To my fellow athletes:
My story of being recruited and how it affected my life:
My story starts in the 9th grade.
I will never forget the surreal excitement in the air as I received the call. While sitting on my bed that day, with my parents by my side, I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear.
The discussion was the first call of many, the type that ends in “Yes sir, thank you so much, sir.”
That was my first verbal offer. I had just finished a promising freshman season, but these coaches saw something in me that went right over my head.
I played basketball during this season and recruiting found its way into my everyday life at school. The immediate reaction from most of my school was exciting, but there were plenty of jealous seniors on the team that I had just exceeded in scholarships who didn’t take too well to my good news.
Their negative vibes further instilled a feeling of doubt in my potential and made me want to work harder to prove them wrong.
The rest of the year was filled with in-person visits from coaches that needed to see me in person before pulling the trigger. Some of the most memorable moments from my recruitment were these conversations from out-of-place coaches in a sea of carefree high schoolers.
I still keep every business card they gave out and jot down each coach’s descriptions after we talked. Some coaches followed the rules religiously; others completely disregarded them.
One unique memory I have is of a coach locking eyes with me in a door window, then bending down to slide his card under the door slip.
These experiences were all topped by unofficial visits. They allowed me to include friends in my gameday experience and watch all the biggest rivalry games from the front row. There were also a few “friends” that told me what games they wanted to go to…
To this point, I had just been riding the seemingly endless wave of recruiting. I texted a few coaches every day and even set up checklists to call specific teams once a week.
There was no nitty-gritty, just small talk. How naive to think that’s all it is.
It took a few months for recruiting to get its grounding after Covid hit, but it came back more intense than ever. Coaches discovered zoom and squeezed in hours of their time into my life every night. It was cool at first, all the edits and slideshows, but the excitement began to fade like all things in recruiting.
Some coaches salivated at the chance to show off their school without having to show me around in person; others resented the job of selling such a massive decision without the ability to play show-and-tell in person.
I was under the impression that my time missed visiting would be made up for in full. Once again, how naive of me.
I entered into June in chaos with nothing but a list of a couple of dozen schools and a journal. For those that don’t know, the past 18 months had been a dead period (meaning no in-person contact with coaches), but June of 2021 was going to be the “fix-all.”
Just as recruiting during the dead period had been a whirlwind of conversations through a screen, the live period attempted to overcompensate the imbalance through visits. I was given five official visits, usually on weekends, to fit into a four-week month on top of full swing summer workouts and an already busy schedule.
In the end, it worked out; but this condensed way of recruiting left many athletes gasping for air, and an immense amount of stress heaped onto this already complex decision.
I began my official visits with the highest standards imaginable, as I had been looking forward to these for years. This was the last time I made the mistake of being naive. An official visit generally looks like an all-expenses-paid vacation until you sit down with the coach and talk business.
Besides making lists and narrowing down where I wanted to visit, this was the first time the ball was ever in my court. I like to use an analogy that I had gotten good at keeping my cards close to my chest, but my hand was being forced in June.
Some coaches told me that I have a deadline to decide; others still needed to figure out what “I’m looking for.”
This prolonged buildup of pressure finally began to burst after just a few of these visits. It felt like a giant wave was looming over me, and I didn’t know how to escape it. Finally, someone told me that I don’t have the answers – that I need to seek wise and experienced counsel.
Showing my offers to the people around me was the first time I realized I had made progress in so long; it felt relieving. After months of feeling like my prayers were not working, I finally came to the realization that God was not going to tell me where He wants me. I needed to take a leap of faith, knowing that I will be for the Kingdom wherever I go.
Committing was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.
God constantly reminded me that faith is rewarded with joy and that He really be with me wherever I go. It was an unforgettable experience to top off one of the most unique recruiting processes in college football history. I have gleaned so much during this adventure, and my goal now is to help other people become more knowledgeable and to aid others going through the same things I did,
Thank you for reading, and if you know someone who should hear this, please share.
The D3 NIL King
I recently had the privilege of sitting down with what many are called the “King of D3 NIL,” Jack Betts. And after my thorough conversation with the impressive 21-year-old and Amherst wide receiver, I can confidently say such a claim has a strong basis – Jack now having embarked on partnerships with brands like Allbirds and Body Armour.
