The other day I had the TV on in the background… There was an NFL game starting and I heard the players saying what University they went to. It was crazy to hear how many different “no name” schools were being said. There was an even mix of big and small colleges. That shows you how good the pro recruiting is. On the contrary, if you look at the MLS draft almost all of the players are from top 25 soccer universities.
“The best players at age 17 aren’t the best at 21.”
“In Europe they are scouting heavy between ages 16 – 21”
The best in high school won’t be at age 21
If 90% of the players drafted are from top 25 schools that means most of the talent comes from who was good at age 17 when they were recruited to those schools.
Players making it to the NFL from small schools are obviously athletes who grew in talent from age 17 – 21…
If they were the best at age 17 they would have been drafted by Alabama, Georgia or Oklahoma…
Schools who are always top 20 in rankings will always get the cream of the crop high school players…
Although, the athletes who grow in talent between ages 18 – 21 are the ones who can’t be overlooked!
NFL vs MLS SuperDraft pro recruiting
One thing that has to be talked about is the difference in money for pro recruiting…
Yes, NFL has more – making it easier to send out scouts every week to small colleges to see for themselves the talent in person.
At my college [West Texas A&M] we had 2 players who got drafted and started in NFL [Shawn Thompson 2nd round and Kareem Larimore 4th round].
I would often see NFL scouts watching their practices, which was crazy because WT wasn’t ranked high those years.
Some of the best players in history went to no name schools…
10 of the best pros from unknown colleges:
- Walter Payton
- Jerry Rice
- Randy Moss
- Darrel Green
- Shannon Sharpe
- Donald Driver
- Jared Allen
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Andre Reed
- Steve McNair
Good scouts know where the talent is, regardless how big or good the school was.
On the contrary, the MLS does have good money and can easily afford to spend money to go and scout more players who aren’t in the country club of D1 powerhouse schools.
Look at the MLS SuperDraft 2023…
So many players from Maryland, Clemson, Syracuse, Pitt – schools that went far in the NCAA tournament that year.
Same thing with the year I got drafted by Dallas…
Most of the players were from big D1 soccer schools…
The reason Davy Arnaud and I were the only D2 players drafted in the SuperDraft that year was because our college coaches had connections with Major League Soccer coaches.
It’s lazy to go after the big name players only.
How to make a name for yourself in other leagues
Some people think Major League Soccer needs to do a better job recruiting…
The bigger leagues [MLS included] aren’t going to spend time finding players from smaller colleges.
Instead their thoughts are the USL can do that and if a player does well, pick them up from there.
In the meantime, what the players have to do is make a name for themselves in a smaller league.
“The best scouts are the opposite of lazy… They’ll search all over for talent.”
Acting like a professional…
There’s a difference in being and acting…
You can be a pro and not act like one…
Look at the 2023 National Football League draft class.
You can see that in rounds 1 – 3 most of the players are from big schools…
Once you get to rounds 5 – 7 there are several players from the smaller universities.
When you look to see what schools the NFL rosters went, you’ll see a fine balance of large and smaller programs.
Example: New England Patriots have players from Eastern Washington, Troy, North Dakota State, Liberty & Lenoir-Rhyne.
This shows that talent and character play a role when it comes to staying in the league.
Players might get drafted late, but if you play well and ACT LIKE A PRO you can have a long career.
Coaches and scouts who build relationships with other coaches across the country and world have an advantage.
In other words, they can communicate and let each other know where there is some hidden talent.
Therefore, players who might not be in top programs can be seen and given the opportunity to show their talent.
When it comes to pro recruiting the people who keep connections end up with more options.
A main difference in tackle football and soccer
One reason I think NFL can find hidden talent is because tackle football doesn’t require the same amount of technique vs athleticism…
For a soccer player to go from a small college to pro they would really have to show major improvement technically.
Whereas a American football player needs to show more athleticism…
Of course it depends on position…
Quarterbacks or wide receivers are skill players, but defensive players mainly need to be fast and strong…
Not saying skill doesn’t matter in defensive positions, just that speed kills in football.
In soccer you can be fast, but still be terrible or average….
Skill [the right kind] is the main attribute you need to be great.
Therefore, if a soccer player is not working on their technique on their own you won’t see them improve very often.
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