Camp helps Virginia Tech land commitments

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– When they say familiarity breeds contempt, they're obviously not talking
about college football recruiting.
Amherst County High School senior defensive
back Peter Rose said Monday he will play at Virginia Tech next year, in part
because of the comfort level he developed while attending Hokies coach Frank
Beamer's summer camps.
"It was a big part of my decision,"
Rose, who also plays quarterback for the Lancers, said Monday at James
Madison's Bridgeforth Stadium. "I've seen what the campus is like and
I've talked to the coaches. They just seem like they wanted me there more than
any of the other colleges that were talking to me."
Ironically perhaps, given the timing of his
announcement, Rose and his Amherst teammates were in Harrisonburg to take part
in JMU coach Mickey Matthews' football camp.
Rose said he mulled offers from a quartet of
major-conference schools -- Tech, Virginia, Maryland and Syracuse – and some
Division I-AA teams before narrowing his list to the Hokies and Cavaliers.
"I checked out all the colleges and I made
it down to U.Va. and Virginia Tech for the last month now," the 6-foot,
190-pound Rose said. "I've just been debating back and forth. It's been
close all the way through."
Madison and Richmond, which play in the I-AA
Colonial Athletic Association, also offered scholarships, and Rose said he
considered playing at JMU to team with his brother Jonathan – an incoming
freshman tailback for the Dukes.
In the end, though, he couldn't resist the
allure of Division I-A.
"I definitely thought about JMU over any
other colleges," Rose said. "They were next in line to U.Va. and
Virginia Tech."
Stories like Rose's are one of the
side-benefits for college coaches who host football camps. While the No. 1 goal
might be to make money from campers, coaches also get a chance to forge
relationships with athletes and scout their abilities. At the same time, the
athletes get what amounts to an extra recruiting visit, checking out coaches and
campuses before making one of the biggest decisions of their young lives.
"We had a sophomore tailback that ran an
unbelievable 40 time [Sunday]," Amherst coach Scott Abell said. "I
think they know his name now."
While NCAA regulations prohibit coaches from
recruiting underclassmen – like Josh Braxton, the sophomore Abell was
referring to – Matthews said the camps are an opportunity to at least begin
getting familiar with some of the talent around the state.
"It allows us to establish relationships
legally with high school coaches and players," Matthews said, standing at
the 50-yard line while two 7-on-7 drills went on around him. "We have
underclassmen here that we will recruit in the years to come because we know
them and they know us."
Matthews gave an example from his days as a
Marshall University assistant coach.
"When were are at Marshall, we were having
a 7-on-7 drill at our football camp and there was a tall, skinny quarterback who
we'd never heard of and he was winning every game," Matthews recalled.
"We asked him what his name was. His name was Chad Pennington."
Pennington went on to set school records,
throwing for 14,098 yards and 123 touchdowns. In 2000, he was drafted by the New
York Jets and remains their starting quarterback.
None of that might have happened had
Pennington, who was in the Huntingdon area visiting his grandparents, not been
noticed at the camp. Matthews said Marshall was the only school that recruited
"It not only changed his life, it changed
our lives," Matthews said.
While there may not be a future NFL starter
hidden at every college camp, Abell and Matthews agreed the extra exposure
benefits both sides.
"Anytime you've got connections and you
can make those relationships, it helps," Abell said. "More than
anything, it just gets your foot in the door."
Abell and Rose both said Tech recruited Rose as
either a wide receiver or a defensive back. The coach said he thinks his star
pupil can excel on either side of the ball, although he'd like to see what
Rose can do offensively if given the chance.
"He's really good with the football in
his hands," Abell said. "Playing wide receiver gives him the chance to
touch the football. He's a very special kid when he's running with the
Rose said he's open to any position.
"What do I want to play? Football,"
he said with a smile. "Virginia Tech is talking to me as a receiver and DB.
I don't care at all."
Rose passed for more than 1,200 yards, rushed
for 740 and scored 29 touchdowns while leading Amherst to a 13-1 record and the
Division 4 state title.
Clearly, he didn't need a summer camp to get
noticed. But his exposure to Beamer and Virginia Tech were the difference in his
ultimate destination.
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