- DJ Gallo, ESPN.com
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Last month, Kentucky offered a football scholarship to a seventh-grader, 13-year-old defensive back Jairus Brents of Hazelwood Middle School in New Albany, Ind., who tips the scales at 152 pounds.
The Wildcats are part of a trend in college football of recruiting younger and younger. Washington recently received an oral commitment from a quarterback who will enter eighth grade this year, while LSU offered a scholarship to Dylan Moses, a Baton Rouge, La., linebacker who capped seventh-grade with an ESPN The Magazine cover.
If 13-year-olds and middle schoolers are being recruited today, it's not long before top programs begin recruiting even younger talent.
But how? How can coaches recruit the top little kids? What are the best ways to get through to children to convince them to commit to a college football program long before they may even commit to a favorite cartoon?
By referring to this Childhood Recruiting Guide, developed using childhood developmental milestones, that's how.
After birth, a baby sleeps through the majority of each day. This is an important time for a recruiter to be present. For the few times a newborn is awake with its eyes open each day, a recruiter needs to be there so the baby can see him and hopefully develop a lasting bond.
At 2 months, a child will develop the ability to smile. This can serve as an important indicator to a recruiter as to whether the initial efforts worked. If the baby is not smiling on a house visit, it may be smart to cut your losses and focus efforts on other top-rated 2-month-olds.
Children can begin to grasp objects at 3 months. This is the time to first hand the baby an official recruiting letter. Just be careful he doesn't try to eat it and begin choking.
A baby will begin to laugh and also can imitate some sounds. Try to get it to laugh at the poor bowl records of inferior conferences and programs. Also, it may be worth attempting to have the baby mimic the following sounds into a recording device: "I am verbally committing to [your school]."
At 6 months of age, a baby can begin moving objects from hand to hand. If recruiting a 6-month-old who plays an offensive skill position, this is a good time to test his ball security.
By now, a baby is able to respond to his own name. If you were worried before that recruiting a newborn possibly might have been foolish, now is the time to redouble all previous efforts by addressing the child by name. He will now know that your recruiting efforts are directed at him specifically, and not someone or something else in the room.
Most babies can crawl and says "mama" and "dada" by 9 months. A five-star baby also likely will be able to say "Bama" at this point.
At 1 year, a child is able to walk with support. Now is the time to lead him to your campus for a recruiting visit. What would a child want to see on a recruiting trip? Probably the same things a typical teenage recruit would like: shiny objects and big-busted females.
At 18 months, a child usually is walking on its own and can say approximately 15 words. If a recruiter has successfully adhered to the above guidelines, there is no reason those 15 words should not be: "After long and careful deliberation, I have chosen to take my football talents to [school]."
A 2-year-old can run and jump and also will enjoy make-believe play. Now is the time to test the child's 40 and vertical leap to see how he projects ahead 16 years, when he will first take a college football field. A more traditional recruiting approach used on teenagers can begin now, too, as making huge, unrealistic promises to the child and his parents can be categorized as make-believe play.
A child at 3 should be able to sort objects based on shape and color. Schedule a news conference for the toddler and see if he can correctly pick your school's hat from those of other programs also recruiting him.
At this age, a child can draw circles and squares. Look to get him some college art credits that will lessen his course load once he arrives on campus. A 4-year-old also should be able to ride a tricycle. Do any big-pocketed boosters own a tricycle dealership? You know what to do.
A 5-year-old not only can run and jump, he can hop and skip, too. Note the child's agility and weigh whether he projects to the same position that he did when you tested his 40 and vertical jump at age 2. A 5-year-old also is able to get dressed by himself, so make sure he is supplied with as much team logo apparel as possible.
At this age, a child is able to enjoy many kinds of activities and can even practice them in order to improve. Just make sure he doesn't enjoy too many activities beyond football. If he does, consider backing off the recruit. There's no sense recruiting a 6-year-old who isn't committed 100 percent to football excellence.
Around this time, a child will begin to become more graceful and balanced in his physical movements. Many recruiters may now start knocking on his bedroom door (which likely will have a sign that reads: "No Girls Allowed!!"). Remind the recruit that you were there from the start. Literally. You showed up at his birth.
10 to 12 years
Many children at this age are able to read and write fairly easily. You can begin using bigger, two-syllable words in your recruitment letters. Also, if the child is truly able to read and write, consider asking him to tutor some of your current players in hopes of keeping them academically eligible.
If adhered to, this handy Childhood Recruiting Guide can give a program a head start on locking up highly rated classes from 2019 through 2031. Just be careful not to stray too far from NCAA rules, or these tiny recruits could really hurt your program.
Little kids are noted tattletales.