COLUMBIA, Mo. – The first Rivals.com Junior Day for the class of 2006 was Saturday at the University of Missouri in Columbia, and more than 70 of the top players in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska were on hand. Every one of the top players in attendance said the event was a worthwhile introduction to the recruiting process.
"This really helped me learn how to speak to college coaches," Olathe (Kan.) East quarterback Derek Miller, who measured in at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, said. "I also learned that you can't just be a player with good speed, you also have to know how to have that speed, but also have strength and also be able to change direction."
The keynote speaker that Rivals.com has entrusted to help conducted the events across the nation is Joe Hornback of Des Moines (Iowa) Roosevelt. Coach Hornback was a three-year letter winner from the University of Kansas and has established himself as one of the best in the state of Iowa and previous to that in Missouri at Grandview High School.
Hornback has spoke at the junior days for Rivals.com now for six years and this year's program stressed even heavier than before on academics and how to handle the amount of telephone calls and meeting with college coaches for the first time.
Even players that already have numerous scholarship offers – like Grandview, Mo., quarterback Josh Freeman – said the event was valuable.
"I had a lot of advice on the recruiting process, so I felt prepared coming in to this," Freeman, who measured in at 6-foot-5 ¼ and 226 pounds, said. "At the same time, there was a lot of new stuff that I didn't know about dealing with how to handle all of the mail and phone calls the right way.
"It also showed what you need to do with recruitment as far as academics go. A few days ago I got my ACT back with a 23 on it so I know I've got the grades to qualify no problem. Today, I found out again why it's so important."
Another area that Hornback delved into that recruits said helped them was the talk about what questions you should ask a college coach when he offers you a scholarship and how many scholarships at each level of college football that teams can offer.
"That was probably the biggest thing that I took from the event," Lee's Summit West standout linebacker Sean Whiters (6-0, 214) said. "I found the part about how important your core grades are to help with the ACT important, but the part about how many scholarships each school can offer and what to talk to coaches about when an offer comes really helped me.
"That's definitely something that will help me as I go through this entire process."
There were players that have gone through the recruiting process once before with their older brothers that found the event useful.
"I learned a lot about the whole process," St. Louis Cardinal Ritter outside linebacker Quentin Davie, who was measured at 6-foot-3 ½ and 192 pounds, said. "My brother went through it, and he was recruited out of high school like me, but there was a lot he didn't tell me that I learned here today.
"One of the main things I learned was that I now know what I need to do to get prepared for the entire process, and I'm also now realistic about what level I can play at. I know that I'm a Division I player, and coming to this event will help me get there."
Rivals.com will have more coverage of the first junior day event at Columbia throughout the weekend, including a look at the players that passed the eyeball test and what prospects have already picked up scholarship offers.