Some high school seniors just can’t wait to get to college.
So they don’t.
In an effort to expedite their football and academic careers, a growing number of high school football recruits are making an early jump to college. By completing their high school requirements in December, recruits can enroll in college in January and join their new teammates in classes and offseason workouts.
“This has been happening in other parts of the country for a few years now. I think it is really just starting to become popular here in the Midwest and in Big 12 country,” said local recruiting guru Gabe DeArmond, editor of the Web site PowerMizzou.com.
Two prized Missouri recruits, Michael Keck of Harrisonville and Luke Lambert of Brookfield, will join the trend this semester when they leave behind their high school classmates and join the Tigers football team a semester early.
“I’ll be moving down on Friday and Michael (Keck) is coming down on Saturday,” Lambert confirmed.
Their early arrival gives them a head start on freshmen who arrive on campus in August. While the August arrivals will be familiarizing themselves with university life and the complexities of college football, early enrollees will already have experience with the balancing act required of student-athletes.
“It seemed like they were going 100 mph, 24 hours a day with classes, practice and hosting new recruits,” said Lambert referring to his observations during recruiting trips. “I think this will help me get in the groove and I can learn to manage my time between classes and football.”
”I don’t really know what to expect, so I want to get used to everything before having to worry about playing a game on Saturday,” he said.
Though prohibitied by the NCAA to speak about specific recruits, MU athletic department spokesman Chad Moller said starting early has advantages.
“Generally speaking, early enrollees get a jump on getting acclimated to the pace of college academically and also with their transitioning into collegiate athletics,” he said.
They should also be in a much better position to contribute to the team next fall.
“I think the primary motivation is that you get a full extra semester worth of practice. If you can get to campus in January, you set yourself up for what amounts to a redshirt year before your freshman year even begins,” DeArmond said.
Keck’s high school coach, Fred Bouchard, agreed.
“If he’s (Keck) there for spring ball then he can fight for one of those two-deep spots and he can learn the defensive system,” he said.
One recent example appears to have encouraged other Missouri preps. Missouri native and Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman enrolled early last year and was able to earn significant playing time in his first year at the school.
Still, there are some drawbacks to leaving school early. Though they will participate in graduation ceremonies in May, Keck and Lambert are forced to give up other sports where they were successful. They’ll also be giving up the fun that comes with being a high school senior.
“Luke is sacrificing a lot. I don’t know if I would have done it if I were in his shoes,” Brookfield coach Shane Cavanah said when asked about Lambert’s early departure.
Lambert summed up what others making this decision may be thinking.
“This is an opportunity that only comes once in a great while, and this is my goal,” he said. “I wanted to play for MU since I was in the eighth grade.”
When classes begin Tuesday, he’ll get his wish. Several months ahead of schedule.