COLUMBIA — Things were looking good.
Only a junior in high school, Skyler Hinton was attracting interest. It came from colleges like Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa. They were impressed with the offensive lineman's budding skillset.
“They were pretty heavy on me,” he said.
But then, in the third game of the season, Hinton broke his leg and missed the rest of his junior season.
After the injury, those schools stopped showing interest, forcing Hinton to spend his senior season exploring a different strategy to get schools interested.
He turned to video, an ever expanding and important feature in college football recruiting.
“All football recruiting is done 100 percent on video,” Rock Bridge coach A.J. Ofodile said. “So if you don’t have video, you ain’t getting recruited. College coaches don’t come out and watch you and say, ‘He’s a recruitable guy.’ They play when we play. You send them the film and they evaluate the film, and they make a decision. It’s 100 percent done on film evaluation.”
Since Hinton missed much of his junior season, he had less game film to send to major college coaches this past spring.
"That’s when they do initial evaluation periods," Ofodile said. "Not having that film to really represent himself as well as he could definitely dropped him off the radar.”
Consequently, that placed a lot of importance on his senior season.
“It’s crucial he had a big senior year,” Ofodile said.
After Hinton's senior season ended, Ofodile met with Hinton and his seniors to find out if they wanted to play college football. He goes through game film to create a highlight collection for each player.
Ofodile also develops relationships with other coaches to help his players be recruited. Ofodile has put together a list of the coaches he hass played for, with or against. That built upon a list previous Rock Bridge coach Barry Odom had. Ofodile estimates he has between 50 and 60 contacts at major universities. These coaches also push information through the recruiting grapevine about players in Columbia.
“Nobody inherently recruits Columbia,” Ofodile said. “A lot of it is word of mouth. College coaches say, ‘Have you seen anybody who does blah, blah, blah.’ They’ll say, ‘We played this kid at Rock Bridge or I heard about this kid at Rock Bridge.’ That helps the cause, too.”
When Ofodile finished putting together Hinton’s video, the two met to discuss where to send the film. One school that was on both their lists was Wyoming. Mike Hinton, Skyler's father, collected addresses of where to send film.
“I just helped out by trying to call the school and finding out exactly who the Missouri recruiter was and getting the correct mailing address,” Mike Hinton said.
Mike Hinton estimates he sent film to “a dozen and a half” schools. Wyoming and Syracuse were the only schools who asked for more film beyond the original highlights.
Skyler Hinton kept in touch during the recruiting process with Pete Kaligis, Wyoming’s offensive line coach. Kaligis told Skyler Hinton on Dec. 3 that he should visit the school in January. The next morning, less than 14 hours later, Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen, a former Missouri offensive coordinator, offered Skyler Hinton a scholarship.
“I think it was more of coach Kaligis liked what he saw and kind of had to bring it in front of the whole staff,” Skyler Hinton said. “After watching, they really liked it.”
The two knew each other because Christensen’s son D.J. Christensen and Skyler Hinton had had a class together. Hinton had also participated at summer camps at MU the past few summers, when Christensen was still coaching at Missouri.
Skyler Hinton took an official visit to Wyoming on Dec. 11. He stayed with Tedder Easton, a former teammate of Skyler Hinton’s on the Bruins football team. Skyler Hinton accepted Wyoming’s offer on Dec. 13. He graduated from Rock Bridge in December and is now enrolled and taking classes at Wyoming.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of time to think,” Skyler Hinton said. “But it felt like it was the right place, after everything coach Christensen accomplished, going to a bowl game his first year, had six wins his first year playing 12 true freshmen and starting eight. I have a chance to compete, preferably get a spot on the two-deep depth chart.”