Media Information Director
DPS Office of Athletics
The reviews are in and the first annual Detroit Public School League football College Coach-Student Exchange was a smashing success.
The event, held Wednesday in the gymnasium at Cass Tech High School, was a collaboration of the DPS Office of Athletics and the Detroit chapter of the National Alliance of African American Athletes in an effort to make college football recruitment more accessible to all PSL football student-athletes.
Coaches and representatives from 35 primarily Division 2, Division 3 and Division 1-AA colleges came looking for talent and, in one setting, they found plenty to choose from among the 165 scholarship-seeking high school seniors in attendance, all from PSL football teams.
“Being here was very helpful in getting some exposure,” said Renaissance High’s Dwight Harvey, a 5-10, 190-pound running back.
“I was able to talk with different colleges and I feel good about it. I had quite a few say they’re going to look at my highlight tape and will get back with me. I just need an offer so I can get to college with nothing to pay.”
Brandon Mitchell, a 5-8, 170-pound running back and defensive back from Southeastern, also came away with a positive vibe.
“I wanted to get my name out there and give the colleges a little insight into who I am,” he said. “I wanted them to know I’m interested in them instead of them just being interested in me. This is a good opportunity to move forward. I’m very confident that something good is going to come from this.”
The DPSL event was the second part of a two-day recruiting affair that began Tuesday with the seventh annual Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Wayne County Recruiting Fair at Dearborn Edsel Ford High School.
The Wayne County event gave PSL coaches time to meet with the college coaches, talk about their graduating seniors and establish relationships, laying the groundwork for Wednesday’s event. Among the colleges represented were Adrian, Albion, Alma, Aurora, Bluffton, Dupage, Concordia (Ann Arbor), Cortland, Earlham, Ferris State, Finlandia, Hillsdale, Hope, Lakeland, Lincoln, Livingston, Malone, Manchester, Miles, North Carolina A&T, Northwood, Olivet, Savannah State, Siena Heights, Trine, Walsh, Wooster, Saginaw Valley, Grand Valley, Findlay, Heidleburg, Ohio Northern, Defiance.
“All of our kids can go somewhere,” Western High head coach Andre Harlan said. “It’s just a matter of what they’re willing to do and being prepared.
“I tell my players there’s more schools than just Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. If you want to play college football, go where your talents take you. You might be an Olivet or an Alma guy. It’s college football and it’s about getting a chance to get your degree.”
Ferris State head coach Tony Annese came with two assistants and a big recruiting inducement – the brand new trophy his Bulldogs just won as champions of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“Three years ago, most people knew me as the head coach of Grand Rapids Community College and we made a living off Detroit kids there,” Annese said. “To now have that GLIAC trophy three years later is pretty special. We’ve had great luck with DPSL players, but sometimes it’s been hard to get in the schools and organize our day in Detroit to recruit. That’s what makes this event so incredible. You have the players and coaches come together in one venue.”
“This is great for the PSL and it’s something we can build on,” said event organizer Mike Kostoff. “The college coaches are so ecstatic to have one location because it makes it easier to recruit the city of Detroit. We all have to work together to build this up. In particular, the high school coaches have to continue to stress the importance of GPA (grade point average) and have to educate their kids on NCAA rules and qualifications as early as possible.”
“We’ve got all the city’s kids here in one spot, and they’re coming with transcripts in hand so you can see right off if they’re compatible with our school,” said Marcus Gill, assistant director of admissions and multi-cultural coordinator at Albion College.
“We’re talking with some bright young men who can play football. They’re athletes but we’ve got a lot of capable students, here, too. That allows you to get right to the point and nobody’s time is wasted.”
“This kind of event allows you to see a lot of kids without traveling all over, so you actually save a lot of time,’’ said Hope College defensive coordinator Mike Ricketts. “There’s talent here. That makes it worthwhile.”
Aaron James, the assistant coach at Miles College, made the trip from Birmingham, Ala. in search of linemen, linebackers, defensive backs and tight ends. And he wasn’t disappointed.
“There’s a lot of talent in the building,’’ he said. “A lot of guys in here have the academics and the athletic talent that will serve them well in their future goals. I’m glad I came. I’ll be back next year.”
Miles is one of 46 historically black colleges and universities with a football program, and getting more HBCUs at future PSL recruiting events is part of the growth plan. Other HBCUs in attendance Wednesday was Lincoln University (Mo.) and North Carolina A&T.
“Detroit has a lot of people with HBCU roots, but there’s not a big HBCU presence up here recruiting,” North Carolina A&T running back coach Shawn Gibbs said.
“We wanted to get into a city like Detroit, a major predominantly black city, and see what we can do. There’s definitely talent here. Mainly, I wanted to establish some relationships with (PSL) coaches not only for this year but for the future. Guys have been gracious and welcomed me and I appreciate that. It won’t be a one-time visit.”
All PSL seniors were instructed to arrive at Cass Tech with copies of their transcript, a bio (including name, school, home address, email address, and phone number) and enough copies of their highlight tape, or a website link, to be seen by every coach. The PSL’s two luxury buses were used to transport the student-athletes to the event, one bus for west side schools and the other for east side schools.
“I want to commend Aaron Walter (DPS assistant director of transportation) and the drivers (Deborah Whatley and Richard Milliner) for getting everybody to Cass Tech on time,’’ said Alvin Ward, DPS Office of Athletics executive director.
“The main thing we wanted to do is make sure that all of our student-athletes had the opportunity to be involved in the recruiting process. Some might not otherwise have gotten that opportunity. So this was something we needed to do.”
“This is only the beginning,” said event coordinator Garnett Mims, president of the NAAAA Detroit chapter. “Most of these kids had never talked to a college coach but today we made a difference. A lot more kids now have an option to go to college on scholarship and this event made that happen. It can only get bigger and better going forward.”
For photos of the PSL’s first College Coach-Student Exchange, click on the link to the Detroit Public School League page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152538344601099.1073742159.343538741098&type=1&l=c5d76da3c8