football Edit

Thanks Dad: Coaches offer advice, insight to their prospect sons

K.J. Henry
K.J. Henry

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The world of college football recruiting it's complicated. So complicated that it brings out the worst in many adults, drives parents crazy and is the bane of many coaches’ existence. Lots of players unfortunately get lied to, taken advantage of and end up making a wrong decision that impacts the rest of their lives.

A handful of lucky players, such as K.J. Henry, Jordyn Adams and Jake Venables, have an advantage that others don’t. All three of these stand out prospects in the 2018 recruiting class call a current college coach “dad.” Their dads are well-versed in the controlled chaos of the college football recruiting landscape and have helped their children avoid the many pitfalls that could derail promising football careers.

“I tell people this all the time,” said five-star defensive end K.J. Henry. “My dad (Charlotte running backs coach Keith Henry) is a cheat code because he’s in this profession and is giving me things to look for, things that coaches are seeing when they are watching me in games and practices. He lets me know of things that I need to be aware of and what I need to do to be successful.”

Keith, Henry’s father, has been coaching college football for more than 25 years and made sure his son knew the realities of the world of college football.

“The biggest thing I tried to tell K.J. was that college football is a business, it’s entertainment, and coaches come and go because, at the end of the day, it will be a factor in his decision wherever he goes,” Henry said. “When it’s all said and done, you just have to go to place where, if you’re not able to play football anymore, that you’d be happy getting a degree from that school and would still enjoy the culture that you’re surrounded with. If you keep thinking inside that box, then you should be good.

“A lot of the coaches that have come to the house and talked with us really truly think K.J. can play for them. Most of them have been honest and upfront but K.J. has to do his homework too. If he sits down and we talk and he asks me a question I’ll tell him ‘this is what I think,’ or that ‘this is what is happening here.’”

Henry says his dad isn’t taking an active role in his commitment, despite what many people are assuming.

“Early on he would tell me to look at the depth chart for each team so I could get myself the information about who is staying and who is leaving on each team,” he said. “As the process went forward the coaches came forward with that information to be honest with me. He’s been able to sit back and critique how I play on the field more than the recruiting part of it. At the end of the day he’s just going to let me do what I need to do.”

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is widely considered to be one of the best defensive minds in college football and his son, Jake, is an impressive linebacker prospect that was recruited by a number of schools. He ultimately chose to play for the Tigers but remembers everything he had to go through during the recruiting process.

Brent Venables
Brent Venables (AP Images)

“I had to do a ton of research on all the schools that I talked to,” said the younger Venables. “I just remember being a kid and growing up listening to my dad have those conversations with recruits. I was already used to listening to those by the time I got recruited. There were a couple times when he would tell me to go back and look into things that coaches told me. It was mainly about how the coaches treat their players and the relationships that they have.”

A linebacker at Kansas State in the early 1990s, Brent Venables has seen both sides of the recruiting process and used his knowledge to keep his son on the right track while making sure he had as many options available to him as possible.

“I think as much as anything, I encouraged Jake to see as many places as he could so he had something to compare things to that way he could find out where he’d want to go to school, where he’d want to live, and try to build relationships with coaches and players from other teams,” Venables said. “Those were the biggest things. A picture is worth a thousand words and getting on campus, meeting people, and working with them, if possible, in a camp setting. Those were the things that I thought were really important.

“On the front end of his recruitment I tried to help vet schools for him based on the people that were there. I would say ‘Oh, these are good people, that’s a good coach, this staff has a good reputation as people, men and leaders.’ That was before Jake’s recruitment really got started. That was a basic requirement. Those are things that always follow coaches from school to school.

“Once Jake said he was interested in certain schools, I tried to vet them for him based on the people that were there and their reputations but after that his mom partook in a lot of the visits and meetings with Jake because I didn’t want to be a distraction or have coaches feel like they were under the gun. For me, I kind of took a backseat and let mom’s instincts and intuition take over. She’s more lethal than me.”

Rivals100 wide receiver Jordyn Adams, son of Tar Heels defensive line coach Deke Adams, picked up similar bits of wisdom from his dad.

“I really just learned how trustworthy coaches are and how to know the tendencies of when there lying and telling the truth,” said the North Carolina-bound receiver. “That's why a lot of colleges were out the window from the jump. He's always told me stories about recruits. As a recruit, I want to be honest and truthful with everything I say and do.

“He just sat there and listened,” Adams said of his dad. “When I was a recruit he played the role of a dad not of a coach. If there was important information that he thought I needed to know then he told me of course but people think he came home and was telling me I should go to Carolina and this and that. It was never like that. He was telling me to go where I'm happy and go where I have the brightest future and where I can get the best education.”

Deke Adams clearly didn’t interfere with Jordyn’s decision but he did pass along some specific pieces of advice and certain keys that Jordyn used throughout his recruitment.

“The biggest piece of advice I got from my dad was not to lie and just be trustworthy,” Adams said. “If a team offers you that you're not really interested in and they're giving you a bunch of their time but you're not really interested in them, you should just let them know. It's not necessarily going to hurt their feelings because they'll just go onto the next guy. It also gives you a good reputation on the recruiting circuit.

“The biggest key that I picked up from my dad was about just doing my research on schools. There were some schools that said I could play both sports (football and baseball) and then I would look at the rosters or talk to people that I know that played the sports there. If you're really interested in a school you really need to research about what you're getting into, the school, the education, and the depth chart.”

The unique perspectives that Brent Venables, Keith Henry and Deke Adams bring to the table were invaluable assets to their sons throughout the recruiting process. The advice and lessons they’ve passed onto their sons can be used by every recruit out there but their behind-the-scenes knowledge of certain coaches and the recruiting process helped untangle the complicated and confusing web that is the college football recruiting process.