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Greater Baltimore High School Recruiting Night in Hampstead gives football players, coaches chance to connect

Francis Scott Key head coach Will Thompson (left) and offensive line coach David Gonzales (right) were at the 1st Annual Greater Baltimore High School Recruiting Night on Wednesday.
Francis Scott Key head coach Will Thompson (left) and offensive line coach David Gonzales (right) were at the 1st Annual Greater Baltimore High School Recruiting Night on Wednesday. (Kyle J. Andrews)

Francis Scott Key coach Will Thompson came up with an idea to gather each high school football program in Carroll County for a recruiting night with the fall high school season postponed.

The idea was to have the first Greater Baltimore High School Recruiting Night to get players exposure. Then, it expanded.

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Forty programs were in attendance Wednesday night at Hampstead Volunteer Fire Hall to make pitches to mostly Division II and III schools. The participants included coaches from public schools Winters Mill, Westminster, Manchester Valley, Dundalk, New Town, Dulaney, Milford Mill, Catonsville, Woodlawn, Patapsco, Owings Mills, Wilde Lake, Long Reach and Marriotts Ridge, as well as Pallotti and Annapolis Area Christian of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association.

“I reached out to several other high school guys that I talked to — a couple of college coaches — Coach [Dan] Beard at Millersville and Coach [Brock] McCullough at Shenandoah and I was like, ‘What would they think about doing something like this for our kids right now, something positive?’” Thompson said. “So many kids don’t have outlets right now and the college guys thought it was a terrific idea.”

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The goal for the high school coaches was to promote their players and to bring attention to their abilities to college programs. The forum was not open to players or parents to attend. Several coaches presented video highlights to college coaches and discussed how each of their players would fit within the respective programs.

Shenandoah, Bowie State, Bloomsburg, St. Vincent College, Alderson Broaddus, Millersville, Juniata, Franklin & Marshall, Apprentice School, Seton Hill, Widener, Catholic University, Chestnut Hill, Stevenson, Allegheny College, Fairleigh Dickinson, Shepherd, Albright, Steel-City Prep (post graduate), Alvernia, Gettysburg, Fairmont St., Waynesburg, ASA-Miami (junior college), Kentucky Christian and Methodist University were among the schools that were recruiting at the event.

Stevenson assistant and defensive backs coach Rod White has made it a priority to be at such events. One of the key factors is to recruit the area and make sure that the players stay close to home.

He was glad to see the high school coaches there for their players.

“A lot of them were prepared with prospect lists, transcripts, and most importantly they were honest about the players,” White said. “They told you what players can and can’t do. The worst thing is for a coach to lie and oversell you a kid. We want to keep the best talent in the area. Any recruiting event in Maryland area, we’ll always be in attendance.”

Many of the high school staff members played small-school college football, so their understanding of the recruiting process proved valuable. Thompson played at Bridgewater; Francis Scott Key assistant Clayton Vleck was a standout running back at his alma mater and recently wrapped up his college career at Misericordia; and offensive line coach David Gonzales played at Lackawanna from 2014 to 2015 and recently coached wide receivers at the same program.

“When they are making decisions and having to decide, ‘Hey, am I going to have to decide between schools and major in what I want or play at a school and major in what I want to major in,' a lot goes into it," Gonzales said. "The costs as well — obviously, a lot of the smaller schools, especially even Division II, they only can give out a small amount of full scholarships. There’s a lot more that ties into it as far as knowing what your cost is, how far you want to be — your major is a big thing and a lot of kids have specific majors.

“They understand ‘I’m going to school in order to set up for my future, as far as what I want to do for a career.' It’s not like they’re all preparing to go to Penn State, or Cal or Ohio State and go into the [NFL] draft. Some kids understand that they can play small-school ball and get an education, major in what they want to major in, and it’s good for these small schools to get that jump-start.”

Westminster coach Chris Bassler understands how important it is to get kids into colleges and universities of their choice. He played at West Virginia before joining McDaniel’s coaching staff in 2008. He then joined his alma mater Francis Scott Key’s staff as an offensive line and defensive line coach before becoming the head man at Westminster in 2019.

“I think it just gives me a good background about what college coaches are looking for and how understanding the process and how to educate my guys about how to navigate it a little better,” Bassler said.

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