|Tuesday, November 26
Who's telling the truth?
By Chris Leak with Wayne Drehs
Special to ESPN.com
For weeks now, I haven't been able to get the thought out of my mind. I can't talk to a coach, shake a hand, or head to a school for a visit and not wonder: Who's telling the truth?
I've seen first hand what happened to my brother at Tennessee. I was with him when he decided to transfer from Wake Forest and picked Tennessee because he believed coach Fulmer cared about his future as a quarterback. Coach told him that he would have a chance to compete for the starting job. But it never happened.
Now, after watching this happen to my brother, I wonder -- what if it happens to me? What if some coach tells me that I can play my freshman year or I can compete for the starting job and then it never happens?
As any recruit will tell you, the most difficult challenge in all of this is figuring out who's telling the truth and who's telling you what you want to hear. The only thing you have to go by is your gut feeling. But even then, how do you know you're right?
A lot of people have criticized me for trying to force Tennessee to play my brother. But nothing could be further from the case. What I'm trying to do is figure out which schools tell the truth and which schools don't. And I'd be an idiot to not try and learn from my brother's experiences in this process just a few years ago.
Having said that, I haven't eliminated any one school for any reason. All my recruiting doors are still open. The stories you read that I'm no longer interested in Tennessee are not true. Even after everything that's happened with them, the Vols are still a possibility.
As for the fireside chat my Dad and I were going to have with coach Fulmer, I don't know if it's still going to happen. If it does, it has to be after my official visits. Both of my parents agree there's no point in meeting with coach Fulmer before then.
In other news, Florida head coach Ron Zook and offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher both came to my school last Friday to watch our playoff game. My Dad told me that was the first game Zook visited this season.
For the head coach and offensive coordinator to take time out of their schedules and watch me play really speaks volumes about how much the Florida coaches want me to become a Gator. It's one thing to make phone calls or have a player come for a visit. But for a head coach to take time out of his busy schedule like that to focus on me is really something.
I haven't changed my Top 5, but I'd be lying if I told you things aren't as wide open now as they've ever been. Besides the impressive visit from Zook and Zaunbrecher, my official visit to Florida State ten days ago was a blast.
Sunday morning we went to Cracker Barrel. Sunday afternoon we had lunch at coach Bowden's house and Sunday night we ate at Outback. The coaches treated me real special. I was told to eat whatever I wanted so I ate real well on this trip.
In between meals, the weekend was loaded with football. Before Saturday's game against North Carolina, I was allowed to stand in the locker room for Coach Bowden's pregame speech. He talked about how this game could clinch a tie for the ACC championship.
After the speech, my hostess took me to my seats to watch the game. I know what you're thinking: what was the hostess like? That's the question that everybody always asks me. And she was real nice. They stick me with some of the best ones I guess.
After the game, I listened to coach Bowden's postgame speech and then walked around the locker room, introducing myself to some of the players. In the middle of the locker room -- this is kind of funny -- there's this Seminole head that nobody is allowed to walk on except coach Bowden. If you step on it, they tell you, somebody is bound to run up and flatten you. So I got a kick out of watching everyone stay out of the way.
After the game and the fancy dinner, I headed back to my hotel room to work on my senior exit. That's an English report that we have to complete in order to graduate and mine was do early the next week. I think the coaches were part surprised and part impressed that academics are so important to me. But I've always put school first. I just completed my last semester with a 4.0 -- straight A's.
After Cracker Barrel and lunch at coach Bowden's house (which was first class, by the way, though surprisingly void of football memorabilia), we headed back to the stadium. And there, in the Florida State locker room, on quarterback row, they had the No. 12 Leak jersey. This time, unlike my visit to Florida a few weeks ago, I got the courage to ask if I could put it on. The coaches said it was OK, so I did.
It fit perfect. It was a nice jersey. The real thing. And that was pretty cool.
The string of visits continues this weekend, when I head out to Los Angeles to visit USC for their big game against Notre Dame. It will be my first visit to the West Coast, so I'm curious to see if things are any different. The string of visits will end on Dec. 6, when I go to Iowa.
Hopefully, shortly thereafter, I'll have a better idea of who's telling the truth and who's playing games. And with that, a better idea of where I want to go.
Ask Chris Leak
Chris Leak: Well, at Florida, I just talked to Rex (Grossman) and hung around him. I wanted to get a feel for him and how he feels about being the starting quarterback at Florida. At Texas, Chris (Simms) was the same way. They're the guys. You want to talk to that top guy. He gets all the blame and all the glory, so you want to get a taste from him about what that's like.
How do you feel your team would fair against powerhouse De La Salle?
Chris Leak: Well, the highest we've been ranked is No. 2 right behind them. They played Cal Poly already, that's always a great game. I think it would be a real good game if our two teams were able to hook up. It would be a real treat to play a legendary team like that. It would be real special to be on the field with a program like that. And it would be quite a game.
Congratulations on what you have accomplished and good luck in the future. I have been reading a lot about you and just want to say I admire you for sharing you recruiting experience. But I would like to know why you have dropped Notre Dame out of your top five? I would love to see you taking the snaps for Tyrone's offense. I think you would make a real statement at N.D.
Chris Leak: Well, Carlyle Holiday has really settled in as the top guy there. He's the man. He's doing a great job up there now and Coach Willingham really has great loyalty for his players so that job is going to be Carlyle's. In addition, Notre Dame's recruiting season has really been rolling along and they already have some commitments from some of best quarterbacks in the country.
What teams do you play with on NCAA Football 2003 and whose comments do you like better Corso or Herbstreit?
Chris Leak: Ha! Well, when I play against my teammates and everything is on the line, I play with Texas. I mean, you can throw it to Roy Williams every single time -- he catches everything -- and then he runs for 90 yards. I switch up the quarterbacks. I use Simms if I want somebody who can air it out and throw long and I use Vincent Young when I want a quarterback with more mobility. I also love to play with Marshall and Byron Leftwich.
As for the comments, well, Herbstreit gives the comments and Corso gives more of a, "You should have done this" take on what happens. I guess I'd say they're a toss-up.
Chris, I've read that one of your idols is Donovan McNabb of the Eagles. He went to a middle-of-the-pack school, Syracuse, and led them to a BCS bowl. Do you think you're more inclined to do that, and go to a school like maybe Iowa or South Carolina, or would you rather play for a traditional national football power like Florida or Tennessee?
Chris Leak: That's a hard question to answer. Until I make my decision, I really don't know. I don't think that will really factor into my decision one way or another. No matter what school I go to, my main goal is to win a national championship -- as many as we can. And that's the goal no matter where I go.
Send in your questions and Chris will answer a few in his next diary.
ESPN.com is following quarterback Chris Leak on his journey from high school to the college ranks. Leak is writing a diary about his recruitment, and there will be weekly updates on the recruiting process through Signing Day on Feb. 5, 2003.