January is usually the time many college fans are awaiting for the first Wednesday in February and National Signing Day (NSD) which had an inaugural early period December 20-22, 2017. In the past this was like a holiday for college football fans as they took a glimpse into the future. What was learned from the early signing period is athletes and parents did not want to wait until February as nearly 75% of the division one athletes inked their Letter of intent (NLI). Now fast forward to January 20, 2018 and the College Rugby Seminar & Fair in downtown Denver. A cold overcast winter day was a success for underclassmen Ruggers from the 2017 State Title Arapahoe Warriors led by coach Darryl Lane. The Rugby Club out of Littleton had 3 players present to an invite only event that featured nearly 30 top colleges and university rugby recruiting coaches. This was a regional event that had athletes and parents from the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming and Texas all seeking to inquire about next level playing opportunities. The event was well planed as upon check in all athletes were given a name tag and a package titled “The college pathway” describing some of the materials needed to build a rugby resume and dates for both of the college board exams of ACT and SAT.
The event was moderated by a local Colorado resident that featured a 4 person panel made up of current coaches seeking athletes to learn and listen prior to meeting them one on one. The coaches’ panel make up was a diverse group in Army West Point, Kutztown University, Penn State University and Life University. While the overview was about the three divisions or types of programs most of the chatter was how the landscape of recruiting works. It was a question and answer moderated event that featured some great answers for all to hear. Much like football and other sports many of the coaches want to know about you, the athlete and see if you are a good fit for their program. While many think the process is as easy as one email the statement was made several times that in the last 5 years recruiting has become competitive and more selective. Also if a coach invites you to an on campus camp it most likely means they have interests in you and that is a part of the evaluation process to make sure you are the type of athlete they want on their campus and team.
Everyone is always watching you! Coaches, referees, team mates, the opposition and Rugby ambassadors.
As for the Coaches Panel, many questions were asked to the audience and the coaches on hand were making notes during each question. One resounding statement was “The better the grades the better the opportunities.” After about 90 minutes it was interesting as a bystander to see the 25-30 onlookers from colleges trying to identify with potential recruits. The list of schools were as follows:
Army West Point Varsity Men’s & Varsity Women’s
University of Arizona Men’s & Women’s
American International College Varsity Men’s & Varsity Women’s
University of Colorado, Boulder Men’s & Women’s
Colorado State University Men’s Rugby
Davenport University Varsity Men’s & Varsity Women’s
University of Denver Men’s
University of Kansas Men’s
Kutztown University Varsity Club Men’s & Varsity Club Women’s
Long Island University, Post Varsity Women’s
Marywood University Varsity Men’s & Varsity Women’s
Miami University Men’s
Mount St. Mary’s University Men’s & Varsity Women’s
New England College Varsity Men’s
University of New Mexico Men’s
Notre Dame Men’s
Norwich University Varsity Men’s & Varsity Women’s
University of Notre Dame Men’s & Women’s
Penn State University Varsity Club Men’s & Varsity Club Women’s
Regis University Men’s & Women’s
St. Bonaventure University Varsity Club Men’s
University of Utah Men’s
Queens University of Charlotte Varsity Men’s & Varsity Women’s
Wayne State College Men’s & Women’s
University of Wyoming Men’s & Women’s
Yale University Men’s & Women’s
A very impressive list but what was most noticeable were the coaches seeking out players based on their answers during the 90 minute panel. In addition there was a high urgency for players that were forwards that play the positions 1,2 or 3.
The front row players in the scrum are known as a 1-loosehead prop, 2-hooker and 3-tighthead prop. For those familiar with football or the movie the blindside the 3 in rugby is like a left tackle in the NFL as explained to us by Coach Tom of the Ohio State University that was in town on a recruiting visit and in the lobby of the hotel viewing players coming and going. Coach Tom was alerted by the 5785 rugby club that there were some “scrum heads” he should visit. While the event was an invite only there were some players that benefited from the online questionnaire from a week ago. The profiles were forwarded to a plethora of coaches seeking to immediately recruit ruggers and a few for a fast track to August or September recruiting. One such player was Zach Gonzales a current Junior of Arapahoe high school that plays for the Littleton club called the Arapahoe Warriors and the select team based out of Colorado Springs called 5785. The club teams play February through May while the select or all star teams play late May through July and can travel outside the United States. As the players starting leaving the event it was interesting as the coach from Ohio State was examining the players as they exited the ballroom and then boom, there was his guy, Zach Gonzales. You could see the coaches eyes light up as he shook the 16 year old Juniors hands and inspected or analyzed his frame with subtle hand movements. At this point he mentioned how a tighthead prop is well sought after and asked if he has ever been to Ohio. The young man said, “yes I was on the U-15 USA football team as a 12 year old and we visited Columbus on the way to Canton. I always wanted to go back.” Coach Tom said, “well son we would love to host you and see your film as you caught my eye and I was just passing through town. You should take my card and inform me of your games and tournament schedule as I think you could be a Buckeye.” Gonzales said, “Thank You. I am currently working with a football trainer 3 days a week in addition to the 3 days of rugby practice and an optional Sunday touch game so is that acceptable?” Coach responded, “Absolutely! The more you play the better you get and if you could play loosehead prop or hooker that would be nice to see on film.” “Well loosehead prop is my brothers position so we shall see but I can ask”, said Gonzales. Coach Tom said, “You have a brother? Where is he and how tall is he?” “He had to work but he is about 2 inches taller than I am and a little thinner but I will mention it to him,” Gonzales stated. (Zachary Gonzales listed on all 4 major football recruiting websites as 6″1′ and 285 pounds) In addition he played on the Arapahoe state title team and was listed at 265 but in September 305 on the football roster. Trainer Bruce Kiphardt of HogFarm in Littleton, CO confirmed Gonzales weighed in last Monday at 285 and was working on his footwork and dropping a few pounds to play in August at the 260-265 like one of his other clients Trevor Szilagyi of Valor Christian that is part of the group.
