|Wednesday, October 2
Diary: Gators make an impression
By Chris Leak with Wayne Drehs
Special to ESPN.com
Two months into this recruiting process and the telephone has yet to ring.
My Dad set up my own private phone line so coaches could just call my directly and not bug my Mom or Dad, but so far, it's been a waste. The only people that call me are reporters and websites who want to know the latest.
But I'm not going to complain. This is a long, grueling process. I'm sure at some point, there will be a time when the phone won't stop ringing. Until then, coaches are busy with their own players and their own challenges -- not the future. And I completely understand.
For now, Tennessee is still the leader. And nobody has really done anything to narrow the gap. But anything is possible. I know I'm definitely going to schedule an official visit to both Tennessee and Notre Dame. Those are the only two certainties. Penn State would like me to come out for an official. So would Florida State. And Florida has suggested that I come after the season, so Rex Grossman could be my host. Obviously, he doesn't have a whole lot of extra time to take me around during the season. But for now, Tennessee and Notre Dame are the only sure things.
Each of the last two weekends, I went to Knoxville. Last week, I went as a fan to watch my brother C.J. against Rutgers. Two weeks ago I went on an unofficial visit at the Florida game.
Before the Florida game, I was hanging with my brother on the field during warm-ups and Coach Fulmer came over to say hello. He shook my hand and asked how my game went the night before.
A lot of people ask me how a game like that -- between two teams I'm considering -- effects my recruiting decision. I'd be lying if I said it didn't matter. Certainly how a team performs on the field will be one of the factors I consider when I choose a school. I mean, you look at a school like Notre Dame and the offense that Tyrone Willingham has put in there. Obviously, South Bend is a more attractive place at 4-0 than 0-4.
As for the Florida game, the one thing I took out of that was how impressed I was with Grossman and the Gators. It's kind of funny to be on a visit at Tennessee and leave the game impressed by Florida, but that's what happened. As for the Vols, you have to give them a break. I mean, what can you do when you fumble the ball eight times? Nothing.
As for my own team, we have a chance to make history this weekend against our archrival, West Charlotte. With a win, we will have won 36 straight games, breaking the Mecklenburg County record set by Harding High from 1951-53. The state record is a ways off, at 46 games, but this is certainly something special. Any record that has stood for half a century means a lot.
But it won't be easy. Over the years, their program is one of the strongest in the state. Last week, their quarterback, Ren McKinnon, was the area player of the week, rushing for 108 yards and five touchdowns while throwing for 181 yards and a touchdown.
This is our big rivalry game. Our head coach, Tom Knotts, left West Charlotte to come here, so he has seen both sides of it. This is a game that both of us want to have for city bragging rights.
Ask Chris Leak
Chris Leak: Oh yeah. Most definitely. We have some young, talented guys that nobody knows anything about yet, but will be big contributors once they're given the chance. These guys stand on the sideline and watch the seniors, watch what we do, how we execute, how we handle ourselves on and off the field and they will be ready to contribute once they get the chance.
Your brother made everyone's head spin when he picked Wake Forest over a few big-time programs, but then of course he decided that it wasn't a good fit and transferred. What will you do to make sure that you make the right decision the first time? And how has he helped you?
Chris Leak: I mean, he's basically told me to go with my heart. Go where my heart is. Go where I feel most comfortable. Obviously he's a little biased, he'd like me at Tennessee, but he genuinely encourages me to go where I'm going to be the happiest. I mean, if you go where you're not happy, it isn't going to be a fun experience. Being happy and feeling good about yourself are the two main things. And that's what he encourages.
What is the biggest or most annoying part of the college recruiting process?
Chris Leak: I haven't found it yet if there is one. I guess maybe finding a place where all the letters go. I mean, right now, I can't find any more mail crates to keep up with all the mail. I've got six crates filled already. Every time I get mail I read it and then stuff it in a box. But the box is full. So now I'm trying to gather up some shoeboxes to store things.
If you sign with Tennessee, what will it be like competing with you brother for the starting position? And won't he be upset if you beat him out for the job his senior year?
Chris Leak: Well, my brother and I know that we're both going to learn from each other in practice. I mean, our case is that the best man will play. We both know that. We're brothers. We love each other to death. Just to be out there with each other and the same team competing for a job would be fun. As for the second part of your question, I doubt that would ever happen. I mean, I am miles and miles and miles behind him right now.
ESPN.com is following quarterback Chris Leak on his journey from high school to the college ranks. Leak is writing a diary about his recruitment, and there will be weekly updates on the recruiting process through Signing Day on Feb. 5, 2003.
Send in your questions and Chris will answer a few in his next diary.