People are much more than their measurements
Success has many variables, not all of which are related to one's appearance
Displaying heart, grit, determination, and an untiring work ethic still count for something, at least to me
There is nothing I can do to change athletic recruiting. There are lots of other “measurables” which are true indications of future athletic success at multiple levels of college athletics beyond height, weight, length, head circumference, hand and foot proportion, and anything else across which one can stretch a tape-measure.
There is heart, grit, work-ethic, poise, competitiveness, grace, strength, power, explosion, and lots of other factors which go into an athlete’s “success,” or lack, at any level of college athletics. Just like in Mathew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone…;” a man or woman’s measurements are not the full measure of either the man or woman.
I can’t make recruiters see this. I can’t make recruiting services or “ranking experts” see this. I can’t even make many of you reading this, see it.
I couldn’t seem to get the public to understand this when discussing my own son. I can’t seem to do any better when I am pitching yours.
So who’s right, they or I? Well, I would point out the enormous amount of “busts” dotting the sidelines of pretty much every team in FBS college football as proof their “system” supports my contention society’s glorification of stature must be riddled with error.
Sure, they get quite a few right, but shouldn’t they? They also seem to get more than their fair share wrong.
Consider this, if the “measurables” recruiters and ranking services have predetermined to be accurate forecasters of future college success in football were actually accurate, why are there so many busts? How do they continually miss with so many on their 85-man rosters?
FBS teams have 85-kids on full scholarship. All 85 of them possess similar physical attributes or else they wouldn't have been offered. All 85 of them were awarded “full-rides.”
With all of the above being true, then why does it matter, one iota, when a starter gets injured? Can’t they all play at an elite level?
Why would it matter when another player has fallen prey to injury, failed to remain academically eligible, has transferred to another school, or just left the program for home? I thought they were all good, all elite.
Why isn’t it “next man up?” Why does an inordinate amount of injuries, transfers, or academic casualties result in our watching an inferior or depleted product?
These guys doing the picking for the schools, and these guys doing the rankings for the recruiting services, are “experts,” aren’t they? They are paid to do it.
Why aren’t all of the “chosen ones,” the best of the best? Are these guys selling both the fans and the football programs employing them, a bill of goods?
Every year scores of players head off to college on football scholarships never to be relevant again, after the signing ceremonies. All of them left their signings brimming with forecasts of future stardom and projected passage to the NFL where fortune and fame would be awaiting.
Far too many of these former high-school superstars, two to three years later, leave us wondering what happened? Are they still playing? For all we know, our former superstars aren't still on the team's roster. This one or that one has gone home, has transferred, is an academic casualty, or whatever else. Why does this keep happening?
The answer is pretty straight forward. A prospect's height, length, head circumference, and hand width aren't nearly as accurate of indicators as these "experts" purport.
This fact is inescapable...a successful athlete, a kid, especially your kid, will always add up to more than just his measurements. His height and limb proportions will never measure the full measure of his heart, his grit, his resolve, or the lengths to which he will go to succeed.
That is how lower division college athletes end up professional stars with lucrative contracts. That is why Heisman winners and former FBS, power 5, All-Americans don’t pan out in the NFL and take up broadcasting.
As a parent of an athlete who has just gone down the path of combines, camps, and offseason showcases, I couldn’t be happier it is over for William. I dread its commencement for Jack Whaley.
I will never forget the first time I attended one of those “national” combines with William. The event coordinators herded in the prospects through cattle-lines. The staff measured each kid's height, weight, reach, head circumference, and about everything else they could. As soon as William’s height was recorded, had they been honest, they would have just smiled and sent him home.
It was over anyway. No amount of performance was going to overcome it. It was the "deal breaker."
He ran an upper-level 40-yard dash time that day, they didn’t care. He was one of the quickest pro-agility shuttles at the combine for either offensive or defensive linemen, so what.
He had a crazy high vertical leap and broad jump, big deal. He dominated (and I mean dominated) every big-time prospect they put in front of him. Not a single evaluator could have cared any less.
He was short. That was it. It was over from there. Height, was the deal-breaker.
He made "First-team" on multiple Kentucky, Associated Press, All-State football squads. Didn’t matter, he was short.
He won every high school powerlifting state championship COVID-19 couldn’t steal from him, 2-state titles in all. Didn’t make him any taller.
He was listed among the top-10 linemen in the commonwealth of Kentucky by Bluegrass Preps. He was listed among the top-100 players in Kentucky, regardless of graduating class, by the Lexington Herald-Leader. It just didn’t matter.
The only one who never got discouraged was William. He kept working. He kept grinding. He “soldiered-on” like a true champion and remained upbeat when I couldn’t.
He ended up being right. I was foolish to feel discouraged.
William kept pushing himself and working toward making himself better, regardless of the negative attention he drew. He kept working regardless of what many of you said about him on social media, what many of you social media influencers said about this high-school kid who has never given any less than everything he has to every coach for whom he’s ever played (ask them). He kept right on working regardless of what many of you jealous parents said about him while cutting him to shreds on different online forums.
None of you noted anything lacking in his play. None of you were critical of his production. None of you were critical of his prowess, power, strength, nor explosion as a high-school, elite player.
All of you said the same thing as the ranking services. William Long is short.
Yes, he is short. William is also nothing short of extraordinary.
He has shown us all of what he is made in the classroom, earning academic scholarship after academic scholarship to fund his opportunity to chase his dream and play college football for Centre College. Now, he is showing what an extraordinary athlete he is by playing his third varsity sport, in addition to football and powerlifting. Now he’s bringing the same commitment and hard work to the diamond.
Will he play high-school baseball to the same standard he played high-school football, an all-state standard? I wouldn’t think so. William hasn’t played organized baseball since he was twelve-years old.
Will he be a state champion in baseball, like he is in powerlifting? Well, that is a possibility. Baseball is a team, and not an individual sport, and Coach Hamilton has a squad which has limitless potential if some breaks fall its way and if the young talent (William included) continues to improve as the season progresses.
Will he let his stature deter or, in any way, stop him from proving to everyone that a person is more than merely his or her measurements? I can answer this question with some immediate certainty. I wouldn't bet against him.
William’s high-school sports' history has proven one thing, if not many, many others. Betting against William Long accomplishing the truly remarkable, the truly amazing, has always shown itself to be an exceedingly foolish wager.
This is Fletcher Long and you can take this for whatever you find it worth; but THAT’S THE LONG VERSION!
Note: Mr. Long is an award-winning Kentucky journalist recognized for excellence in both writing and reporting by the Kentucky Press Association.