One year removed from officially signing with the Coyotes, first-year linebacker Keyen Lage can relate to the emotions likely experienced by the incoming class of University of South Dakota football players on Feb. 6.
“I was so relieved,” Lage said. “I committed to USD before my senior season even started because I didn’t want to worry about getting hurt and having a scholarship pulled. I can honestly say (coming to a decision) was one of the most stressful points in my entire life.”
As a prep standout at Washington High School in Sioux Falls, Lage garnered heavy interest from many regional Division I and II schools. Over the course of his junior season, the 6’2, 210 pound linebacker traversed the NCAA recruiting process from start to finish and described the initial phase as actually quite enjoyable.
“At the beginning it’s the most exciting. You’re getting all this attention from all these schools. You feel really wanted but you’re also kind of stunned at the glory of it all,” Lage said.
He also described himself as being insulated at first from the demanding nature of the recruiting world.
“You don’t really think about the competitiveness of it, that there are a bunch of other people they are doing the same thing for,” Lage said.
According to Lage, the stress of the recruiting process usually begins to set in after coaches begin to offer official scholarships.
“As it gets deeper into the process, it starts getting more competitive,” Lage said. “Schools start offering and give you deadlines for when you need to commit by.”
Lage said attending training camps at prospective schools is possibly the most stressful part of the recruiting process. A poor showing at a camp could ruin scholarship chances, as the camps are designed to indicate potential, he said.
“Basically how you perform at the camps dictates whether they are going to keep your scholarship offer or not. It’s a huge deal because it’s where you’re going to school and if you’re going to get money or not,” Lage said.
While maintaining scholarship offers can be a huge concern for recruits, ultimately the recruit is left with the decision. As individual student-athletes, each recruit has varied priorities and interests that may affect the decision-making process.
In Lage’s case, it was not a flashy stadium or innovative uniforms that persuaded him to sign with the Coyotes. For him, the prestigious Beacom Business School convinced him to attend USD.
“The B-school was the main thing that made me decide between USD and SDSU,” Lage said. “I’m a finance major and that is really what put it over the top because it’s really non-existent at SDSU.”
In his first year with the Coyotes, the true first-year player saw action in all 11 contests during the 2012 season and even started two games. He recorded 33 total tackles on the entire season, as well as two sacks and a fumble recovery.
From a football standpoint, Lage said adjusting to the speed of the collegiate game was extremely difficult.
“As far as the speed of the game goes, its way faster. Last year, I was playing high school football in South Dakota. There are not a lot of amazing players in South Dakota high school football,” Lage said.
Lage also said adjusting to the complex offensive and defensive schematics of Division-I football is part of the learning curve.
“In high school, you’re given a play and its like ‘OK, go do this’; it’s pre-determined. In college, what you do is dictated by what six guys in front of you do. There’s nothing set during a play as far as where you’re supposed to go,” he said.
Despite the major challenges ahead of this year’s recruiting class, Lage offered few words of encouragement to his future teammates.
“Don’t be timid and don’t be afraid of the guys that line up across from you. There might be a six-year age gap where they’re full-grown men, but you can’t be afraid. In the end, football is football and if you can play, you can play. So don’t be afraid.”