Text messaging dilemma hits close to home

For recruits and their parents, the flood of text messages from college recruiters can be overwhelming, writes Bruce Feldman.

Updated: April 27, 2007, 8:25 AM ET
By Bruce Feldman | ESPN The Magazine

Matthew Patchan is considered by several colleges to be the top offensive line prospect in the Class of 2008. The 6-foot-7, 270-pounder from Tampa is the son of Matt Patchan, who was a third-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1988. He has been clocked at 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash. The 17-year-old plans to graduate high school early and be in college by January. However, the thing that college coaches say they love most about the younger Patchan is that, just like his old man, he plays with a mean streak.

"He's a nasty, nasty dude out there on the field," says one coach of the Armwood High School standout.

His attitude off the field is a different story. Apparently the kid is too nice and might be too much of a pleaser for his own good. That's why his mom, Deanne, is excited that the NCAA decided Thursday to ban text messaging starting Aug. 1.

"I hope I don't upset Matthew or any of the coaches, but it really bothered me that he was having to respond to all of those messages," she said. "He comes home at night at 8 after working out and he's so exhausted. He just wants to take a shower and eat dinner, but he'd have all of these text messages to reply to. I wanted to take his phone away and put it in my room, but he feels like it is very important to make everyone happy."

The flood of interest is overwhelming for the kid, his mom said, adding that Matthew also often receives calls from reporters at 10:30 at night trying to get updates on how his recruitment is progressing. A few weeks ago, Patchan was out of school, suffering from tonsillitis. His cell went off at 11 a.m. It was a reporter looking for an interview. His mom was stunned that people would be trying to reach her son during school hours.

Patchan, an honor student who got his first scholarship offer during his sophomore year from Ole Miss, has more than 60 schools seeking him. At this point, recruiters are jockeying to make his top five list, where they can secure him for an official campus visit in the fall. Since the coaches can't simply call him on the phone because he is a junior, they need him to initiate the call. The text messages served as a decent ice breaker.

Deanne Patchan says it's typical for her son to receive dozens of text messages a day from coaches with many of them being sent to him while he's actually in class.

"How do they expect him to study or take his exams?" she said, explaining that the time it takes from him is more of an issue than the cost of his phone bill. She reminds Matthew to just turn his phone off, but as someone who is married to a former pro football player, she understands that it's hard for a 17-year-old who always has dreamed of playing college football to side step, even for a little while, the overtures of big-time college coaches.

The messages tend to be very basic, often ranging from "UR OUR GUY!" to "HOW R WE LOOKN?" to "CALL ME NOW."

Patchan's father has stressed to his son to try and keep everything about the recruiting process in perspective. "It's like anything else in life," the elder Patchan said. "If you let it become a problem, it'll be a problem. I really don't think it's a big of a deal."

As a mother, Deanne Patchan likes the thought that the text ban will force college recruiters to go through a middle man. In most cases, that would be the player's high school coach.

The Patchans already have spoken with the Armwood coach Sean Callahan about creating some kind of voice mail message to stem the flurry.

Bruce Feldman is a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine and the author of "Meat Market: A Season Inside College Football's No. 1 Recruiting Machine".

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