I talked with Clint Cosgrove, Director of Midwest Scouting for National Preps, on his playing experience, coaching and how National Preps can help you get noticed by college football programs for free.
Please Note: I am not affiliated with National Preps. I am impartial and unbiased to all scouting/recruiting/training services. If you are a service and would like to have your own Q&A please DM me on Twitter @lemminginsider for more information.
LPI: Tell our readers about yourself. Where did you play high school and college football at?
CC: My name is Clint Cosgrove, I am 33 years old, and I live in Lincoln Park with my wife Amy, and our 2 dogs Dakota and Biscuit. I was born the son of a college football coach and football has been one of the most important things in my life. Not only has football been the catalyst to some of my highest and lowest points in life, I can attribute football to a lot of the characteristics that make up who I am today. When I was born my dad (Kevin Cosgrove) was the Linebackers coach at University of Illinois. He had a couple short stints coaching after Illinois (SEMO / Colorado State) and then ended up at University of Wisconsin for 14 years as a Linebacker coach and Defensive Coordinator for Barry Alvarez. Although he has had a number of coaching jobs since he left Wisconsin and is currently the DC at New Mexico, Madison will always be home as that is where I lived 1st grade until college. With my dad being a football coach, I was pretty fortunate to have not moved a lot. I played football at Edgewood High School in Madison then went on to play at the University of Wisconsin afterwards.
LPI: What are some of the lessons you learned playing D1 football and how do you think playing college football molded you as a person?
CC: I could go on for days talking about the lessons I learned and how college football molded me, but I will try to keep it short like my college playing career! College football is unlike everything I had ever done before. In HS everything seemed easy and things I thought were hard then paled in comparison to what is expected of you at the next level. High school football was a lot of work, but the day to day rigor that you find in college was definitely not the same. I thought I had worked hard in the past but I was definitely in for a rude awakening. Not only were the majority of the players bigger and better than me, the mental side of college football was one of the hardest things for me. An example of a normal day during season would be getting up at 5:30am for morning workouts. When those were finished you run to try and get a quick meal before class. You would then go to a full day of class, grab some food, and immediately go to pre-practice meetings. After meetings you go to practice then straight to training table for dinner. I know it differs from program to program, but as a freshman at Wisconsin, we were required to attend 2 hours of study table during the week and that was non-negotiable. By the time all of that is finished you are exhausted, head home to bed, and get ready to wake up and do it all again. I was having the time of my life, but the mental and physical toll it takes can wear on you. Your learn dedication and discipline really fast. You also learn to not make excuses for anything and become accountable for everything! The camaraderie and friendships you make are unlike anything else. Unfortunately for me, I was not able to play for very long. I had a history of shoulder injuries/surgeries and it got to the point where I couldn’t play without my shoulders coming out of socket and the doctors made the decision that it was probably time to hang up my cleats. That was one of the hardest things that ever happened to me. I red-shirted as a freshman and felt as though my dream had been taken away from me before I was even able to achieve it. That experience taught me how important it was to appreciate the little things like tying your cleats/putting on the pads/going to practice/conditioning because you really never know when your last play is going to be. I felt like a failure at the time when I could no longer play, but also understood for the first time that you have little control over many events in life and it is how you react to those events that is the most important thing. I learned to deal with major disappointment at a young age, but also found out that there are other things I liked outside of football. I ended up transferring to Arizona State to be a regular student. The thing that kept me motivated was my desire to be a coach and knowing that I would have an opportunity to do that down the road if I continued to study the game.
LPI: For those that may not know tell us a little bit about National Preps. How does it work and how does it help high school athletes?
CC: I am the Director of Midwest Scouting for National Preps and we are a service that is paid by over 170 college football teams to identify their prospects, evaluate players, collect contact/academic information, and overall streamline their recruiting process. We are basically an extension of their recruiting/personnel departments and work closely with our teams year round. We have a database that has thousands of prospects we have identified, evaluated/rated, and have gathered information on. Our clients/teams then take the information we provide and download it into their recruiting database. They use the data as a starting point when identifying the players they will recruit. On top of access to the National Preps database, our teams have access to the National Preps scouting directors for anything they need. We send email alerts on kids that we have seen/like/ are under the radar, make best available prospect lists, an underclassmen report, and we do projects for our teams to fulfill any specific needs. Our goal is to identify the top prospects before they are well known, provide a trusted evaluation, and then streamline those players to our teams first. Doing this allows coaches and personnel departments to focus on coaching and recruiting opposed to spending their time identifying players and collecting information. Coaches are also limited in how much time they can recruit and be on the road, while we have the ability to go on the road and see/evaluate kids in person year-round. We are an extra set of eyes for coaches and recruiting departments when they can’t be there. At the end of the day, the teams have the offers and make the final decisions on who to take, but our input goes into the recruiting process with our clients. Some more so than others *laughs*. We work with teams from every major D1 conference down to FCS and a number of D2 and D3 teams.
LPI: Why should recruits and families choose National Preps rather than say a competitor?
CC: We are different than most recruiting services in the sense that we are not hired or paid by athletes and their families. Instead, the teams hire and pay us. Since they are paying us to find players and streamline the recruiting process for them, the information we provide is looked at and typically carries weight. That puts me in a fun and unique position where I’m able to help athletes get exposure/offers without having to ask for anything from them at all; that is one of my favorite parts of the job. The majority of the kids in our database don’t even know they are in it, they just know they are getting recruited in general. We don’t have a public database or profiles that fans and players are able to access, only the coaches of the teams we work with get this information.