We had a Q & A with Zach Gonzales
Q: What did you learn from the event?
A: Well my dad was right. If you get the grades you can choose the school you want to attend. Notre Dame is wicked hard to gain admissions with a 33 ACT and Top 5% of your class being requested. I take the SAT in April so I will try and do my best. As for playing the sport I had no idea how being a forward namely a number 3 was such a prime position. So the interests from Kutztown, KU, DU, Penn State, Wyoming and several others was overwhelming. It seems like the Big 10 will be recruiting me.
Q: Any one school a favorite.
A: I would like to visit Notre Dame on my way to Ohio State but immediately I will be visiting DU. Being about 20-30 minutes from their campus is nice. I like how not only the coaches but the players embraced me immediately. Kutztown was aggressively pursuing me and it looks like an east coast trip is in my future. I was a little disappointed CU did not represent well for Mens but the women liked my size and attitude and answers to the crowd questions and earmarked me for their group. So I have a lot of options and will have more work to do on the pitch prior to hitting the camps or visitation requests. DU has my immediate attention since they want me in before February.
Q: Would you recommend this event?
A: Yes! 100% as I learned a lot and did not know what coaches were looking for at the college level. Also being a Junior I am lucky as some of the Seniors have not been proactive and I am lucky my father has provided me with good advice and only requests I attend valid events like this one. He often says take care of your grades and things will work out. Besides having a great work ethic or character they all stated grades was a big part of the recruiting trail. So YES it was worthwhile.
Q: They mentioned 2 sport athletes are attractive so how do you fell about that aspect and do you play another sport?
A: Yes sir I am a contact guy so football has always been my sport since age 4 or 5. I have played for Arapahoe High School the past 3 seasons as a defensive player primarily but might have to go two ways this upcoming season. Also the rugby coaches suggested Center and long snapper to keep me focused on spinning the ball for rugby. I am familiar with the position but never had the opportunity to show I was a two way athlete or try out for being a kicker. Something I will share once we get a new head coach. Early on until high school I played hockey, baseball and basketball. I did take up golf and was a caddy the past two summers but have really gravitated to Rugby especially after winning the State Title and getting a ring. I might like football more in my final year if we have a brotherhood like rugby and we start winning. I have been humbled the past 3 seasons and am eager to contribute this year in my final high school season.
Q: Have you thought about a degree?
A: Yes but still undeclared. I always assumed CU Boulder was where I would attend and figure it out later but since last season I have had multiple football coaches and now rugby coaches emailing and texting me. So I have been told the first two years are manageable wherever I attend. So the emphasis now will be to keep the grades up and work hard for another State title in May. Perhaps if we plan accordingly my summer team will attend other states tournaments so I can see first hand what the other schools have to offer.
Q: Is it important for you to stay and play.
A: Ultimately it would be nice but I do not actively see the local schools recruiting me other than DU. I am sure if we knew one another it might be a different story. I have been fortunate to travel to other states and met with coaches that still have interests in me. I will remember those guys when it is May or June and they are still in contact with me. I could see making a decision by August as suggested by the rugby guys or December by the football coaches but well for now I am more focused on practices and the upcoming season. The rest will take care of itself. My SAT in April should help me identify schools as well as my work on the field to get some good film that all coaches are requesting.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: Yes. Wear your school colors or club gear to these events. A coach stopped me to tell one of my teammates to give him a call. Then he proceeded to recruit me. While the process is arduous you just have to remember if it will be a good fit for me. I know guys go crazy on social media but that is not me. I want to make sure my choice is mine and not forced upon me like a car salesman. It takes time to visit and figure out the next 4 or 5 years after high school. Right now I want to enjoy the moments with my current friends and create others memories down the road.
Published on: Jan 22, 2018 @ 21:24