|Jake Fisher is surrounded by U-M football and basketball coaches.
As many high school seniors are discussing college plans with parents and counselors, two of Traverse City's elite high school athletes -- Jake Fisher of TC West and Mack Sovereign of TC Central -- have been on college recruiting whirlwinds for some two years, complete with camps, travel to campuses around the country, and recruiting visits by coaches from Ann Arbor to the East Coast.
Both football phenoms are finally settling into their decisions about where to study and compete next year, and provided The Ticker an inside glimpse into the world of blue-chip college recruiting, Traverse City-style.
"It's made me a lot more humble"
At 6'7" and nearly 300 pounds, Jake Fisher makes college coaches salivate. His power and quickness have attracted attention from major colleges for years. Just yesterday, Jake was named to the Detroit Free Press' prestigious "Dream Team" of the finest high school football players in Michigan.
As such, Jake got exposed to college recruiting earlier than most.
"It started my sophomore year," he tells us, taking a break from a chat with a college coach visiting TC West. "But it really intensified last spring, when they [coaches] started to come see me and talk to me. Then summer hits, and I went to several camps to meet coaches and get evaluated by them. I went to the Midwest Elite Camp, as well as Michigan, Michigan State, Cincinnati, and then Michigan again. I also visited Eastern and Western to make sure I had seen everything."
What were all those coaches looking for? A great player to be sure, but a well-rounded person too, says Jake. "You want to make sure that you're excelling in other things other than just football."
Jake had a few clear priorities driving his decision.
"I wanted to decide early, so I could focus on school and my senior year and not worry about getting hurt. I also wanted to pick a place where I loved the coaches in particular, because they're basically your next family."
So Jake and his family selected University of Michigan, where he's considered among their best recruits for next season. "I really fell in love with Michigan and their coaches," he tells us (and no, he's not worried about Head Coach Rich Rodriguez's potential firing. "It's on my mind, but I like the school a lot, so that's also a big part of my decision.").
So what's the process like?
"It's whatever you want to make it," Jake says. "If you let it stress you out it can, but I learned a lot about myself. People think you're a big star athlete, but I'm just another person. My thing's football, yours might be academics or whatever. It's made me a lot more humble."
"I committed to a college I still haven't seen!"
Mack Sovereign's situation was different. He and his parents spent last summer touring Ivy League colleges, hoping Mack's 3.95 grade point average would help him land at a top-notch university. And yet, Ivy League schools don't offer football scholarships, so he was expecting he might have to "settle" for what's considered more of a second- or third-tier football school.
Still, Mack's work ethic on the field and classroom was evident in his college pursuit, too.
"I started with twenty schools, and sent them my film. And then I stayed on it…I registered myself on a popular recruiting web site, emailed the coaches, just trying to get in their ear. In the summer I attended camps at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, and Notre Dame. And then the school year begins and it just feels good to play games, something you can actually control yourself."
"[The process] is a little uncomfortable at times. As athletes, we just want to play, but you're kind of a product at some points, selling yourself," he reflects.
As decision time approached, Mack was getting nervous. Then, just three days before the deadline, he received a call from Duke University -- a school he hadn't visited nor pitched.
"They weren't on my radar screen at all, because I didn't think I had a chance at a Division One school. I committed to a college I still haven't seen!"
Mack wasn't offered a scholarship, but is guaranteed a spot on the team, where he can showcase his skills and hopefully earn one.
"I was totally pumped to get that news. It's pretty awesome."