Passion key to making college roster

By Mark Huber -

Bill Conley

Bill Conley

Former Ohio State assistant football coach Bill Conley says one aspect of an athlete’s game can land them on a college sports team roster.

It’s not ability.

It’s not smarts.

Think intangible.

“Do you have the passion to play at the next level?” Conley queried a group of students and parents gathered recently in the media center at Wilmington High School. “If you have the passion, understand there is a place for you. There are plenty of opportunities.”

While Conley was specifically talking about football, the ideal pretty much works regardless of sport in the collegiate athletic landscape. Talented athletes without passion generally fail at some point. Academically challenged athletes who have a passion to play at the next level will find a way to make it work.

Conley and John Westenhaver visited Wilmington High School late in the school year to talk about various aspects of the recruiting process. Their recruiting service — ConWest — helps football players find a home after high school. Again, much of what Conley and Westenhaver said works for any sport.

While Conley believes the ConWest service can be helpful, the athlete — football or other sports — need to do some of their own legwork.

“Do your research,” Conley said. “Take as many unofficial visits to schools you are interested in. Every situation is different, that’s why you have to do your research. Just because you are being recruited does not mean you are being offered a scholarship.

“All (recruiting) does is put restrictions on the university in terms of contact and visits.”

Conley said college coaches like to see athletes “with personality.”

“Look ’em in the eye and shake their hand,” Conley said. “Recruiting is all about relationships.”

Conley said a service like ConWest can create exposure for an athlete if that athlete is — from a non-metropolitan school, a small school, don’t meet physical measurables, average team record-wise, non-college tradition, don’t have impressive stats, relying on a highlight tape or relying on a recruiting promotion service.

Conley warns high school athletes who attend camps, clinics or combines to maintain their loyalty to their respective high school programs.

“Your high school coach, listen to them first,” Conley said. “He knows you best. Don’t believe that because a school is showing interest in you, that you are going to get an official visit. So your first obligation is to your high school football team, the coaches and high school program. Your future will take care of itself.”

Once in college, Conley said athletes must learn three aspects of their life will be different.

“One, you have to get out of bed, get breakfast,” he said. “It’s part of the maturing process. Mom and dad are not there anymore.

“Two, there is competition on the (athletic) field and, three, there is competition in the classroom. That’s the reality of life. The biggest dropout rate is in the first semester.”

Should the first college not work out, Conley said, “The good news, the great news is there are plenty of other places to go other than Division I schools.”

Bill Conley Conley

By Mark Huber

Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports

Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports