Of Gwinnett's 20-plus high schools, most held a college signing ceremony (or multiple ones) this week to honor seniors who are headed to play sports at the next level.
In Gwinnett, there are hundreds and hundreds of college signees each year and the first batch of recruits make their choices in the NCAA's early signing period each November. By the end of this week, a large crop of Gwinnett seniors will have signed their letters of intent in sports like basketball, softball, baseball and lacrosse. Their futures sealed, they can get back to enjoying their senior year of high school, in athletics and otherwise.
Meanwhile, high school seniors who will play college football don't have the luxury of two signing days. Their National Signing Day is always the first Wednesday in February, so they have to wait until that date to sign an official letter of intent -- which can be a pretty long wait since many teenagers now commit as high school juniors or younger these days.
It's time for football to offer an early signing period like those other NCAA sports, if for no other reason than to give these recruits a little break from the overwhelming process. Like those others, coaches wouldn't have to sign their entire class in November. Just the ones who were ready to decide at that point.
With the high school football playoffs starting this week, I'm sure some seniors would find it relaxing to have their college decision finalized in time to focus on the postseason. College coaches would have to alter their recruiting style a little, but it's not like they aren't already recruiting these kids at a young age anyway. The commitments come so early now that Georgia is nearing 30 recruits for its Class of 2013 that will sign in February, and most of those have been committed for months.
Some football stars may enjoy the limelight, but others would just as soon sign and end all the phone calls from coaches, media and recruiting services early. The biggest recruits are hit the hardest with the wave of attention, like the nation's consensus No. 1 recruit, Grayson senior Robert Nkemdiche. His interviews are in such demand that he has to have a press conference after games. Writers are calling his parents to find out where he's going. It's a lot of pressure for a teenager in normal circumstances and for Nkemdiche, his scrutiny and recruitment will play out until Feb. 6.
"I wish they did (signings) like basketball (with an early signing period)," said Grayson head football coach Mickey Conn, who fields his share of calls about Nkemdiche, too. "If they sign early, you don't have all this hoopla and all these distractions. It's a lot of extra stress on the kids."
Maybe an early signing period would force college football programs to stick to their word more, too. We hear stories all too often about a college extending an early offer to a kid, dragging him along and then pulling it when someone better comes along. If an early signing day gives those college coaches less time to pull offers, I'm all for it.
So are others.
"I'm all for (an early signing period)," Conn said. "I think it would be a great thing."
Will Hammock can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.