Houston-area standouts survive recruiting waiting game
On Dec. 4, more than 42,000 fans piled into Rice Stadium for a high school football playoff game. The teams, Katy and Pearland, both boasted one of the area's best running backs, and the two had drawn big crowds all year.
While the running backs, Katy's Donovonn Young and Pearland's Dustin Garrison, were filling seats all year, neither had been offered a Division I scholarship at the time.
On national signing day, Feb. 2, both will sign. Young is committed to Illinois and Garrison to West Virginia. But getting noticed and getting offers were tough tasks for the two stars.
Young, at 5-11 and 210 pounds, was getting attention as early as his sophomore year. But in his junior season, when he would have had a chance to shine as one of Katy's key running backs, he broke his foot in the first game of the year. He missed most of the season, returning in the playoffs.
"It was hard because I had a lot of goals set for myself," Young said. "I really wanted to play football in college, and missing a year was going to hurt that."
Ahmard Vital, of Scout.com, said the injury took Young out of the mix with some programs.
"These (college programs) only have so many scholarships to give, and it is so competitive," Vital said. "So they offer early and try to get players to commit. A guy like Donovonn Young faded out of the picture when he couldn't play."
It was a different situation for Garrison. Although he was putting up strong numbers and helping the Oilers win games, he didn't pass the eyeball test among recruiters. At 5-8, 160 pounds, Garrison's size was an issue.
Both players went into the 2010 season with the recruiting picture looking bleak. But both turned heads all season. Garrison won a state championship with the Oilers and finished the season with 2,827 rushing yards and 46 touchdowns. Young had 2,332 yards and 35 touchdowns while sharing time with Katy sophomore Adam Taylor.
Even though both had stellar senior seasons, the offers weren't rolling in because they were already gone, Vital said.
"It is a balance because you can have a great senior year, but if players have already committed and taken up those offers, the college teams just don't have any left to give," he said.
Young eventually started getting calls. Illinois was the one he listened to.
"I just felt like they actually wanted me there," he said. "I felt like it was a place I could go and play and people were excited about it. That makes you want to go and work hard."
Garrison settled on West Virginia after he was invited there for a visit earlier this month. He committed last Sunday morning.
"I might not have the size as some other guys, but I will work hard in college," he said. "I will pay attention and just try to keep getting better."
Although the journey has been a rough one for both players, each has gained a sense of maturity and a lot of patience.
"I think you just have to keep trusting yourself," Young said. "Have faith, work hard and hold on to those goals. You just hope for the best."
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