The end result involves a pen, a letter of intent, enough handshakes that a bottle of Purell best be handy and posing for a lot of pictures.

But the process of becoming a scholarship athlete begins long before today's National Signing Day.

And it has nothing to do with athletic ability.

Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe, along with some Ahwatukee Foothill residents attending school outside of the district, will have several students sign letters of intent to continue their athletic careers at a variety of institutions today.

"The first thing you have to do is market yourself," said John Theriault, founder of, a social-network type website that helps high school students earn scholarships or jobs. "The first time a coach mentions you will be on varsity, that's when the process should start."

There are so many pitfalls, unknowns and misnomers out there that parents and athletes need guidance.

Two things have to be there before it even gets started - grades and athletic ability - otherwise it ends right there. College coaches are not going to even look if they feel a player can't qualify or compete.

"Players don't get overlook anymore because of the Internet," Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. "They find out if you can play or not. They'll know, but if the grades aren't there it doesn't matter anyway."

Most varsity coaches can get the family started at the very least, but there are varying degrees of involvement from coaches. Some do everything possible, some are spread too thin with multiple recruits to give the proper attention and some can't or won't help because of a lack of knowledge or they lack the desire to help at all.

The latter rarely happens, but it is what moved Theriault to become involved. The Peoria resident was a sports writer in the Chicago area for years. He came across a high school football coach who said his job was to get them through four years and that their college careers was something separate from that.

Helping student athletes earn scholarships has become his passion. He is going to host a free clinic either Feb. 14 or 15 at Agua Fria High School in Avondale on the basics of finding a way to earn a scholarship. Check out for updated information as the date gets closer.

In addition to the self-promotion (highlight tape, getting to combines and camps, e-mailing coaches, etc.) the other most important thing is having a reality check.

If an athlete is heading into his senior year and hasn't heard from a Division I school then the focus has to turn to more realistic goals. Smaller divisions need just as many players and probably provide more opportunities than being a walk-on at Pac-10 or Big 12 program.

"There is nothing wrong with going to a JUCO (junior college) and developing into a Division I player," Theriault said. "It doesn't always work that way, of course, but that is the best route for some.

"You have to figure out what is the best course of action for you. Just because your teammate is going to School A doesn't mean that is the option for you."

All cases are different, no question.

Mountain Pointe has two football players in completely different scenarios.

Freshman Jalen Brown was named to some national all-freshmen teams and has already started receiving attention from Division I programs. As long as he continues to progress, Brown should be able to pick where he wants to go by the time he is a senior.

His wide receiver counterpart, Garrett Holle, had a minimal junior season (five catches), considered the most important in the recruiting stage, before breaking out his senior year with 51 catches, 900-plus yards and nine touchdowns.

"It's not impossible to get a scholarship if you are a late bloomer," said Theriault, who helps with all sports, not just football. "It can be done. If you have only five or six catches as a junior then you have to make the most of it. There are 30 other plays where you are blocking or making special team plays. You can still get it done."

Holle did.

After minimal interest to start, Holle committed to Mesa College State, a Division II program in Colorado, last week and was scheduled to take a trip to Fort Hays State University in Kansas.

Other Mountain Pointe commitments expected (as of deadline) were linebacker Izzy Marshall (Arizona State), defensive end J.R. Plote (South Dakota State), tight end T.J. Holtrop (Baker University), Chris Carl (Glendale Community College) and Chad Papineau (Glendale or Mesa community colleges).

Desert Vista has tight end Sean Coffinger (Columbia University) with two other possibilities in wide receiver Mike Ingrassia (Ivy League, probably Princeton) and lineman Jalon Bibbs (Northern State University has offered, and he visited over the weekend).

Vaughan said one of the biggest misconceptions out there is the importance of stats.

"They don't care how many home runs you hit or how many touchdowns you scored," Vaughan said. "It doesn't matter what I say. They'll know if you can play and make their decision.

"Then it comes down to finding the right place. It's fine for a parent to believe in a kid, but they have to be realistic and maybe look at other places. Go there and let them do what they can do and then maybe develop into a higher player."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.