MOUNT VERNON — Nearly every high school student-athlete has dreams of continuing their career at the college level. Some even have aspirations of playing professional one day. The harsh reality is, however, only a select few will ever make that step into the college arena and even fewer will have professional opportunities.
Three former area high school athletes — Todd Londot (Utica), Jason Rollins and Lissi Fuller (Mount Vernon) — went through the recruiting process and played for four years in their college careers. For each one, the process was different, but the end result was nearly the same.
“It was exciting; it really was a great experience,” said Londot. “It was exciting to get the mail every day and to have coaches coming to see me and talking to people.”
“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Rollins. “Getting phone calls from coaches and recruiting coordinators and getting letters in the mail was exciting.
“When I got down to the time to make the decision — I committed kind of early to Kentucky — it was a little stressful because I still had schools contacting me.”
Unlike Londot and Rollins, who were both football players, Fuller played basketball at the next level. She too experienced the happiness associated with netting a scholarship.
“I had a lot of mixed emotions; it was really exciting when coaches would be at the games and talk to you afterward,” said Fuller. “You felt good about yourself. It was great to know that someone had heard about you, but it was also stressful. With my experience, I had a few places to choose from. It was really fun to go on the campus visits and talk to the other teams and coaches, learning all about the program and how they do things. ... It was a tough decision.
“I was lucky enough to have parents that went with me on every trip. We could talk about things before hand and after, and through that, I was able to say what I liked and didn’t like.”
Parental involvement was also crucial to both Londot and Rollins’ recruiting processes. Both went on to play at the NCAA Division I level, which may not have been possible without strong support at home. Coaches also played a pivotal role.
“My parents were a huge help; they talked to a lot of coaches for me, and I had a good relationship with my recruiting coordinator,” said Londot, who played at Miami University of Ohio. “I still have a good relationship with him today. He is now the tight ends/tackles coach and recruiting coordinator for The Ohio State University. He developed a relationship with my mom and dad, and he was at my wedding. It started with my recruiting process, and continued to grow while I was at Miami.”
“My coaching staff really helped me get recruited,” Rollins said. “Coach (Brian) Gastin, coach (Hayes) Dean and coach (Scott) Spitler played a big role with player tapes and sending them out to different colleges. Coach Spitler was my position coach, and he really helped me out with that process. ... The recruiting process, for me, started out at the beginning of my junior year. It was a great experience.”
Londot was being recruited in two sports, which made his college decision all the tougher. He too felt the weight of the recruiting process bearing down on him as he narrowed his athletic and collegiate choices.
“After my junior season of football is when I began to get looks,” Londot said. “Then after my junior year of basketball ended, I started to get looks for basketball too. ... There was some pressure my junior year just because I wanted to live up to the college expectations. I wanted to go out and perform my best, and get better every day. There was more pressure my junior year than there was my senior year.
“Every coach wanted to know my decision, but they weren’t really pressuring me. They want to know if they need to move on to the next person, but they also understand that you have to make the decision for yourself. Once I made my decision, things quieted down.”
As a basketball player, Fuller was recruited earlier in her high school career. While she did not make her college choice until much later, she had to deal with the recruiting pressures.
“I remember my freshman year, there was a coach at one of my games watching someone else and she saw me. She came up and talked to me after the game and made a contact,” said Fuller. “The recruiting really didn’t start until my sophomore year. Coaches started calling; I got some letters and questionnaires, and then my junior year was probably the most I was recruited.”
Colleges and universities look for different qualities in different players. The individual sport dictates some of those qualities, while the player’s position dictates even more. Most higher education institutions, however, want well-rounded athletes.
“I think a combination of player tapes, stats, grades and an interview with my guidance counselor made the difference,” said Rollins. “Coach (Guy) Morriss came up to the school to visit me and talked with some of the staff at the school as well.
“Coach Morriss is the one who recruited me to Kentucky, and he was pretty in-depth. From some of the schools, I just got phone calls and letters. I went on a few visits to other colleges. Each school had their own way of going about the recruiting process as far as what they were looking for. When I went on my official visit to Kentucky, I got to see what they really wanted.”
Finding the right fit is often the toughest task for a future college athlete. Many schools may come knocking, but only after campus visits do most players make a commitment. Rejecting all of the others was also a tough situation for Fuller.
“It was really hard at times because it just didn’t feel right,” Fuller said. “Here, you had a coach offering you the world, but you just know it is not the place you can see yourself in. It was really hard for me to turn someone down.
“At the same time, it goes the other way. If you are getting recruited out of high school, you are probably one or two of the best players on your team. To have someone call and say, “I’m really sorry but we’ve decided to go a different way with somebody else,’ that was really hard. To be rejected was really hard, but I think everything happens for a reason.”
In the end, all three former recruits feel they made the right choice when it came to college.
“I definitely think I made the right decision,” said Londot. “At the time, I didn’t really know where I wanted to go. I made the decision based on what my family, friends and coaches were telling me. I just wanted to go down there and compete for a spot. It was definitely the right decision, the correct decision. I was happy with my experience. I had a great career, made lifelong friends and am better off for it.”
“I made the right decision; I have no complaints,” said Rollins. “I had the opportunity to be a four-year starter, and most importantly, get my degree.”
“I think I made a very good decision,” Fuller said. “During my four years of playing, it was really great. We won three conference championships, made the National Tournament every year and I got to experience a lot of different things and go places I would never be able to go again. It was just a great experience.”