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Football

Monaco: No place for bashing these kids (Feb. 6)

| Thursday, February 6, 2014

Signing Day for me was a little more than three years ago.

After a long, thoughtful process, one morning I was ready to decide.

I had committed to the University of Notre Dame, where I would spend the next four years as a student.

But unlike the recruits across the nation who officially signed their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday amid press conferences, high-school pep rallies and ESPNU segments, I merely rolled out of bed one morning, walked downstairs, told my mother I had decided on Notre Dame. And that was that.

Unlike the recruits across the nation who had a never-ceasing peanut gallery in their ears at all times leading up to the decision, my “fans” (friends and family) basically stayed out of my way and let me decide.

And unlike the recruits across the nation who dealt with backlash Wednesday from those very fans who had been promoting their favorite schools along the way, I received nothing but congratulations.

Sure, comparing my college decision to that of a high-end football recruit is, well, tough to do. For one, those recruits possess athleticism, size and strength you simply won’t find in a kid like me, who, as a high-school senior was generously listed at 5-foot-9. And two, with a high profile comes attention, whether wanted or not.

Yet as different as my college decision would appear from those of the 22 high-school seniors who signed with Notre Dame on Wednesday, the decision was, generally speaking, the same.

The company line in Notre Dame recruiting says, “It’s not a four-year decision. It’s a 40-year decision.” But for a lot of incoming Notre Dame students, it’s really both. You’re deciding the place at which you want to spend the next four years, and you’re deciding the school with which you want to be associated (and whose degree you want to help you) for the next 40 years.

For me, I was thinking of the school at which I thought I would fit best for four years. I was judging the student life, potential majors and overall fit just as a football recruit would judge his potential teammates, coaches, schemes and playing time. Sure, 40 years worth of a decision should trump a four-year choice in most instances, but 17- and 18-year olds are often thinking of the present, not the future.

So, really, the decisions are similar. Then why do recruits have to deal with the constant bashing and prodding (coercing?) throughout the process?

They shouldn’t.

Last week, former Irish receiver target Isaiah McKenzie tweeted a screenshot of “fans” criticizing him on a recruiting website’s message board. Some of the lowlights: “This kid is an idiot! Kelly and crew need to stop talking to him!” and “I just don’t think this kid would make it at ND.”

Yikes.

And sadly, there’s examples like that everywhere you look.

A high-profile recruit might expect to receive messages from rabid fans pushing their schools on social media. You could argue that comes with the territory.

The unabashed venom doesn’t.

A 4.5 40-yard dash time and a few All-State honors aren’t to be confused with an open invitation for criticism, certainly not for a 17- or 18-year old simply trying to make what he thinks is the best decision.

At the end of the (signing) day, they’re all just trying to make the right decision.

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

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About Mike Monaco

Senior Sports Writer Mike Monaco is a senior majoring in Film, Television and Theatre with a minor in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy as well as Business Economics. The O’Neill Hall native hails from the Boston area and is an aspiring play-by-play broadcaster.

Contact Mike