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Editor's Note: As the 2016-2017 school year approaches, many young athletes are preparing to step foot on the field, court or golf course. Many of those athletes have dreams of playing in college, but how does an athlete get to the next level?
That’s the question that we look to answer in this series, X’s and O’s of the recruiting process. For the next four weeks, we will talk with people who have seen the recruiting process unfold from different angles during their careers. We will talk with a former recruiting department employee, coaches and players that have earned scholarships or walked on to a university team.
While the focus will be primarily on football recruiting, the advice is still applicable to volleyball, basketball and track athletes as well. The process is nearly the same across all sports. While there may be slight variances in the way it is carried out, the idea is still the same. The biggest thing an athlete needs to do is get exposure. There are various ways to get that exposure to colleges and we will discuss that over the duration of the series.
In part three of our series this week, we speak with former Husker and NFL wide receiver Brandon Kinnie. Kinnie is currently among the top 15 receivers in school history for receptions and his three touchdown performance against Oklahoma State in 2010 is tied for the best performance in school history. He spent time explaining his journey to college football and what lessons other athletes can learn from him.
Playing college sports can be a very rewarding experience for a player, but there are many things to consider when deciding where to go and how to get there.
Brandon Kinnie, originally a Kansas City, Mo. product, played wide receiver for the Nebraska Cornhuskers from 2009 to 2012 after transferring from Fort Scott Community College. After graduating, he went on to spend time in the National Football League with the Kansas City Chiefs before joining the Omaha Beef.
Thanks to his journey from Kansas City to a top level football player, Kinnie has seen many highs and lows when trying to continue his career, particularly during the college recruiting process.
An outstanding natural athlete, Kinnie teamed up with future professional quarterback Josh Freeman in high school, a combination that first helped him get college’s attention. He began hearing from colleges as a sophomore in high school. He was celebrated for his athletic ability so much so that he didn’t make the other part of “student-athlete” a priority.
“I wasn’t as focused as I should have been in high school,” Kinnie admitted.
That lack of focus lead to poor academics for him and, after initially committing to join Freeman at Kansas State, Kinnie was forced to attend Junior College to improve his grades. While he was still able to reach his goal of playing D1 football, it was a much more difficult route. Kinnie said he hopes his journey to correct his academics can be a lesson for young athletes looking to attend a top college.
Aside from his academics, Kinnie’s biggest regret about the recruiting process is that he didn’t attend more camps to get his name out there more.
“If I had to tell the young guys anything, it’d definitely be to go out to those camps and work out and get in front of the coaches,” he said. “I wish I would have went to more.”
The one camp he did attend was a camp put on by scout.com in Iowa. His performance at that camp gave his recruitment a noticeable boost, one that many top athletes can get from attending camps.
When he started talking with potential colleges, it was Kinnie’s high school coaches that helped him figure out what was important to look for. They determined he needed to find a place that his play would be appreciated, where he could get a good team atmosphere and a place he could simply enjoy the experiences of being a college athlete.
He also made a point to ask potential coaches questions of his own. Kinnie said it is important to find out as much information as you can about a school, especially the information that is most important to you. Find out what the opportunities for playing time will be for yourself. Get a good idea of how easy the playbook will be for you to learn so you aren’t held off the field because of difficulties learning it. Also, find out about every day life at the school, including life off the field.
It is important visit potential schools as well. Doing so gives an prospect the chance to see the campus, meet coaches and professors and get a feel for the atmosphere of the program. When looking at transfer schools after his time in junior college, Kinnie committed to Nebraska because of what he experienced on his visit. His mom joined him and enjoyed the school. He loved the atmosphere, particularly during the spring game. He also enjoyed the school because it was near his home, which allowed his mom more chances to watch him play.
While Kinnie advised athletes to focus on their grades, attend camps and visit various schools, his final piece of advice is the most vital to him.
“Most importantly, just have fun with the process,” he said.
When people set large goals for themselves, they often work so hard at reaching their milestone that they forget to enjoy the process. Kinnie wants athletes to remember to enjoy the time practicing, training and playing football in high school. Learn the game and learn to enjoy it. Keep your body in shape and make memories doing so. Control what you can control on the field, and enjoy the game regardless of where it takes you.