Do you love college football Saturdays but not know the difference between an official and unofficial visit? Wondering why so many recruits want you to "respect my decision" or kindly ask for "no interviews"? With Wednesday's signing day quickly approaching, we're here to help.
Here's the newcomer's guide to #CrootinTwitter, a handy dictionary for decoding the language of recruiting on social media.
"Blessed and excited": If you follow recruits on Twitter, you will see a lot of blessings and excitement. Those terms are often used when prospects inform their followers that they have been offered a scholarship from a school.
Many times, the tweets follow a template. The prospect adds a preface, names the school, adds in a relevant hashtag for that program and usually completes it with some photos of the team in action and perhaps a logo.
"Blessed," has variations. Some are "extremely blessed," others are "beyond blessed." Many times there is a nod to a player's faith, sometimes with the hashtag #AGTG ("All glory to God").
While most players use photos, some, like ESPN Junior 300 five-star prospect Zachary Evans, show their personality by using GIFs, like much of the Twitter-savvy public, or videos.
I'm sure Auburn fans appreciated Evans' choice of GIF when the Tigers offered him last March:
Nobody has been more blessed or excited than Anthony Hines III. The Class of 2017 linebacker reported 90-plus offers during his process. He didn't tweet out every single one, but at one point, Hines had a running tally.
Hines' first offer came in 2013, when he was in eighth grade. Three years later, he was still getting offers before eventually committing to Texas A&M during his high school senior season in 2016.
Edit: Those flashy images you see of a recruit with cool effects and a bunch of team logos positioned around him -- the kids call those "edits." They're what laymen might call a "Photoshop," and recruits often use them to announce their top five schools or, in many cases, to which school they're committing.
There are many folks doing this work, but few are as well-known as Kinder (Louisiana) High School junior quarterback Hayes Fawcett.
Fawcett became the photo editor of the stars when he was a mere middle-schooler. He saw players posting these stylized images on their social media and decided he wanted in on the action. He made edits that caught the eye of Odell Beckham Jr. and later did some work for Derrius Guice. Soon, he became the go-to guy for recruiting edits. Top-flight recruits like 2016 prospect and current Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson were shouting him out on social media, and his services became in demand.
S/O to @Hayesfawcett3 for the best edits hit him up!— Shea Patterson (@SheaPatterson_1) April 21, 2015
At the peak of his editing days, Fawcett says he was getting "20-plus requests a day," in his direct messages.
He uses more than a dozen apps to edit photos, but he doesn't share his secrets.
"That's classified information," he said.
Deadlines can be tight, too. Fawcett recalled watching Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Western Conference finals when he said he got a last-minute request from current Clemson receiver Tee Higgins, who was looking to announce his top five that night and wanted Fawcett to do an edit.
"I had like, 30 minutes to do it," Fawcett recalled. "I ended up getting it done."
Fawcett has slowed down his output in recent years. He has his own athletic career to tend to at Kinder, where he played football, baseball and basketball as a sophomore. He said he gave up basketball this year, so that has allowed him more time to get back into the edit game, and he's starting to do them more regularly again.
"I think by keeping this up, it might help me get connections when I'm pursuing my real career," said Fawcett, who plans to study either graphic design or sports management in college.
Edits are not to be confused with graphics, which professional graphic designers send out on athletic departments' behalf to commemorate events such as holidays or official scholarship offers or send good luck messages to players in their upcoming high school games. Plenty of time and thought goes into the concepts that will catch the eyes of teenagers.
One of the most buzzworthy graphics among recruits last summer was North Texas director of creative content Brett Gemas' idea to replicate the skin selector from the uber-popular video game Fortnite with different Mean Green uniform combinations.
Hat science: An inexact method of predicting which school a recruit will choose at his announcement ceremony based on the hats on the table. Typically, the newer, fresher looking the hat, the more likely it is the one the recruit will place it on his head when he announces his decision.
Whether the recruit is right- or left-handed and location of the hats (hat science expert Tony Gerdeman says the middle hat is never chosen) is also of critical importance.
In some instances -- like Alabama DL Phidarian Mathis' commitment ceremony two years ago -- it's easy to presume. (Note the condition of the Crimson Tide hat versus the other two on the table.)
Three hats out here for Phidarian Mathis - Alabama, LSU and TCU. pic.twitter.com/dQOCjXfGi1— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) January 31, 2017
In others -- like Florida State defensive lineman Marvin Wilson's announcement on signing day 2017 -- it's more difficult to decipher:
The hats are here for Marvin Wilson. pic.twitter.com/IJUHpjel0X— Sam Khan Jr. (@skhanjr) February 1, 2017
(In a minor twist, Wilson didn't pick a hat, but instead unzipped his jacket to reveal an FSU shirt).
