Derek was gaining more confidence every day in his job. He knew how to deal with the administrators, the fans bought into his system and saw the improvements, and he was persuading talented recruits to come his school. I would have to say my husband is one of the most talented recruiters in the country because if you can get anyone, not just an athlete, to choose to come to a school in the middle of nowhere then you have to be good. He was able to get players from the big cities of Chicago and St. Louis to come to a place that didn’t even have a movie theater or mall and he was able to get African American kids to come to a place located in the middle of farm country where they would definitely be a minority. It didn’t come easy for him. He had to work, work, and work to get the job done. When he recruits a player he not only has to recruit the player he has to recruit the parents, stepparents, significant others, brothers, sisters, baby mamas, AAU coaches, and high school coaches. My husband does his homework and he develops relationships with anyone who is close to his recruit. I don’t know how he puts up with half the shit dealt to him. He would drive 3 hours to watch a kid workout and the AAU or high school coach would be late for the workout or not show up and just expect Derek to reschedule. If it was a Kansas or North Carolina you bet that coach would be 20 minutes early but small colleges get no respect because they had nothing to offer. A big program can pay (whether it is in compliance with NCAA rules is beyond my scope of knowledge) the AAU or high school coach to work at their clinic or camp or give them free tickets to a game but small schools had no perks to offer these coaches. And believe me a lot of these coaches wanted something. Even if it was just having a college coach kiss their ass for a few years to get their player it was something. Everyone likes to have their ego stroked. When you are at a low mid major school you have to do a lot of ass kissing and ego stroking. So, if Derek really wanted a kid and the coach or player didn’t show up for the workout Derek would just have to smile, reschedule and drive three hours home with nothing to show for an entire day’s work. I, on the other hand, would be so pissed off because that means he would have to miss another day with his own kids because some coach thought his time was more valuable and didn’t have the decency to show up or call. When coaches do things like that they have no thought about the ramifications. They have no idea that on the day that your husband has to reschedule the recruiting trip your son is playing in his first football game or your daughter has a piano recital.
Not only does Derek have to build relationships with the self-indulged coaches but he also has to develop relationships with the parents, which is a hurdle in and above itself. There were some parents that were very gracious and very humble and just thrilled that a university was interested in their child. But, then there were those parents who were going to work this to their advantage and try and get whatever they could out of the situation. I swear a lot of these parents think college recruiters were put on this earth to kiss their ass. They would call at all hours of the night. They expect them to be at their beck and call. I am sure it is nice to have that power over someone. If you want my kid then I expect you to do anything I ask. And, because most of the kids come from single parent or divorced households not only did Derek have to deal with the parents but he also had to deal with stepparents and significant others. In addition to all of those individuals, a few of the players he recruited had baby mama drama and that was another set of issues. Derek was able to deal with all of it. He would be so caring and patient and kill them with kindness and that is how he earned the trust of the kids, parents, and coaches and was able to sign talented kids.
Recruiting is the toughest part of the job. Imagine working on a business project for one (sometimes three) years – you put your blood, sweat, and tears into this project and then on the day it is due your boss says, “Forget it, we are going with Bob’s idea”. That is what it is like when a kid signs with another school. All that hard work was for nothing but if five schools are after a kid four are going to be disappointed. It is a tough job. Derek got burned a few times. Derek has a great knack for seeing potential and many times he would be recruiting kids before any other schools even heard of the kid. Derek would develop a great rapport with the kid and sometimes be the only school recruiting the kid. Then the kid would have a breakout summer AAU season or a stellar high school year and every school would be calling. The kid would feel a loyalty to Derek because Derek was the only coach who had been recruiting him for the past year. But, if a Mizzou or Illinois came knocking it was hard to pass up on a Big 12 or Big 10 School to go to a small school and 99.9% of the time the kid would go to the Big 12 or Big 10 School.
Recruiting is such a hard job but recruiting for a low major Division I school with a losing history is about impossible but Derek was able to do it. There was only one kid that he recruited that just about broke his spirit. When it comes to recruiting it takes a lot to break Derek because he has been doing it for so long and he knows you win some and you lose some but one kid about did my husband in. It was big kid from St. Louis. Derek saw his potential as a high school sophomore. Derek started developing a relationship with him in his junior year of high school. He followed his high school career and his AAU career. He offered him a scholarship at the end of his junior year. During the summer AAU tournaments he started to get attention from other schools, but, in November of his senior year he signed a letter of intent to play for Derek. Derek was ecstatic because this kid was a difference maker. He was the piece of the puzzle that his team was missing – a big man. Derek was going to build his team around this kid. He recruited other kids that he knew would be a good complement to him. The foundation was already set and now he just had to build around it. It took four years but he finally started to see the fruits of his labor. Derek was already looking forward to his fifth season but he had to survive the fourth season first.