Jack and I’s conversation began with a rundown from him on the process he has nearly perfected when approaching brands and businesses when trying to leverage a NIL deal/partnership. What struck me from the moment the conversation began was Jack’s organization. Jack was kind enough to share with me his resume that runs through various accomplishments and commitments he has earned and partaken in his professional career away from football. And let me tell you… the resume did not lack flare.
But organization is an element commonly missed by most athletes. Jack understands that like him businesses reviewing his resume and proposition do not have much time. And to be precise and detail oriented could be the difference between being ghosted by brands or signing a life-changing deal.
As the conversation continued Jack’s poise shined through his ability to expand upon difficult topics surrounding NIL at the moment. Primarily, how the majority of student-athletes don’t really have a clue about anything surrounding their name, image, or likeness (NIL), Jack went on to express his plan to form an organization dedicated to working with student-athletes of Indigenous decent just like himself (Cherokee).
Besides being an excellent pursuit, I’m quite personally excited to see how his organization does with working with athletes. It’s tough for student-athletes to learn any sort of information from credible sources without sacrificing their rights in exclusivity agreements within the NIL sphere at the moment. So Jack willingly lending his ear and experience to those in need is a fabulous gesture.
Our conversation wrapped up discussing Jack’s #1 piece of advice to student-athletes: have an elevator pitch. No, this conversation was not meant to discuss high-level skills to have when approaching Silicon Valley VCs but I could see how one could cipher that. All jokes aside, Jack recommended profusely athletes have a quick elevator pitch (short, less than a one-minute statement) that easily maps out how you would bring value to a business or brand. At the end of the day, there aren’t many instances that you’ll be paid for doing something that at some point won’t bring or double in value to your investor.
As a student-athlete, besides certain instances like boosters’ contributions, businesses and brands want to know how specifically you can bring them value in a unique way most other athletes can’t.
All this being said, if there’s one thing to take away from Jack it is his… for lack of a better word, tenacity. Jack is on a mission in the NIL space. Although I can not fully describe nor understand this intangible element about him, I can tell you he’s a guy you want on your team. And that’s why he is undisputed D3 King of NIL and now moving north of 30 NIL deals.
I want to thank Jack for giving me his time and patience over the last few weeks for various content production. As well as recognize the wonderful work he is doing in world sports and for those in most need of it.
For our full conversation, you can head over to Spotify or follow our work on social media via @Athletiverse
Spotify podcast episode: Athletiverse Podcast | D3 King of NIL
Peace and love,
Dominyck Bullard (Chief Publisher – Varsity Chronicle)
The Freeman Era Difference
Verbal general or coaching revolutionary? Analyzing the approach of new Notre Dame Football Head Coach, Marcus Freeman.
If you are a Notre Dame fan or just interested in reading our write-up on the recent coaching change out of South Bend, I promise we will get to that, but I want to start here.
I want to start with a story about Bill Buckner.
For those unacquainted, Bill Buckner let a ground ball go through his legs in the 1986 Worlds Series for our younger audience.
After the error, the Mets would defeat the Red Sox, Buckner’s team, and claim the title in game 7.
Buckner would be the most excellent scapegoat in sports of the 20th century.
However, disturbingly enough, Buckner, two weeks before the series with the Mets in an interview with Don Shane from WBZ-TV, said, “The dreams are that you’re going to have a great series and win. The nightmares are that you are going to let the winning run score on a ground ball through your legs.”
To squash all assumptions, no, this story is not about manifestation.
It’s about mentality.
Marcus Freeman, a week ago, took over as the head football coach for Notre Dame.
In his opening statement to the media upon accepting this most prestigious position, Freeman did anything but what the media has seen over the years.
Instead of promising championship runs and accomplishing unimaginable feats, Freeman, in his opening remarks, made clear that his primary concern was to ensure that everyone knew that the primary driver of success for Notre Dame Football would be the players.
“Being the leader of this program is about understanding that to be successful on this journey, it’s going to take others, and we’re going to have to do this as a team.”
Freeman, above all, has maintained the view that at the heart of Notre Dame football is a set of values reflective of the university’s education and institution.
