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Remember when it was fun being a teenager trying to make a decision on where to attend college? Remember when athletes would sign with a college in front of just family and friends and not with the whole media circus that recruiting outlets and ESPN have provided over the years? Remember when National Signing Day didn't resemble the NFL draft, listing each player's strengths and weaknesses and turning high school gyms into sound stages on which recruits usually embarrass themselves by throwing hats off a table, yelling, "I can't go to (fill in your choice of school)"?
Odds are good that both Kevin Hart and Terrelle Pryor both wish that their national signing day appearances last week would have come and gone with little fanfare after the embarrassing performances that have come in the week since then.
The stories of these two high school football players are both mindboggling, but they show us how crazy the signing day hoopla has become in this country.
Hart was the pride of Fernley High School in Nevada, and many thought he was going to be the first Vaqueros player to receive a Division I football scholarship.
In front of television cameras and a packed high school gymnasium, the 6-foot-5-inch, 290-pound offensive lineman placed two hats on a table—a California Bears hat and an Oregon Ducks hat—and put the California hat on his head.
That was it, he cemented his commitment by putting the California hat on his head, telling reporters, "They really won me over. Coach Jeff Tedford and I talked a lot, and the fact that the head coach did most of the recruiting of me kind of gave me the real personal experience."
Unfortunately, there was a problem.
Nobody associated with either the California or Oregon programs had ever heard of the kid and he had ZERO scholarship offers. He wasn't recruited to play at Hamburger University, much less the University of California.
That's right, Hart made up the entire story.
When quizzed about why he made up the story, he simply said in a prepared statement, "I wanted to play D-I ball more than anything. When I realized that wasn't going to happen, I made up what I wanted to be reality."
Well, at least the kid took responsibility and lived up to his mistake, but then again, you have to wonder if he even had a choice. You have to think someone would find out before he ventured onto California's campus.
While that story is sad and embarrassing, odds are good Terrell Pryor, the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the country, wished he did make a decision on national signing day rather than deal with the actions of college football fans, who rushed to message boards screaming, "Who needs him?" or labeling the 18-year-old as a 'jerk."
"Rather than come up with a lie or sign with a school, Pryor decided he needed more time to make a decision rather than choose from Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Oregon.
And that did not sit well with fans of the respective teams, who now consider Pryor to be a prima donna who extended the recruiting process because he loves the cameras following his every move. Guess these fans are unaware of the fact that teenagers change their minds every seven seconds?
Or, perhaps, they missed the time Pryor said he is confused and doesn't want to disappoint anyone?
"I want to be fair to all the coaches," Pryor said.
Too bad the fans can't be fair to the kid.
Too bad the fans can't restrain themselves, but we see this in every nook and cranny of America—fans thinking they are the talent experts when the recruiting wars begin.
Over the last decade, I've covered various athletes on signing day, and I've worked for high school publications who declare themselves as "the official leader in recruiting," and every time I wonder if we take this a little too far.
Are we, as fans, putting too much stock and faith into teenagers when they reach for a hat, while we hold our breath?
The actions of last week would simply say yes.
(Paul Gable is the sports editor for the Grant County News. He can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 824-3343.)