My 10th Kansas University football signing day included the best quote I have heard at one, and it was spoken Wednesday by first-year head coach David Beaty.
“We don’t care what anybody else thinks,” Beaty said. “We only care what we think.”
Why let somebody assigning stars next to names determine what players you’re going to coach for the next four or five years?
If Clint Bowen cared what anybody else thought about Darrell Stuckey, he wouldn’t have stood on the table and pleaded for the permission to offer him a scholarship. At that point, Emporia State was the next-best football program offering. Wyoming later offered. Utah and Kansas offered Aqib Talib; Tulsa and KU wanted Chris Harris. All three defensive backs not only played for 12-1 Orange Bowl champions, they played in last month’s Pro Bowl, the NFL’s all-star game.
St. Louis Cardinals ace Joaquin Andujar once said baseball could be summed up in one word, and the same one word that he used also applies to signing day: “Youneverknow.”
No, you don’t. Highlight videos only show the outside of a young athlete. And they only show what his body looks like as a teenager. It’s not until they arrive at school and begin to work at what Beaty accurately called “two jobs,” student and athlete, that recruits start to show how things might work out.
There was no way of knowing that James Holt would hit the weight room so hard and practice daily with such consistent focus that he would turn himself into an outstanding Big 12 defensive end/outside linebacker until he did it.
You find the athletes you think you can develop, push them hard, instruct them relentlessly and see which ones get better, which ones fade away.
Two players, one who has a chance to start immediately, another who has exciting raw gifts and so much to learn, made for interesting stories on signing day.
Dorance Armstrong, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound defensive end from North Shore High in Houston, has the potential to step in right away for Michael Reynods at defensive end. He had offers from California, Michigan State, Texas Tech and several others of that caliber or close to it.
“This is a guy who can probably get to 260 and still run,” Beaty beamed. “We’re really fired up about this guy. He was not an easy get.”
Defensive coordinator Bowen and defensive-line coach Calvin Thibodeaux made the home visit.
“Calvin’s eating all the spaghetti,” Bowen told a gathering of KU football fans Wednesday night at Abe and Jake’s. “The little brother doesn’t even get any because Calvin eats it all. Anyway, we’re sitting there, all of a sudden there’s a knock at the door. It was some people (two assistant coaches) from down the road, our old nemesis, Missouri.”
Time to stall, take their time leaving, hog the family’s time and attention, leaving their competitors with less of both.
“Dorance’s mom, she’s a great lady, she was just about out because Calvin kept telling her all these boring stories,” Bowen said. “Finally, we leave. We get out to the parking lot, and I had to hold my man Calvin back. I thought we were going to have a little throw-down with these Missouri coaches, which would have been the highlight of recruiting. Calvin did a great job recruiting (Armstrong.)”
Beaty and Bowen lauded wide-receivers coach Klint Kubiak for finding safety Denzel Feaster.
“Klint Kubiak went through every little school in central Texas you could imagine, and he wound up at (Austin) Manor High School, and he found a guy who had been playing quarterback his entire career, except for his last five games,” Beaty said. “... Nobody else went in there, except for Klint. He went in there, and he opened the door, and he talked to the coach, and he called me and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a guy I feel really strongly about.’ Klint’s kind of a young guy (27). That was his way of standing on the table. He sent me the video, and I took a look at it.”
Obviously, he liked it, and so did the defensive coaches.
“This guy, for a guy who hasn’t played the position, he’s got instincts,” Beaty said of Feaster, listed at 6-3, 195 pounds. “He’ll come downhill, and he will knock the fire out of you.”
College football is all about development, especially at a school such as Kansas.
“I’m excited about what the future looks like with Denzel Feaster,” Beaty said. “He was here last weekend, and the thing that I loved about him is when we offered him the scholarship, he shed a tear. He wants to be here.”
So does Beaty. How refreshing.