MESQUITE (CBSDFW.COM) – While many high school athletes position themselves in front of a television screen to watch the Bowl Season wrap up, some have already had a taste of the intense recruitment practices that characterize a portion of the sport.
Some experts say these practices may be too much pressure too soon. However, these athletic programs can be the flagships of their respective universities; choosing the best high school player is crucial to any college team.
“The recruiting process is much more intense now than it’s ever been,” said Mike Overton, head football coach at West Mesquite High School.
So intense that not only are universities asking students to verbally commit by the eleventh grade, but some – like former Arlington High twins Matt and Luke Joeckel – are leaving high school early to begin their college careers at Texas A&M University.
“Our family has prepared us so much for that, “Luke, 19, said. “Our parents have done a great job with us and we’re very disciplined kids.”
Luke started for the Aggies at left tackle and so far, he said, everything’s worked out well. Matt was redshirted at quarterback, but is thought of highly by the A&M staff, they said.
The boys both agreed that the college game is much faster than high school, both on field and in the classroom. Their parents, however, maintain that their boys made the right decision.
“It just worked for them,” said Reecanne Joeckel, the boys’ mother. She added that coming from a family of athletes helped prepare the kids for their early entrance into college.
“I don’t know if it would be right for every kid, but it was right for them,” she said.
Every major school in Texas – including Texas Christian University, The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M – have or have had players graduate early from high school to start their college careers.
The university officials CBS 11 News spoke with said they would never encourage an athlete to graduate early, they simply present it as an option.
But how do parents know if it’s right for their student athlete? Some psychologists warn that it may be too early for students to transfer into college.
“We know that at 15 or 16, literally, your brain isn’t all connected up yet,” said Dr. Sylvia Gearing, a Plano psychologist.
Gearing said she believes sophomores and juniors are too young to make such a life-altering decision; even though verbal commitments are nonbinding.
“I really believe that that is too soon,” she said. “Fifteen, 16; too soon to make a decision that’s going to put them in a situation like that for many, many years.”
Overton has had several athletes graduate high school early, and said he thinks it’s time to reduce the intensity of collegiate recruitment.
“I wish the NCAA would even legislate; you know, some new rules slowing down the recruiting process and delaying it some,” Overton said. “But I believe that’ll never happen.”
The ball may be too far down the field to stop the momentum. The Joeckels, however, defend their choice as well as the chance other student athletes have to transfer early.
“I just was ready to take the next step, go to college,” Matt Joeckel said. “And, just, I was ready for it. We both were.”