an in-home visit can be the make-or-break moment. For instance, I wouldn’t want to have Todd Graham at my dinner table. According to Throck­morton, the Arizona State coach is very intense.

“He talks at you,” said Throckmorton, who connected much better with Oregon coach Mark Helfrich — who apparently is very personable.

When Helfrich was in the Throckmorton home, he talked very little about football. Throckmorton appreciated that. It also gave the coaches an opportunity to explain how they would help him succeed academically.

Throckmorton wants to go into the medical field, and the honors program is a possibility. All to help him become, possibly, a surgeon, he said.

“Can you be that big?” Branch deadpanned.

“That’s what I’m kind of wondering,” responded the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Throckmorton with laughter.

McClatcher, at 5 feet 9, will not have similar issues if he decides to become a surgeon. The speedster doesn’t know what field he wants to go into yet, but Washington wide-receivers coach Brent Pease made it clear he would have ample opportunities at the school.

During his visit, Pease used Seattle-area companies, such as Microsoft, Boeing and Amazon, as recruiting tools. Not a bad tactic, especially since I had no idea what I wanted to pursue professionally as a senior in high school. My imaginary recruiting decision just got a little harder.

The one downside to my imaginary recruitment is the easy social-media access of fans. At first, it seems cool. McClatcher gets pictures of himself, rendered via photoshop, with his head on the uniform of that fan’s favorite school.

But we also know all too well that social media can be the breeding ground of hate-spewed messages. McClatcher, Throckmorton and Branch try to stay away from the hate by not instigating the bad messages. In fact, Throckmorton and Branch barely have 500 tweets combined. McClatcher is at 11,500, but didn’t tweet for more than seven months during his recruitment in 2014.

I like to think my social-media habits as a top recruit would fall somewhere between the three players. Casually active, but not to interact with fans.

In the end, though, as much as I can make Imaginary Recruitment Land a reality in my mind, I’ll always know I’m closer to Branch as a middle-school player than a Stanford commit: Not very good at football.

Hey, his words. Not ones from a bitter, athletically lacking sportswriter.