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Etiquette 101 for Meeting Potential Coach

By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 10, 2004; 12:15 AM

DeMatha football coach Bill McGregor has a few simple rules for his players when they meet visiting college coaches.

Look them in the eye. Have a firm handshake. Laugh at their jokes. And always look interested, even if you're not -- you never know when your outlook might change.

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With college recruiters permitted to speak with recruits during their in-school visits much of this month and next, McGregor wants his players to gain any advantage they can. While these things seem simple, McGregor said they make a difference.

"They're going to make a very favorable first impression and I think first impressions are very important," said McGregor, who just completed his 23rd season as coach of the Stags and has sent more than 250 players to scholarships at either the Division. I-A or I-AA level. "I sit with the kids and talk about things like shaking hands. The handshake we want is you break the recruiter's hand. Coaches come to me and say, 'Dang it, he nearly broke my hand.' I pass it off, but it's done on purpose.

"Little things like that can give you a favorable impressions versus someone else."

McGregor thinks posture and body language are so important that he reviewed such details with his players before December contact period started. He tells players to stand straight and keep their heads up.

"It's not rocket science, but it's a quick course in etiquette you try to help the boys with," McGregor said. "I just assume everybody does it. I don't know, maybe not. I think it's important you look good -- you don't have that earring, you don't have that gold chain. If you have a hat on, you have the hat worn properly."

As the recruiting season winds into its final phase, every little item can make a difference. While most top prospects have made their choices and the rest know that schools will patiently await their decisions, many undecided players are beginning to feel pressure from all sorts of angles.

Some players feel pressure to improve their college board scores and grade-point averages so that they are eligible to be on scholarship as freshmen.

There is pressure from schools to accept a scholarship offer because it may be first-come, first-served -- often schools offer three players a scholarship but pull two after the first player accepts.

There is also pressure for players to accept a scholarship offer from a program that might not be their first choice because the top choice has yet to offer a scholarship.

And then there is self-imposed pressure -- where players just want to get a decision made and end the process. Seneca Valley offensive lineman Jon Walko fits into this category, according to his father, Bob, who is also Seneca Valley's defensive coordinator. Walko will take his official visit to West Virginia this weekend and will visit his other top choice, Virginia Tech, in January.

"He wants to get it done," he said.

For other players, however, choosing a college is more complicated. Colleges might have a player identified as their choice, but might be willing to take a second or third choice instead to ensure they get a top player. That limits a top player's choices down the road. Dunbar offensive lineman Kevin Wiggins is going through this; right now, Crimson Tide Coach Craig Jefferies said, Wiggins does not have a scholarship offer.

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