GRIZ GRIT: Diamonds in the Rough

By Beacon Staff

Football programs across the country announced this week who signed national letters of intent to attend their respective schools. These athletes intend to showcase their athletic skills, win games so as to hopefully make their way to the next level, and – oh, that’s right – get an education and perhaps earn a college degree.

Athletics for most is a means to an end and, whether you are among the very few to advance beyond collegiate competition, it’s no doubt the best and worst of times as you’ve left the family unit, in most cases for the first time, and embarked on life’s journey.

I’m often asked, and in fact someone just inquired about it last night, what I know about the new group of aspiring Grizzlies. Who is going to be a star? Who might contribute to the program’s success immediately? And, overall, during the heart of the basketball season, what looms in the future of Griz football?

Quite frankly, with the length of the time coaches spend on the road recruiting, I seldom see the football guys this time of the year unless they think basketball coach Wayne Tinkle has a player they believe could help them on the football field.

No, sophomore guard Will Cherry will not be playing in the Montana defensive backfield any time soon. But if you have seen him close on an opponent you know his hoop skills could be used on the gridiron.

But what is most interesting to me at this time of year, when some blue-chip players already have contacted the media to announce their athletic intentions (because coaches, who are prohibited from doing so, believe getting that into the press more readily cements a player’s aspirations), is that when the list of 20 or so players comes out there will be a bunch of them who won’t ever see the Washington-Grizzly Stadium field except from the stands.

Like the next person, I enjoy the speculation about the new crop and readily watch their high school or junior college highlight tapes when they’re available. But realize, fans, that the majority of the kids who end up signing a letter of intent may have been the best player at their level but their level does not necessarily equate to being a Division-I football player.

Conversely, as time has proven, not being offered even a partial D-I scholarship means little about whether a player will be a success in college.

While coaches pride themselves on the thoroughness of the recruiting process, remember, as far back as All-American Tim Hauck – who was not offered a scholarship at UM and initially played elsewhere – just like in the NFL Draft there always are diamonds in the rough. For example look no further that nth bevy of former Grizzlies who are currently being paid to play at the next level.

So keep that in mind when you peruse this week’s list and see if you can pick out an “X” factor player or another diamond in the rough.

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