It’s easy to forget they are 15, 16, 17 years old. It’s too easy to overlook that and expect them to revel in everything the recruiting process brings.
They are considered the lucky ones as colleges compete for their time, attention and, ultimately, their signature on a letter of intent. A college education for free, mostly free or even partially free is a wonderful thing.
The difficult part for standout high school athletes is that reaching a decision is complex and comes with a downside. Regardless the coach/school you end up telling “yes,” there are others you must call and say, “No, I am going somewhere else.”
Carson Camp said “yes” Sunday to South Dakota. The Normal West High School junior quarterback is “excited” about the opportunities there on and off the field. Yet, he also felt strongly about Illinois State and Indiana State, two of South Dakota’s rivals in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
So when contacted Monday, early on in the conversation Camp said this: “I want to say something — and I hope you can get this in there — I personally want to thank Coach (Brock) Spack and his (Illinois State) staff for recruiting me. It’s a great program, great school. I also want to thank Coach (Curt) Mallory and his (Indiana State) staff for recruiting me. That’s a program on the rise.
“The Missouri Valley is the SEC of the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision). I felt like I had three great opportunities from three great schools. South Dakota was just a great fit for me.”
Good for him … not just the “great fit” part, but for showing the maturity to essentially say, “Hey, this wasn’t easy,” and, “I appreciate the interest you showed in me.”
Why the interest?
Camp was terrific last season, throwing for an area-best 2,258 yards and tying for the area lead with 24 touchdown passes. He completed nearly 60 percent of his attempts in West’s fast-paced offense and ran for 345 yards and three scores.
He is a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder strong enough to shed tacklers or run through them.
His coach, Nathan Fincham, will tell you Camp is “athletic” and has “a great arm” and is “a very smart quarterback” and can “make plays with his feet.”
Then he gets to the good part.
“There is a lot of stuff you don’t see … how he is a leader for our team, especially moving into his senior year,” Fincham said. “He was a captain as a junior. There are a lot of intangibles he possesses that don’t come around very often.”
Camp’s production and leadership were vital to a 10-2 season that included West’s first trip to the Class 6A playoff quarterfinals.
Since then, while also playing basketball at West, he has continued to “develop my craft” as a quarterback with help from Fincham and Jeff Christensen, the former Gibson City High School, Eastern Illinois and NFL quarterback.
Camp forged what he called “great relationships” with South Dakota offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ted Schlafke and running backs coach Dante Warren, a former Coyotes QB.
Camp also was lured by South Dakota’s “similar type offense” to West and a chance to play sooner than later.
“As a quarterback you have to adapt to new things, but I think it (the offense) will be easy to adapt to,” he said. “I think it will give me a head start as a freshman. They said I have a really good opportunity to compete as a freshman or sophomore and get some playing time.”
There’s also this: Camp seeks to major in “journalism or media.” When he learned the late Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, was a South Dakota grad, he was encouraged and intrigued.
“When I was on my first visit there, everything just felt right,” Camp said. “You know as a quarterback what’s right and what’s wrong. It felt right.”
Fincham had advised Camp to “go to a place that speaks to you.” This one did.
So he said “yes,” but also gave a shoutout to the two ISUs who made him feel special as well.
It said a lot about him.