FOOTBALL: Cocalico grad sheds light on recruiting process, has message for high school athletes
For high school athletes, the college recruiting process is a whirlwind of overwhelming excitement.
Unfortunately for a lot of those athletes, they don't truly understand the process until they're knee-deep in their freshman year.
2014 Cocalico grad Mitchell Shober nearly fell into that trap after he committed to play defensive back at Clarion University. in the winter of 2014 before reevaluating his long term goals and switching his commitment to Juniata College.
"Clarion was one the only schools that kept their scholarship offer on the table throughout the recruiting process," Shober said. "When I went up to visit, I liked it and I think I was a bit awestruck by the idea of playing Division II football."
But after a summer workout with his new team, Shober began to question whether or not Clarion was actually the best fit for him.
"I enjoyed it but it was a haul," he said. "It was about 5-plus hours away and I wasn't thinking about friends and family being able to come see me play. Once I got there, I just didn't quite click."
Another wrench thrown into the situation was the rumor that Clarion head coach Jay Foster was going to leave the program after the 2014 season.
"I heard a rumor that he was going to leave the next year. He wasn't just the head coach but the defensive backs coach as well and to have the head coach as your position coach is pretty awesome. But when I heard he might leave, I didn't like that," Shober said.
Foster did in fact leave the Clarion football program after nine seasons as the Golden Eagles' head coach.
As the 2014 training camp approached, Shober sat down and began to seriously consider other options.
"I had a bunch of Division III schools recruiting me but I never had Division III in my mind. Once I came home, I started going over all these variables about whether or not this is where I want to go. This was in the middle of July and that's pretty darn close to the time to report to camp."
Shober eventually made up his mind that Clarion wasn't in his future and began to explore other options, a move a lot of high school athletes would be hesitant to make a month before the season starts.
"Initially, my parents weren't too happy because I signed the scholarship and I made a commitment to the school," Shober said. "But I just didn't feel right there."
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound safety was strongly recruited by a number of Division III teams earlier in the year and ultimately reached out to Juniata head coach Tim Launtz.
"I talked to coach Launtz and he said that they would welcome me with open arms."
Because Shober was transferring from a Division II program to Division III, he did not have to sit out a season before being able to play.
Once at Juniata, Shober was re-connected with a number of familiar faces, including nine other players from the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
"I like the fact that there were guys from my hometown at Juniata. At Clarion, I knew no one and had no connection to the L-L League and barely any connection to District 3," Shober said. "That weighed in a lot when I was doing the pros and cons with Clarion and Juniata."
As a freshman, Shober saw time at strong safety and special teams and registered 19 total tackles.
Citing a passion for working with children, Shober is currently majoring in elementary special education and has a long-term goal of teaching and coaching football at his alma mater, Cocalico.
"I think a lot of kids see a winning program and a good coach and they're done with the process," Shober said. "They need to realize that they are there for their education and that they are there for four years. It's not just about a team's record. It's about finding the right major and figuring out what you want to do for your career. In reality, most kids aren't going to become professional athletes."
With the 2015 recruiting cycle already in full-force, Shober had some advice for any student currently going through the same process that he went through one year ago.
"The recruiting process is something to enjoy but it's something you have to take your time with as well. I'd advise kids to start the recruiting process as soon as possible. Then figure out what you want to major in and cut the schools that don't have that major. You have to understand that you're there for your education."
Shober will begin his sophomore campaign at Juniata on Saturday, September 5 when the Eagles host Grove City College at 12pm.