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Being the Big Men on Campus
The “Greenwich Three” - Princeton’s Chris Bisanzo, Tucker Stafford, and Jonathan Meyers - talk a little but about their recruiting experiences.
Ever wonder what it’s like to be the Big Man on Campus? Mr. Football. Mr. College Coaches Fall Over Themselves to Get Me. Must be pretty cool, right? Maybe.
Last Wednesday, three Greenwich High football players made things official when they announced their college intentions. All-Stater Chris Bisanzo, a two-way lineman, and Tucker Stafford, the Cardinals’ 6-foot-5 quarterback, accepted scholarships and signed National Letters of Intent with Georgetown University. Teammate Jonathan Meyers, an All-State linebacker and fullback, eschewed several of the big-time football factories and committed to the Ivy League and Princeton (The Ivies do not use Letters of Intent).
Throughout the Cardinals’ 11-1 Class LL state championship season, and probably even before that, these three lived the life most apple-pie loving little boys toting their footballs home from school and wearing pants with holes in the knees dream about. Whether that is entirely good or bad is to be determined.
From late August until Signing Day, a day didn’t go past without classmates bopping up and asking where each might be continuing his education and football career. Girls who never glanced their way began fawning. When they got home, there was a mailbox full of cool college brochures to study. College coaches called. Even reporters. Pretty cool, huh? Most men crave that kind of doting.
“It’s definitely cool to get that first letter,” Stafford said. “And the first couple of visits I took (to colleges), that was cool, too. I went to BC (Boston College) with Chris and it was such a good feeling. It was unbelievable.”
Perspective can change.
After all, for five long months a day didn’t pass without classmates wondering aloud or suggesting aloud where each of these Big Men on Campus would continue their education and football careers ad nauseum. When they got home, their mailboxes turned into some kind of collegiate football brochure junk-mail watering hole. College coaches called and called and called. Reporters called and called and called. Darn voice mailbox is full again.
National Letter of Intent signing day is like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in more ways than one. Not only does it make college football a reality, it also signals an end to a nerve-wracking process.
It’s a day to exhale.
“It was fun, exciting, exhausting it’s a lot,” said Bisanzo.
It’s also the day to end the madness.
For Bisanzo, Stafford and Meyers, the three most highly recruited Cardinals in an outstanding senior group - and three of the most recruited players statewide, for that matter - being the Big Man on Campus is a one-year deal. And it isn’t a game. These are hard decisions. Good decisions? Yes. No one is crying for kids privileged enough to have colleges basically throwing $150,000-$250,000 at them. But they are tough decisions, nonetheless.
“People think that when you’re recruited and accept a scholarship that you are just handed a spot at a top-notch college,” Bisanzo said. “That’s just not the case. There is so much that goes into it.”
Said Stafford, “After the first few months, that’s when the real business starts. Until then, it’s just a lot of talk; fun and games. But none of it means anything until you get that scholarship offer, until you are told that you’ve been accepted into the class. Until then, you just do a lot of wondering. You never really know where you are on someone’s (recruiting) depth chart.”
Stafford’s right on target. Forget the idealism for a moment. Colleges and universities are businesses. And don’t kid yourself, football programs are as well. There’s a bottom line that everyone is accountable for. Recruit enough kids who don’t measure up, and you, as a football coach, are out of a job - which is why they call and call and call.
“They’re all looking for good football players, yes,” Bisanzo said. “But every one of them is also very concerned with getting high-character people. It’s a business decision for them. They’re making a big investment in you.”
For Bisanzo and Stafford, they’ll take their four-year business trip together. When talking about getting to spend another four or five years in school and on the field with Stafford, Bisanzo’s grin is as wide as the clown’s mouth on the last hole at a mini-golf course.
“It’s a dream come true for me. I’m going to college with my best friend.”
Irony being what it is, when he and Stafford talked about what to do and where to go, Bisanzo fell back on some of the same stuff everyone else tried.
“Yeah, I was always in his ear, telling him, ‘C’mon, go to Georgetown,’” he said.
Can you blame him?
Being the Big Men on Campus
As I See It
By Scott Ferrari