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Football: Kids are too young to warrant such hype

Chris Hine | Thursday, February 5, 2009

11:28 a.m. posted by HoltzisGod:

I heard from two of my sources yesterday that Te’o’s mother’s friend’s uncle’s cousin that Manti is definitely coming to Notre Dame. Don’t believe everything else you’ve been hearing. This is the guy that’s going to resurrect our program.

11:29 a.m. posted by Te’olover:

But didn’t you hear the interview he gave last week? When he was mentioning his final schools, he listed us last! And did you hear his tone of voice when he mentioned us, it was like, “Oh, yeah, and I’m considering Notre Dame.” Not good, not good. If he doesn’t come here, ND football is officially dead, and even worse, I’ll have to change my handle.

11:30 a.m. posted by FrSorinrocks

He was just saying it that way to throw people off. Besides, I heard from my super-duper secret source that his dad called Weis yesterday to tell him he’s coming to ND.

11:31 a.m. posted by Te’olover:

I heard that same phone call was to tell Weis he’s not coming! If he doesn’t come to ND, you know Pete Carroll must’ve done something shady. And I’m sure that weasel Urban Meyer had a hand in this somehow. (But I do wish he was our weasel)

End scene. The above was a dramatization of conversations held on recruiting message boards over the past few weeks all over the Internet, not just at Notre Dame Web sites. The language is obviously exaggerated, but not that much – a lot of talk for kids that haven’t played a down in college yet.

Of course, recruiting is a vital part of college football, and there’s nothing wrong with following recruiting as a fan of a program. But the Internet frenzy that comes with recruiting today has gotten out of hand. If I were a parent of a 17-year old kid, frankly, I’d be creeped out a bit by what these faceless strangers are saying about my son on the Internet and the rumors that they’re spreading about him.

This culture is also not good for the athletes. These are 17-year-old high school kids, who’ve still not fully developed emotionally and haven’t learned to avoid looking at such things, that can’t help but read what’s said about them on the Internet. In some ways it’s fun to read about what people are saying about you, debating whether or not you’re going to one school or another when you actually know the truth. A recruit who reads such glowing dialogue can develop sort of a God-complex. That’s certainly not healthy.

On the other hand there are people who will bash a recruit, attack him for not choosing a school, and this can cause unwarranted pain. No matter how good you are, it hurts when somebody says something nasty about you, even if it is an anonymous message board post.

In the case of Manti Te’o, no doubt Wednesday was a good day for Notre Dame. Te’o is a first-class athlete and Notre Dame is lucky to have him, especially given the past two seasons. More importantly, Te’o seems like a first-class person.

But Te’o, along with the hundreds of other athletes who signed letters of intent Wednesday, hasn’t played a snap in college. It’s rare when a player can come in and have an immediate impact the way Michael Floyd did last year. Te’o may do that, but in general, it takes time for these kids to turn into men and it takes good coaching to develop that five-star potential. From reading the Internet, you would think these guys are going to be All-Americans tomorrow.

It’s fun to think about what Notre Dame will be putting on the field in years to come. There are a lot of reasons for optimism. In addition to Te’o, Notre Dame nabbed some great athletes in Cierre Wood, Tyler Stockton and Shaquelle Evans. But until the players develop, there’s just talk, and it’s absurd talk at that.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Chris Hine at chine@nd.edu