Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.
So said Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, and so may Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley also be saying now that he is once again on the college football recruiting trail.
Hafley has spent the last seven years in the NFL. As far removed from recruiting high schoolers as a football coach can get.
Before that, he spent 11 years in college, including five years at Pitt and one year at Rutgers.
Sometimes when a college coach leaves for the NFL it is because they don’t want to recruit anymore. The travel gets to them. The salesmanship may not be up their alley. It also takes them away from film study and, y’know, coaching.
It takes a certain kind of coach to handle the rigors and commitment of recruiting, which is why it is always a question mark when a coach comes from the NFL to a new college job.
How does a head coach know he is bringing in an outstanding recruiter if they haven’t had to do it in almost a decade?
It is an entirely different world, which is one of the reasons why Hafley wanted to come back to it.
Now, instead of having input on one or two draft picks in the NFL, he can set his sights on a number of different players and it is then up to him to go get them. Hafley has much more control now and he plans to make good use of it.
“I think [Ryan Day] expects me to go out and get the best players,” Hafley said on signing day. “That’s what I expect out of myself. When I was at Pitt, I did it for a long time. I recruited some really good players. Getting on the road, yeah, getting on airplanes and traveling, I had to get used to doing that again. I got a little tired going from city to city, but that’s exciting because we don’t have to draft them now, we get to go pick them, so I get more than one pick.
“Coach tells me you get two DB’s in this draft. I get more than two DB’s now. We get to go evaluate, we get to go pick them, and if we want them, we’d better work and get them, and that fires me up to give us a chance to do it. And I believe I have the experience with what I’ve learned over the last seven years to give a lot to offer these guys.”
However, recruiting is just one aspect of the difference between college football and the NFL.
In college, coaches have to find ways to connect with and motivate players ranging from 18-22 years old. These are formative years, with some of them still having issues with maturity. It separates those who want it from those who thought they did.
In the NFL, however, coaches are dealing with professional workers.
Despite the perceived differences between the two worlds, Hafley insists it is the similarities between college players and professionals that makes it all work.
“As far as the NFL player compared to the college player, I saw that when I entered the league. I coached Ronde Barber who was 37 years old, I was 31. He told me, all players want to be told what to do and how hard to do it, and he said if you do that and have a relationship with them, you’ll be fine,” Hafley explained.
The only difference for Hafley now is that those relationships begin a lot earlier. As he is out on the recruiting trail, certain players will take to his style and what he has to say.
Players will have left the comfort of home to play at Ohio State and learn under Hafley. And before that player ever takes the field for him, there will be a trust and a commitment between them.
“I think the misconception is that it’s different. I don’t believe it is,” Hafley said of coaching younger players and older players. “I mean, Richard Sherman will call me, we’ll talk just as close as I’ve been with 18, 19-year olds. You want to develop relationships. You want to develop trust.
“You want the guy to run through a wall for you because he knows he has your back, because he knows you love him, and you want that relationship no matter how old they are, and I think the same will go with these guys as it did coaching in the NFL. So I’m excited. I’m excited to get back on the road and recruit. I am.”