Some, like quarterback Casey Thompson, try to game the system. Thompson committed to Texas in 2017, even though there was no Longhorns hat visible (it was under the table).
Others are more creative, like Jeremiah Martin, who used sneakers for his announcement.
#SigningDay @cajonfootball Cajon's Jeremiah Martin displays cleats and other items of his 5 finalists: Arizona, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M and Washington. Announcement coming shortly. pic.twitter.com/zupNsXCvsI— Tim Dutton (@TimDutton2) February 7, 2018
Or Donovan Peoples-Jones, with helmets.
We're getting close. Donovan Peoples-Jones at 8:30 on ESPN2 pic.twitter.com/WyPH3f2fM6— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 16, 2016
Gerald will pick from these giant cookies pic.twitter.com/wu1Zzg94cR— Mark Haggard (@allzoner) February 9, 2018
"I have committed to ...": Some people commit with a ceremony, complete with the hats. A few are fortunate to do it on ESPN or perhaps an all-America game. Some prefer simply to send out a tweet to announce the news. But in recent years, some recruits have taken commitment announcements to a new level: with a video.
The videos typically have some buildup, usually some storytelling, before the final reveal in the end. They are usually professionally produced and can resemble a short film, like that of Daelin Hayes.
Former USC CB Jack Jones was accompanied by Snoop Dogg in his commitment video:
Perhaps none were as bold -- or as daring -- as Deontay Anderson, however. The 2016 ESPN 300 safety committed to Ole Miss on signing day by skydiving.
Even more daring, Anderson didn't tell his mom about his announcement method until he was on his way to film it. Only he and his dad knew the plan.
"We were saying we were going to do something at Manvel [High School], and my dad kept driving, right past Manvel," said Anderson, who has since transferred to Houston. "And my mom is like, 'Where are you going?' And at that moment we told her, 'He's going to do a commitment video ... skydiving.' And she's like, 'SKYDIVING!?!' You know how moms get. She couldn't say no then."
Anderson wanted to do something different, something that nobody had done before. The folks at Bleacher Report floated the skydiving idea and Anderson went for it, despite having never done it before.
"I wasn't scared but I was very anxious," Anderson said. "It didn't really hit me until the door opened. I had to creep up. 'Oh my gosh, we're high,' 14,000 feet, I believe. You just feel the wind. Then they start counting and you think. 'Oh well, it's too late now,' and you just jump."
People still ask Anderson about the video to this day and he usually tells them how fun it was and that he plans to skydive again at some point. He likes the videos and other unique ways recruits announce their plans.
"It's a big deal," he said. "You're going to college for free, so why not just have fun with it?"
What's the next frontier?
"I'm surprised nobody has made a song yet, or a music video," he said. "I'm pretty sure it's gonna happen."
"No interviews": The publicity recruits get is at times enjoyable ... until it isn't. And when a recruit changes his mind and decides to switch his commitment from one school to another, naturally, people want to know why.
Everyone, reporters included, has to wait.
Allow Oklahoma 2019 signee Jadon Haselwood, who was originally committed to Georgia, to show you:
Thank you and no interviews at this time... pic.twitter.com/pAd8yPZjwz— Jadon Haselwood 🎱 ² (@jadon_haselwood) October 3, 2018
"It gets to be a lot," said Anderson, recalling his recruitment as an ESPN 300 prospect. "If you start getting a lot of reporters calling, you'll have all calls all day. They'll call you during school and you don't know them like that."
When it comes to recruits who feel they're under a lot of pressure, Anderson said: "I completely understand where they come from because they just don't feel like talking."
"Please respect my decision": This statement often precedes "no interviews." It's usually a part of a statement the recruit posts on social media, often using a screenshot of the iPhone "Notes" app (take that, 280 character limit!). It's pretty self-explanatory, but it became a necessity as recruits discovered over time that some, ahem, "fans" can be quite hostile when hearing news they don't necessarily want to hear.
Which brings us to the evergreen rule: Don't tweet at recruits!
Allow this handy flowchart to help you understand further:
I made this last year, but it will apply for eternity. A flowchart for whether or not you should tweet at recruits. pic.twitter.com/CK6ke7NOyv— Gray Hardison (@BellyoftheBeast) December 17, 2014
Top list: Speaking of Notes app screenshots, the top schools list is often used for this, too -- unless the recruit has commissioned Fawcett or one of his contemporaries to work up a sick edit.
Recruits want to let folks, including the coaches recruiting them, know that they've narrowed down their choices -- or at least tried to narrow. Top schools lists can sometimes be a bit long.
Top 20 (No Order) pic.twitter.com/EK67aIJT1D— TheRealEmmitG93 (@TheRealEmmitG93) May 16, 2017
Hey, these are tough decisions to make.