- Jamie Newberg, RecruitingNation
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Saying the recruiting process can get a little wild and unpredictable is an understatement.
Case in point: Norcross (Ga.) High School junior running back Alvin Kamara, who opened up his mailbox in mid-February and discovered 105 letters from the University of Alabama.
"That was the craziest thing I have ever seen," Kamara said. "I have yet to go through all of them. Some were handwritten, others were fliers. Coach Smart [Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart] is recruiting me for them, and I called him up and we talked. He just said that they were trying to let me know just how badly they want me."
That's an attention grabber and something new for Kamara. It wasn't always like this. Before his junior season, he was just hoping to win the starting running back position at Norcross. During his sophomore season, he served as the backup to Kenny Hewitt, who is now at UT-Chattanooga.
"I really just came into my own last spring," Kamara said. "Sitting behind a senior as a sophomore taught me a lot of things. It gave me a chance to mature and learn. I played a role, and looking back it was such a good experience for me. Watching Kenny was great for me. He and I are close, and when he left he just said for me to keep doing what I have been doing."
Norcross coach Keith Maloof has had his share of prospects over the years, and he believes Kamara has a chance to be a great one.
"Alvin's explosiveness is unbelievable," Maloof said. "Once he gets through the line of scrimmage, he's gone. He has everything. Alvin is big enough to get between tackles and quick enough to get on the edge or downfield. And catching the ball is a big asset for him. He's not just not a runner but a pure athlete."
Kamara, 5-foot-10 and 198 pounds, actually didn't receive his first scholarship offer (Syracuse) until midway through his junior season.
"That first one was mind-boggling" Kamara said. "I was on my way to school. It was a Friday. My phone died before school so I charged it up. Right before pregame I got a text message from [Norcross recruiting coordinator] Reggie Stancil, and he was congratulating me on my first offer. It was surreal. I called him and he said Syracuse offered. I was like, 'Wow.' I don't go into Friday nights thinking about recruiting, but I did that night against North Gwinnett."
Kamara rushed for 1,500 yards as a junior and has added offers from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn, USC, Florida, Clemson and many others.
"That doesn't surprise me at all," Maloof said. "It's what I expected after seeing the things he did last season."
But it wasn't just on the field where Kamara made an impression. He was smart enough to watch players like senior wide receiver Jason Croom, who signed with Tennessee, to learn how to handle the recruiting process.
"We have had a lot of talented guys here," Stancil said. "And they were all hugely recruited. At one time Jason wasn't 'the guy' but then became 'the guy.' Now it's Alvin's time, and he will be just like those guys and then some. He was a backup and everyone can see how it worked out. It's always great to have someone show them the way, and that's what Jason and Kenny did. They showed him the ropes and how to work and take on stuff like that."
Croom committed to the Vols before the start of his senior season, but chances are Kamara will wait a little longer. After all, he's still learning from Croom.
"We speak on a daily basis, and Jason tells me to just stay humble," Kamara said. "He's telling me from his experience. He told me to wait on the commitment. I know he wishes he would have waited. He told me to take advantage of the opportunity I have in front of me."
Kamara has had a chance to visit some schools and attend some junior days. So far he has made trips to Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Florida.
"I want to see Tennessee and Clemson, for sure," Kamara said. "I want to go everywhere. I feel like it's the opposite with me and Jason. He committed before our first game, and I think that will be too early for me. I still have 10 games and the college season. Things change. I think I will commit late. I know if I do something early, I could miss out on an opportunity."
It's already been a wild ride for Kamara, and the May evaluation period hasn't even begun. The folks at Norcross are expecting the unexpected next month and this fall.
"I think this will be one of those that will be real crazy," Stancil said. "Alvin blew up earlier than the others. This spring will be one of those springs like when [San Diego State wide receiver] Brice Butler came out. Back then the head coaches could come, and Pete Carroll, Charlie Weis and all those guys came to practice. They may not be here this time, but every school will be around to show [Alvin] some love."
For Kamara, he's just taking it all in. He has an idea of what he's looking for, but just doesn't quite know where he will call home just yet.
"I am open with the process and still floating around with it. I am forming a mock list in my head," Kamara said. "The main thing I am looking for is to be comfortable. I have to find that fit. I have to get along with the coaching staff and have a good bond. Playing time is not that much of a factor because I know I will earn it, especially with my versatility. I will go in and work hard and do all the things I need to do. Playing time will come. I have already learned that."
After finding 100-plus letters in his mailbox one day, Watch List RB Alvin Kamara quickly figured out how crazy the process can be, writes Jamie Newberg.