How to Find Football PLayers? Develop Them

(Photo by Bob Rosato)

Great piece in this week’s Sports Illustrated on the emergence of TCU’s football program.  How did Coach Gary Patterson turn TCU in to a BCS contender? Lots of teaching smarts, that’s how. It’s rare you can take a high school athlete who plays, say, running back and then plug him in at the same position at the Div. I level. It happens, but more often it doesn’t. That’s where “player development” comes in. It’s not a very sexy term, but if you can’t help a player in any sport develop their talents — and that may involve moving them to another position where their abilities can be better utilized — you don’t have much of a chance for long-term success.

Here’s his formula according to the magazine:

• Fast. You can be short. But if you can’t fly to the ball, TCU isn’t interested.

• From Texas—of the 21 players in TCU’s 2009 recruiting class, 20 are from in-state—and acutely aware of having been overlooked by Texas. Patterson, says Dallas Cowboys linebacker Stephen Hodge, a former Horned Frog, “wants guys with a blue-collar work ethic and a chip on their shoulders.”

• Low maintenance. Patterson seeks self-starters, guys who watch video during their lunch periods, who don’t have to be lassoed into the weight room. “It doesn’t matter how bad I want it if they don’t,” he says.

• Not overly attached to the position they played in high school. In 2006 five of the 11 players on the defensive line were former high school running backs. Hodge, a strong safety for the Frogs, was a prep quarterback, as were three recent starting tight ends, two of whom ended up in the NFL. Another transplanted QB: Jason Phillips, a four-year starter at linebacker who’s now a rookie with the Baltimore Ravens.

Developing talent is a critical component to success. Rarely dose the media take note of it. Thanks for doing so SI.

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