"Every coach has been in this type of situation before, except for the coaches born on third base," said Texas-San Antonio defensive line coach Eric Roark. "It's a rite of passage for coaches to find ways to stretch your recruiting budget by sleeping in church parking lots or driving across the country. I remember when I was at Middle Tennessee State, I would go out on the road and share rooms and a car with Mark Snyder when he was at Youngstown State. We would see the Division I coaches fly in, get their rental cars and then stay over at the nice Marriott. We would stay at the cheap motel, the place where you drive right up to the room.
"It's the good recruiters that find a way to thrive in these types of situations."
Rodriguez and Kelly have.
They hit five high schools in the first day, including visits to recruiting powerhouses Booker T. Washington, Central and Northwestern. The second day featured more of the same with visits to Carol City, Monsignor Pace and a number of Fort Lauderdale schools. Up and down I-95 they went, and by the end of the first week, Rodriguez and Kelly had racked up five commitments.
Coaches from Garden City and other schools in the Kansas Jayhawk Community Colleges Conference have to be selective with their out-of-state recruits because they're limited to only 20 on their roster, but that doesn't stop them from going after the best of the best and they sell many of the same things major programs do when talking with prospects.
"We are Division I coaches on the road," Rodriguez said. "Our conference is the SEC of junior college football. When you line up on Saturdays in that conference, you're going to see BCS players all over the field. So we have to target the best kids and recruit with many of the same pitches they do."
The biggest things Garden City sells are the program's tradition and ability to send kids on to the next level. Instead of talking about how many players have gone on to the NFL, the coaches talk about guys like Tyreek Hill, the No. 4 player in the ESPN JC 50, who's going to Oklahoma State. They also mention their 2012 quarterback every chance they get.
"You ever hear of Nick Marshall?" Kelly asked Carol City cornerback Matthew Whyte.
"Oh, yeah, he's the quarterback at Auburn," Whyte said. "He's good."
"He was at our place last year, and now he's playing for a national championship," Kelly said as Whyte's eyes grew bigger and bigger. "That could be you, too."
They also aren't shy about selling their staff's coaching pedigree, highlighted by head coach Matt Miller's experience as an assistant for 10 years at Kansas State and his NFL connections thanks to his father's work in the front offices of the Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers. Kelly, a former Garden City player himself who went on to become an All-American linebacker for K-State and an NFL player with the Atlanta Falcons, is also a big draw.