When families use a “pay for” recruiting service those groups will usually guide you and promote you through the recruiting process, whereas our number one job is to find our teams the players they are looking for. I try to speak at events and do interviews to educate families/coaches on recruiting as much as possible, but unfortunately I am not able to sit down with everyone individually. I just don’t have enough time in the day to give everyone personalized feedback. That being said, anybody who has the desire to play college football can fill out our questionnaire and that will submit him to our database. They will then get evaluated and be given a grade. Your information will get in coaches hands and it is about the easiest and cheapest (FREE) thing you can do to help yourself get recruited. You can find the questionnaire HERE.
LPI: Your dad is currently the defensive coordinator at University of New Mexico and has been coaching for a long time so you grew up in a football household. How do you think that has helped you in your playing days and now in your work at National Preps?
CC: My dad has been a huge influence in my personal life and professional career. I see how hard he has worked to get from where he came from to where he is today, and that motivates me to work hard and make him proud. I know I would not be where I am without his help and sacrifices. Football was never forced on me, but I was literally drawn to it from birth. When I was in pre-school, I would draw up plays for my dad to take with him to work and then I would get mad when they weren’t used on game day. He still has some of those plays *laughs*. I tell that story because it is funny, but it also shows how long I have been passionate about the game. I have been studying film and football players for a long time. I spent many hours with my dad in the film room as a young boy and I never stopped asking questions. I would also watch recruits with him, listen to his conversations with recruits, and study the way they built their roster at Wisconsin. I basically grew up in the football office and in the lockeroom. I was obsessed. I was blessed with a lot of opportunities to be around football, and although it was more about having fun when I was young, I still soaked it all up like a sponge. I think it helped during my playing days because I had a pretty deep understanding of how opponents would try to attack as well as how to attack opponents on the football field. It allowed me to play with an edge and an elevated level of confidence. As far as work goes I am only 33, but I have literally been evaluating players and scheme for the majority of those years. Although I still have a lot to learn- I am confident in what I do and although not everyone will always agree with my evaluations, I am confident in my reasoning behind them and can back them up.
LPI: You were also an assistant coach at Dartmouth, Minnesota and Nebraska. How do you think that coaching experience helps you when evaluating talent for National Preps?
CC: Coaching has been huge when it comes to my evaluations. On top of spending hundreds of hours watching film, I had a chance to work under and learn from some great football minds at each stop during my coaching career. Nebraska was my first job in coaching, and even though I was low man on the totem pole and in in a Quality Control/Defensive Assistant type role, I was thrown in the “evaluation fire” right away. Bill Callahan was the head coach and had just come from the NFL, so we would have these recruiting meetings where we would watch HS players as a whole staff and do an NFL type write-up on each of them. During these meetings Coach Callahan would go around the room and ask certain coaches to give their detailed opinion on the kid. I never thought I would get called on with a bunch of 30 year coaching vets in the room, but found out in the very first meeting that was not the case. I always knew I had to be on my toes during those meetings and it was something that I really started to study and take pride in. I was very fortunate to be put in a position like that when I was only 24 because it taught me to always be prepared and always be able to back up my opinion. Every place I have coached, we spent hours watching recruits as a staff and you pick up something new everyday in those meetings. After a while it becomes second nature and you can watch and get a feeling on players. At the end of the day evaluating is not a science but you can definitely get really good at it. If it was a science, the NFL combine/evaluation process would be a perfect predictor of how a player will perform at the next level. The combine scouting process is about as scientific as you can get when it comes to evaluation yet it is far from 100% accurate. It also helps that I scout for many teams that play in the conferences I coached in. I know what types of players are in each league and have a good idea of what it takes to win in those leagues. Having been on the road recruiting as a coach has also been helpful because a lot of what I do now is similar to that.
LPI: What other advice can you give high school football players to help them in their recruiting?
CC: Make sure that your information is easily accessible. Update your Hudl as much as possible. If your film, contact information, and academic information are easy to find, you have a better chance of being discovered. If you are embarrassed by your grades, then work harder in the classroom. There is nothing worse than discovering a kid that could have tons of offers, but I cannot even get him in front of a team because he won’t qualify. You can be the best player in the world, but if you cant get into school or meet the NCAA requirements it doesn’t matter.
Have a Twitter with your real name so that coaches/scouts can find and contact you. Remember that what you put on your twitter account, whether you write it or re-tweet it, is a reflection of you and can cost you a scholarship.
When it comes to getting yourself out there, be as proactive as possible. Try to develop relationships with coaches and see as many schools as you can. One day college camps are a great way to do that. Unless you have multiple D1 offers, don’t only focus on D1 schools, because that is how a lot of players end up without an opportunity to play in college. A lot of players make this mistake and end up without scholarships when they could have had them.
You have little control on when it comes to your recruitment, because at the end of the day very few players get to chose who is going to offer/recruit them. Control what you can actually control and by that I mean your approach to the game, your attitude, and your work ethic on the field/In the classroom. Have a great relationship with your HS head coach and let him know about your goals to play in college. The first person a college coach is going to talk to when they go to your school is he, and your coach is usually going to be brutally honest. Don’t make HS football only about recruiting, make it about your team and being best person/player/teammate you can be. When you do those things you will give your chance to play at the next level. Most of all, do not put too much pressure on yourself. HAVE FUN! Playing HS football with your buddies will be one of the most memorable times in your life as it is football in its purest form.