When we generally look at the broader population of collegiate athletes, the identity of the players, fans, coaches, and community is that they came here to play sports.
But Freeman has reminded his players and the nation that athletes, despite previous identities, do not come to Notre Dame to play football.
They don’t even come to contribute to change.
They come to be changed by Notre Dame.
Freeman has taken the typical achievement-based reward system within sports that convince athletes that they’ll only receive love, acceptance, and notoriety from on-field success and now challenges the men in his program to see themselves as a part of something much bigger than football.
Yes, football is important. And Freeman doesn’t take that for granted.
But as the “players coach,” he reminds his team and us all that football is just something they do.
The overall manner in which his team handles themselves academically, socially, and spiritually is what he seems to demand the high standards of most.
Wins and national championships will be the byproduct of developing mentally consistent and strong players.
Although Marcus Freeman could be some verbal general or someone who knows how to say all the right things, Freeman seems to truly understand the depth of an athlete’s mind beyond most.
So back to Buckner for a moment.
Buckner’s nightmare comments made shortly before making one of the most unforgettable errors in baseball history raise the question that making that error was not one of his worst nightmares. Would the outcome be different that night?
None of us can answer that.
However, I believe athletes’ identities mustn’t be contingent upon the results of a game.
As Marcus Freeman makes his debut shortly in the Fiesta Bowl, could Notre Dame’s new leader bring the Irish their national championship with the approach to developing high-level people before athletes?
In the spirit of sport romanticism, boy, I hope so.
You can catch Marcus Freeman’s debut on January 1, 2022, as Oklahoma State takes on Notre Dame on ESPN.
We wish you all a very happy and blessed holiday season!
Influencing a Positive Response to Mental Illness in High Schools and Young Adults
The legacy of dual-sport athlete and mental health advocate, Jessica Lefevre.
I hit rock bottom four years ago.
It was Halloween 2018 when two of my guy friends were killed in a car accident. Then one girl from my high school committed suicide, and another from Reveal High School.
I saw the effect that those tragedies had on all of the students and also on me. I almost didn’t graduate from high school because I started skipping classes because of how depressed I got.
In my senior year of high school, I had an interest from Chapman University to join their women’s soccer program. I saw soccer in my future.
Unfortunately, though I did not end up committing because my GPA was below what they were asking. I saw my future vanish. I didn’t have a plan, a future; I saw no point in being here. I questioned whether I wanted to continue living.
Helping athletes and hearing their stories is what kept me going.
I thought my world was ending. I didn’t have a future with soccer; I didn’t know my future. But speaking to all of these players gave me purpose.
I learned, “It’s ok to not be ok.”
We had the 49ers come to our school to talk about mental health. These guys were grown men and never showed emotion.
There is this stereotype that men can’t show emotions. So you never see it. But I saw these players get emotional, which showed me that I wasn’t alone. They showed me that being emotional is a strength, not a weakness.
Being on a football team in high school, I saw how this mindset of athletes, putting everything aside once you step onto the field because you have to look tough, affects athletes.
Football players especially have to have a tough mindset where they can’t show emotions on the field.
One day I was practicing field goals before a game, and none of them were going in. Something was going on in my mind that I just couldn’t brush to the side.
And I remember walking off the field, taking my helmet off, and walking to the bench. My coach could tell I was upset, so he came up to me and asked what was going on with me.
I just broke down in tears. I couldn’t hold my emotions inside anymore. Because whether you are a female or male football player, you have to look tough on the field.
But I learned that showing emotion is not a sign of weakness; it signifies strength and bravery. And I wanted athletes to know that.
That’s when I started “Safe Space”- a youth organization spreading awareness for mental health among athletes. I became a speaker for the organization and traveled to different school districts, hoping to impact the athletes and their families.
The change was seen- we got mental health professionals, counselors at all of our district schools and other districts in the Bay area (private or public).
I would talk to sports teams and try to educate them on mental health. I would also speak at my football games to the parents of these athletes.
I expressed the importance of having those hard conversations with their child (about suicide or mental health disorders).
I found a purpose to keep living.
My purpose was to help others.
I saw life is worth living.
Live each day with a grateful heart because it can change in an instant.