Top recruits turn to Facebook, Twitter

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Kevin McReynolds, an offensive and defensive lineman on the St. John's High School football team, discusses how he started using Twitter and the attention that he has received from his account.

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By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 3, 2010; 8:43 PM

As St. John's defensive end Kevin McReynolds, one of the Washington area's most heavily recruited high school football players, toured West Coast colleges last weekend, he tried to give his fans an unusual inside look at the recruiting process.

The 6-foot-3, 300-pound rising senior shared some behind-the-scenes pictures on Twitter, including photos of himself with head coaches (photos that he posted during his meetings with the coaches). He wondered whether one of the coaches he met with - Southern Cal's Lane Kiffin - was "an okay dude?" on Facebook. He wrote of being impressed that UCLA has maids cleaning dorm rooms.

It was an unusually candid snapshot into the recruiting of a top football prospect and elicited responses from McReynolds's more than 3,200 Facebook friends.

While some players eschew talking about their thoughts in the recruiting process, McReynolds is the opposite. He's using social networking to create an online persona.

"The rest of my career is always going to be public knowledge every step, whether it's in the NFL or in college," said McReynolds, who also plans to post video of his trip to Oregon. "I felt I might as well get used to it early so it doesn't affect what I do on the field."

High school football practice begins in the Washington area this week. For many top players, though, the recruiting season is well underway as they sift through scholarship offers. More than two dozen have announced their choices - they can't sign binding letters-of-intent until Feb. - but some will wait until the fall to make a selection.

While nearly all of the top players have Facebook accounts and several use Twitter - which allows users to post messages of 140 characters or less - few have gone as far as McReynolds, who began tweeting regularly during the snowstorms last winter. Most of his tweets deal with recruiting. "I had nothing better to do with my time other than train and be in the house and I started to Twitter," he said. "I got a few more offers and I posted updates and when I would go on visits I would update my Twitter and Facebook. Everybody seemed real interested."

Some athletes restrict their social media use to friends, ignoring requests to follow them from strangers who are fans of various schools. Others might post about what schools or events they are going to - thus reducing the phone calls from recruiting Web sites and media outlets - and trade messages with fans.

"It's nice to see the fans want me to come to their school, but I'm not really affected by that," said North Point All-Met linebacker Conner Crowell, who is planning official campus visits to Ohio State, Penn State and North Carolina this fall. Crowell keeps fans updated on his recruitment via Facebook; he does not tweet.

Not everyone is enamored with the attention, though.

"It gets hectic when [fans] are persuading you to go to their schools," said McNamara defensive back Nico Law, who has narrowed his choices to eight schools, including Maryland and Virginia. "It seems like colleges are bending the rules [for contacting recruits] but they're not bending the rules because the fans technically aren't on staff even though they hit up your email saying, 'Come here, this school is great.'

"I try to ignore [fans] sometimes. If you accept the wrong person, they fill up your inbox. It's like you have personal stalkers that you don't want."


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