NASHVILLE -- Each April, high school football coaches from across the state convene at Nissan Stadium to share film on their best players and make connections with FCS, D-II, D-III, and NAIA schools. The Tennessee Titans and Tennessee Football Coaches Association (TnFCA) hosted the fifth annual Tennessee Titans High School Recruiting Fair on Tuesday, drawing a total of 442 coaches from 120 high schools and 61 colleges and universities representing 17 states.
Designed to be a platform for under recruited high school student-athletes to gain exposure from colleges who wouldn't have been able to access them through the normal recruiting process, the recruiting fair has become an important event each year for high school and college staffs alike. In a single morning, high school coaches are able to show off the film and transcripts of their student-athletes while also building relationships and making connections with college coaches across the country.
For former Stratford High School tight end Malik Owens, conversations between coaches at the recruiting fair led directly to a football scholarship at Eastern Kentucky University, where he'll begin this fall. Owens, a 6'6" tight end, was in the middle of the recruiting process when he tore his ACL during spring practice in 2017. After his injury, the level of interest from college coaches declined. Owens' head coach at Stratford, Thomas Porter, brought his film to the recruiting fair, where Porter and his staff were able to make an initial connection with EKU.
"We reassured them that he was perfectly fine. He ended up leading our team in receiving this past year, getting him that scholarship, so it was really cool to see," Porter said. "For our kids, being an inner-city school, it just helps our kids get more publicity that they might not get at a school like ours. We get a chance to meet a lot of different schools to help them play and continue their career in college."
Stories like that of Malik Owens are the reason the Titans and TnFCA began hosting the recruiting fair five years ago.
"It started as really a roundtable conversation and a meeting about trying to do more to promote our kids to all levels of college football," said Thomas McDaniel, TnFCA President and Christian Brothers High School Head Coach.
"It's an avenue to open up a door for a kid that maybe never gets recognized or a coach never really finds out about. This is obviously just a starting point for recruiting, but again, I think the colleges have used it very wisely in coming in here and spending three hours diligently making those connections with the high schools, finding these kids."
While some players' names were already familiar to the college coaches, many others received some of their first looks from colleges at the recruiting fair. For coaches like Jason Simpson, head coach at UT Martin, the event provides a head start on the recruiting trail.
"We'll go on the road next week and come back to these high schools, now we've already got some background information on them," explained Simpson. "It really speeds up the recruiting process and gives these kids the best opportunity to be seen and be marketed by the high school coaches."
The Tennessee Titans and Tennessee Football Coaches Association (TnFCA) hosted the fifth annual Tennessee Titans High School Recruiting Fair at Nissan Stadium, drawing a total of 442 coaches from 120 high schools and 61 colleges and universities representing 17 states. (Photos: Kayla Schoen)