For the past few
months the football players shown on the preceding pages have been going
through some of the most grueling days of their lives. The best of
Pennsylvania's considerable store of schoolboy stars, they have been approached
from every direction, in the nighttime as well as the daylight, by fast-talking
coaches and alumni who want them to bring these talents to their respective
Eddie Kostelnik is
an example. A tall, good-looking boy with alert eyes and big feet, he graduated
at the top of his class at Connellsville (Pa.) High School last week. Kostelnik
is glad it's all over. These past few weeks have been exciting ones. One day
was particularly frenetic. There was a meeting of the student body (Kostelnik
is president) and a meeting of the committee to secure top New York talent for
the senior prom (Kostelnik was chairman). He planned to study during lunch
hour, as always (he has a 98 average), and to get to track practice right after
school (he holds the school record in the shotput, also lettered in basketball,
and was captain of the football team).
All of this
Kostelnik could have taken in his stride, but on this day there was an unusual
amount of outside interference. Four football coaches from four separate
universities drove up to the school, unannounced, to see him, and he had to fit
them into his already-full schedule. He was late to track practice and when he
got home—late, of course—another coach was waiting for him. Kostelnik ate
supper and talked to the coach at the same time, then sat down to study. There
was a knock on the door: another coach. And at 10 o'clock, when things had
finally quieted down, a telephone call. Long distance for Eddie Kostelnik.
Kostelnik finally blew. He threw his books down. "How can I ever get any
work done this way?" he cried. During that period he got the only B in his
entire high school career.
This has been a
terrible time for the Eddie Kostelniks of this country. The pressures on these
young men have been enormous. It is surely no secret by now that, without
exception, every major college fielding a football team must recruit the
members of that team. The livelihood of practically every college coach in the
country, and that of their wives and children, depends on how many of these
high school stars they can get.
IN A MIST
The boys for their
part have been running in circles, and many will continue to spin right up
until September. Most are 17 or 18 years old. The parents of many have had
little formal education and generally are of no help to their sons in the
sophisticated world of higher education and proselytizing. Coaches like Doc
Blanchard of Army, Buck Shaw of the Air Force Academy approach the boys with
offers of four years of education with pay on the U.S. Government. Coaches from
the big football schools can and do wrap up the college campus and hand it to
the young stars, who often need only say the word and they are on the next
plane for California or Florida.
Probably in no
other place in the country is the question, "Which offer shall I take,"
asked or answered more often than in Pennsylvania. The rugged state extending
from the East Coast beyond the Appalachians is by far college football's
leading hunting ground. There are about 1,400 high schools playing top-quality
football in Pennsylvania, and only, three major state schools—Pittsburgh, Penn
State and the University of Pennsylvania—share their output. Texas schools, by
contrast, must supply a whole conference of top football teams.
This year 40
players from Pennsylvania high schools were selected on the first seven
scholastic All-America football teams or as alternates. Of the 40 boys, only
four were considered incapable of doing college work, three still have a year
in high school, and three are too small for big-time college ball. Of the rest,
five have been contacted by fewer than 10 colleges, six by between 10 and 25
colleges, and 19 boys by over 25 schools. Several have received queries from
over 50 colleges. These are the boys with both athletic ability and good
classroom marks, for although any star with a high school diploma is sought
after by some schools, the bright boy is wanted by all.
recruit players along the same general lines. They get the names of prospects
from All-America and All-State lists, from alumni and friends, from local
papers (the coaching staff at the University of Maryland subscribes to scores
of Pennsylvania papers). Most coaches then write to the high school for the
prospect's grades; if still interested, they write, telephone or send a
representative—assistant coach or a local alumnus—to visit the prospect and
invite him to the campus for a weekend, all expenses paid. Here is where the
selling begins. And the more mail, long-distance calls and personal visits the
boy receives, the more confused he gets.