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Butler football holds recruiting seminar

Learning Curve

This is the first in a series of articles detailing the Butler football program’s approach to its 2024 season

Do you like football? Or do you love it?

That was the first question posed to a handful of Butler football players who attended a recent college recruiting seminar held at Family Bowlaway’s Back Alley.

“If you like football, then you kind of like being part of the team,” Golden Tornado coach Eric Christy explained. “You like to wear the gear. You like to be a part of the game day presentation, running out on the field, seeing the crowd scream on Friday night. You might like wearing the letterman jacket or having the status of a football player.

“If you love football, then you’re going to do all of the extra things. You’re not going to miss a workout. You’re going to be researching it a little bit, critiquing your own abilities. You’re not just doing the things the coaches ask. You’re going above and beyond.”

That means a dedication to relationship-building, off-season training, and filing away life lessons.

“When you have people showing up and not just saying like, ‘Hey, I want to play football,’” Christy said. “That work of showing up to events that are on a Saturday in March, that actually proves it.”

Eleven players and five parents attended the event, listening as Butler football alum Nate Hartung clicked through a PowerPoint presentation created by Lee Stalker, who works in defensive quality control on the Iowa State football coaching staff.

Stalker, who played football at Kent State, is a former Golden Tornado teammate of Hartung’s. Hartung attended Brigham Young University, Eastern Arizona College, and Winston-Salem State during his winding collegiate gridiron career.

Nowadays, Hartung describes himself as “Edinboro adjacent.” Between a work schedule and family obligations, he helps out the Fighting Scots’ coaching staff and made a number of recruiting calls for the program during this past cycle. He was happy to have the opportunity to educate younger Butler student-athletes.

“There was no re-inventing the wheel in this case,” Hartung said. “The recruiting process is brutal. I had to do it three separate times. ... There’s a lot of pitfalls and traps you can fall into.”

The Golden Tornado coaches sent out a form a few months ago gauging players’ interest in continuing their gridiron careers in college.

“More kids said they’d like to play college football than (the ones) who wouldn’t,” Christy said. “To me, then this becomes a necessity. If you’re saying, ‘This is a possibility for me.’ You want to weigh that out.”

The volume of a football team’s recruiting class, combined with the amount of programs around, provides opportunity.

“There were the statistics of how low the number of the guys who get to go on to college football in there (the presentation), as well,” Christy said. “But compared to other sports, football is actually really high.”

Junior quarterback Alec Teff is one those hopeful to continue their athletic career in college.

“I got to learn about what you need to do now in order to prepare yourself, in order to be recruited,” Teff said. “Academic eligibility, classes you have to take, different types of ways you should interact with coaches, and it also gives you a little bit of an insight into what playing college sports would be like.”

Academics are just as important a part of the process as on-field performance. There are different prerequisite course requirements depending on college divisions.

“(We were) holding this so players could get educated on what’s going on ... see it, know it and know exactly what you have to do each step of the way,” Christy said. “With each grade, filling out your FAFSA forms, making sure you’re hitting the GPA requirements. I know, a lot of the times, the coaches won’t even talk to me about a kid if he’s below a 2.5.”

Hartung detailed the transition from high school to college athletics, relaying his own experiences.

“He got to play in the Big 33 game and stuff,” Christy said of Hartung. “He was such a big recruit out of Butler — one of the biggest that we’ve ever had with people who were interested.”

He warned the younger players about the dangers of falling behind in the classroom.

“You can’t walk around with, like, a 1.7 GPA but dominate on the football field and then find out, ‘Oh, I’ve got to pull a 1,400 on the old SAT scale,’” Hartung said. “(It’s) keeping guys out of that last-minute, 11th-hour saving grace plead.”

Junior offensive and defensive tackle Leland Anderson attended the event to gather some information and see what the recruiting process is like.

“I learned how big you’ve got to be to play at whatever position you want to play at,” Anderson said. “I learned basically everything about communication with coaches, how formal it should be, what you should be saying.”

Anderson has heard from Geneva College and Slippery Rock University. He’s happy to have coaches that care about what’s ahead for their players as much as they do the present.

“Even though we struggle a little bit, it’s still a good time,” Anderson said. “It’s not just about now. It’s about our future, as well. ... Football is a lifestyle.”

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