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“I think there’s probably a fit for everybody,” said Cypress Lake coach Richie Rode, acknowledging some athletes may have to pay their own way to college.

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“The snow is definitely a hard sell,” Rooker said with a laugh.

Carthage signed five players from its first visit to Southwest Florida two years ago: Dunbar’s Malik Thigpen, Southwest Florida Christian’s Garrett Pynckel, Barron Collier’s Jamel Davis and Kameron Stubblefield and Gulf Coast’s Galvin Hoopes. That’s why we come down here,” said Rooker, hoping his program will be able to attend more of the eight recruiting fairs held in the state each February.

Three started or played key roles as freshman, Rooker said. “We try to focus on a couple and try to do as good a job as we can with those couple. I’d love to do more of it frankly because it’s been productive for us.” Even with endless online recruiting services and larger recruiting budgets even at small schools, plenty of good players still aren’t spotted until such fairs.

I’ve seen enough to know what is admissible and what is iffy,” said Hiram admissions counselor Marcus Bailey. You should see their reactions the minute they get that handshake and you say, ‘Welcome to the family.’” Alas, not all attendees find matches, or even much interest.

But with small schools sometimes using up to 200 players to fill varsity and jayvee or freshman squads, striking out at the fair doesn’t have to mean the end of a teenager’s football love affair.

“The work you have to put in with our team, and the reputation that our alumni have, if you’re not a good-character guy, you’re not going to fit in our team, it doesn’t matter how talented you are.” Even with its standards, schools such as Mount Union said there’s still plenty of great recruits to be found in recruiting fairs such as those in Florida – sometimes especially Florida.

“Since we started recruiting Florida, we’ve gone 7-3 the last two years,” said Kyle Rooker, offensive coordinator at Carthage College, also a D-3 school in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that has improved its record in each of five seasons under the current coaching staff (1-9, 3-7, 5-5, 7-3, 7-3).“Guys will slip through,” said Mount Union’s Collins.“There’s people we’ve recruited and you wouldn’t think they would have ever been anything in high school.They were late bloomers or they just needed something different. It gives them a sense of reality, too,” said Fort Myers High coach Sam Sirianni Jr., noting the clearer picture athletes get of what’s available from different types of schools, types of aide and so on.There’s a lot of good talent down here that’s getting overlooked.” By bringing so many schools and athletes together at once, the recruiting process can be streamlined for both parties, indeed just as in actual speed dating. “A lot of (schools) will talk dollars and cents with them.” Usually with mutual interest the next step is arranging on-campus visits – sometimes partly to see if Florida kids can tolerate Northern winters.For all the rest – and the tiny colleges most football fans have never heard of – there’s recruiting fairs such as Friday’s at Cape Coral High School.

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