The program-building efforts you don’t see

Much is made, each recruiting season, out of signatures from far off places.

At Grambling, fans cheered successful forays, for instance, into Florida and California during the ongoing signing period. GSU has also had notable successes in Alabama and Texas.

But it’s just as important to win at home for GSU, positioned as it is amongst the talent-rich environs of Louisiana prep football.

This isn’t an easy proposition, with behemoth LSU (winners of two BCS titles since 2003) looming over most recruiting battles. The state boasts an impressive cast of FBS programs (including Independence Bowl champion Louisiana Tech), another SWAC foe in Southern, and a plethora of fellow FCS options who call the Southland Conference home, as well.

Third-year coach Rod Broadway and Co. took a grass-roots approach during his first recruiting season back in 2008, fanning out over the state to visit every high school coach that they could find. (Remember, he was hired on the eve of National Signing Day that year, so 2007’s class was primarily secured by remaining assistants from Melvin Spears’ staff.) Grambling’s coaches returned to as many Louisiana schools as was possible for the 2009 campaign, even after shuddering budget cuts.

“We got to most of them,” Broadway told me. “They should know our coaches, and our coaches should know them.”

Their attention to home-grown talent is starting to pay off. GSU signed two-star recruitCedric Goins of Richwood, La.; and All-Staters like Northside linebacker Jacarde Carter, Tioga wide receiver Elon Grinstead, Woodlawn defensive back Jordell McCoy and Richwood offensive lineman Andre Sanford.

Not that some didn’t get away.

“I’m smart enough to know that when we are going up against LSU, we are not going to win those wars,” Broadway said. “But this state has a lot of good athletes, and plays good football. We want to make sure we get the good Louisiana kids.”

Perhaps even more important, the coaches also picked up a series of perhaps overlooked prospects whom they predict will become big contributors — a key element in recruiting at this level. That includes Arcadia athlete Ledavius Perry — who could be a very special player.

“Evaluation is where you make your money,” Broadway adds, using a favorite line. “You have to do a good job of evaluation the guys you’re looking at.”

In all, Grambling has signed at least eight from the Bayou State so far, and is expected to enter spring practice on the first Monday in March with 23 returning players who call Louisiana home — including starting quarterback Greg Dillon of Bogalusa.

This kind of success starts by knocking on a lot of doors — signalling that the program isn’t just about following the hot-hand recruit, so much as building trust. It’s how you find a Greg Dillon, this overlooked gem who sparked Grambling’s magical 2008 run.

Nobody hears about these un-flashy, program-building moments by Broadway. But several high school coaches have told me that they’ve played a key role in securing commitments, and then signatures from kids. That in turn opens the door for future recruiting efforts.

It’s another way this staff has quietly sustained the Grambling legend, and an important one.


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