COLUMBUS, Ohio – College coaches shouldn't bother traveling all over Ohio in hopes of stumbling upon football recruits that slipped under the radar of most schools. Not this year.
Ted Ginn Sr., and a large pack of Ohio recruits dramatically reduced the number of sleepers in the Buckeye state from the class of 2006. The Glenville (Cleveland) High coach and 37 prospects – including a handful of players who were virtual unknowns at the start of June – recently finished a rewarding and exhausting road trip that took them to 10 Division-I schools across the Midwest in 12 days.
They boarded a bus June 10 in Cleveland and took off for Ball State, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Notre Dame, Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State – logging more 3,000 miles on the road in the process.
Rivals.com joined the bus on the way to Columbus and spoke to Ginn and several prospects as one of the most unique recruiting road trips ever came to a finish.
"This (trip) gave kids an opportunity to see universities and meet coaches," said Ginn Sr., the father of Ohio State star Ted Ginn, Jr. "It also gives them an opportunity to get assistance for a higher education."
Many of the players who landed on the bus wouldn't have had that opportunity otherwise. Traveling outside the state borders alone was a new experience for some passengers.
"Some of the guys on this trip have never been out of Cleveland or Ohio," said quarterback Arvell Nelson, one of 17 prospects from Glenville who made the trip. "Now we are all getting a chance to show people what we can do and getting looked at by coaches."
Ginn started taking a handful of Glenville prospects to many of the same schools on a van five years ago, but was always determined to attempt something on a bigger scale. He felt too many players who deserved scholarships were going unnoticed.
"These children need exposure," Ginn said. "Some of them come from schools that aren't known for football and wouldn't get scouted by coaches if they didn't make it on the bus."
Soon after Glenville's season came to an end in the state semifinals in December, Ginn started making phone calls to other coaches, inviting players from the Greater Cleveland area and across Ohio. He purposefully sought out players who hadn't received much recruiting attention.
By the end of the school year, 37 kids had signed on. Using much of his own money, $200 player fees and some donations from local donors, Ginn was able to reserve enough hotel rooms and put together a food budget. But, four days before the trip was to begin, it looked like it might get cancelled. They still needed a mode of transportation.
That's when a local pastor came through. Andrew Clark, who owns a bus company, was able to give Ginn a bus with just enough seats at a heavily-discounted price. Clark ended up traveling with the team, offering guidance and advice to many players.
The players were extremely appreciative. They ended up meeting nine head coaches (Notre Dame's Charlie Weis was out of town when they were in South Bend), toured several campuses and got to use some of the top football facilities in the country. They even took a day off to go to an amusement park.
"It was really exciting," said Brandon Stephens, a cornerback from Strongsville High, of the trip. "We got a feel for what college life is like and got a chance to be a part of it ourselves."
The trip began with one-day camps at a pair of MAC schools and a Big East program –- Ball State, Bowling Green and Cincinnati. In Cincinnati, they took a day off so more than a dozen players could take the ACT in the morning before the entire group went to King's Island.
After a little recreation, they made the 8-hour drive to Iowa, one of the most enjoyable destinations. Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff worked with the players personally and they also played in a 7-on-7 tournament.
"The facilities at Iowa were impressive and they had one of the greatest weight rooms I have ever seen at the college level," said Glenville offensive lineman Bryant Browning, who has offers from the Hawkeyes and many other major programs.
Next up was one of the most anticipated stops, Notre Dame.
"Everybody knows about Notre Dame and we all wanted to see touchdown Jesus," Western Reserve Academy senior Brendan Mitchell said.
The group then took off for Illinois and Indiana –- both among the most fun stops on the tour. At Each Big Ten school, the prospects worked out as a group for the coaches and at Illinois they were involved in another 7-on-7 tournament.
"Illinois was really nice to play at," Stephens said. "They played music when we worked out on the field and that got everybody pumped up."
They excelled in another 7-on-7 at Purdue the following day before leaving for Wisconsin. They took a second day off for Father's Day in Madison, taking a tour of Camp Randall and hanging out around the hotel.
After participating in a Wisconsin camp the next afternoon they left for Ohio State and drove through the night, arriving at 6:30 a.m. With most of the players exhausted, they chose to skip out on the final camp in Columbus and head home.
"The first five days were good and went smooth," said Glenville receiver Raymond Small, who is ranked the No. 5 prospect in the state of Ohio. "By the sixth or seventh day, I was taking ice baths and my body was aching. It was a nice trip, but just a little long."
The players had to deal with two flat tires and a broken air conditioner while on the road, but don't expect any real complaining.
Many prospects landed their first scholarship offers and are picking up interest from other programs because of standout performances at the camps.
Look for all that information, including a full list of who made the trip, and the latest recruiting scoop later today on Rivals.com.