2016 Recruiting is heating up

Summer is here and the 2016 recruiting season is heating up. In actual fact, the recruiting process began long ago. Several years ago really. We were told at the Friends of Gryphon Football reception the other night that coaches Adam Grandy and Devin Kavanagh weren’t able to make it because they were “out on the road recruiting”.

In Ontario, the summer football leagues have to be scouted from late May until August. Gryphon Football’s summer camps are a key part of the evaluation process and they’ll be kicking off in a few weeks. And 2016 and 2017 recruits will begin making summertime visits to check out campuses that they are interested in.

The first story I’ve seen on 2016 recruiting appeared in this week’s Guelph TribuneGridiron, glitz and academics. It describes a two-way recruiting battle for a local football star – Ben Cross of Guelph Centennial. Cross has previously played for Team Ontario and was a D10 All Star in 2014.

Ben Cross

Photo: Ned Bekavac/Tribune

By Ned Bekavac

Not everyone gets to say they’ve seen their name up in lights.

Football players drawing interest from the University of Guelph Gryphons sure can, though.

Drive by the scoreboard at Alumni Stadium and there it is – a larger-than-life photo of a football player accompanied by his name in huge, bright font.

Recently, it was local high school football player Ben Cross who got this type of rock-star treatment at the U of G.

“It was pretty cool,” says Cross, a District 10 football all-star for the Centennial Spartans.

“I appreciated that they took the time to do that, and kind of show that they really want me to go there. It was  nice to see that.”

Cross, like other potential future Gryphons, took the time to snap some pics of the huge scoreboard bearing his photo and name.

While there is much, much more to landing a prized football player than having his name up in lights, it’s a nifty move that lights up the eyes of those visiting the campus.

“It’s that great expression – you only get a chance to make a first impression once,” says Gryphons coach Stu Lang, adding it gives players something that is exciting and “in some ways, cool.”

During his recent U of G visit, Cross was shown Gryphons gridiron history, like the pro wall that shows Gryphons who have gone on to play pro. The tour saw him eventually make his way out onto the field of the recently renovated and now slick-looking Alumni Stadium.

“We sort of want to give them a quasi-pro experience,” Lang says.

We recently caught up with Cross to see what his tour was like. While those on the outside might think such a trip is all jock talk, Cross says that’s certainly not the case.

“It was about 50-50, academics and football,” says the 5-foot-11 Cross, who heads back to Centennial in the fall for Grade-12 plus; there you’ll find him playing on both sides of the ball for the Spartans. (If he heads to Gryphon land, he figures he’ll play the boundary corner position.)

The U of G tour included a chat with a local realtor who is a legendary ex-Gryphon and also an ex-Centennial player, to boot.

“I want to get into the real estate business; they brought Nick FitzGibbon as alumni to come talk (real estate and football),” says Cross.

“I really appreciated that, them getting alumni to come and talk to me.”

Cross has a difficult decision ahead of him.

The finalists from last year’s Yates Cup championship game are both knocking on his door: McMaster, the champs, and Guelph, the runners-up.

Cross has narrowed his decision down to those two schools.

“It’s stressful because you’re spending five years of your life there . . . ” he says.

He’s very familiar with McMaster. His father, Michael, works there, but dad isn’t leaning on his son to make a certain decision.

“He wants me to go wherever I like,” says Cross.

The football star has done a recruiting trip to McMaster, too, and loved that one also. That his dad works at McMaster could mean a break on the tuition front, should the courted Cross choose the Hamilton school.

“It’s a tough decision,” he says.

Cross expects he’ll make up his mind after his current season playing for Gryphons in the Ontario Football Conference.

The University of Guelph Gryphons would love to make him their first announced recruit for the 2016 OUA season.

“It’s a difficult decision for a young man. I think he liked what he saw here and it would be a big feather in our hat (to have him) and to announce it early,” says Lang.

“It would be a great start (to the 2016 recruiting class) and a positive for further recruits for 2016.”

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