The University of Virginia football coaching staff impressed Boyd Buchanan School (Chattanooga, TN) tight end prospect Karson Gay from the start.
“I really like how they handled my whole recruitment, from [Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends/Inside Receivers Coach Robert] Anae to [Senior Scout Evan] Butts,” said Gay, a 6’6.5”, 232-pound junior who announced his verbal commitment to the Hoos on February 20. “They were in constant communication, always talking to me, setting up Zoom calls, and helping me and my family become as comfortable as we can be with Virginia and with the staff. Virginia was just different. They made me a priority and they made it known early.”
COVID-19 has led to a year-long (and counting) recruiting Dead Period, a time in which recruits are not allowed to have in-person contact with college coaches. Last spring, Bronco Mendenhall and his staff placed increased emphasis on virtual recruiting such as Zoom meetings, and their efforts played a role in the program landing its most highly acclaimed class in the Mendenhall era, a consensus top 30 haul.
Virginia’s attention to detail when it comes to virtual recruiting also paid dividends with Gay, who described a virtual visit experiences with the Hoos as “amazing.”
“Coach Butts was kind of the head guy for me in getting those set up,” Gay said. “Me and my parents were on it. A few days to a week before, he would ask who I wanted to talk to, who I wanted to ask questions. From Ted White talking about academics to meeting with the strength coach to talking to the nutritionist, I got to learn more about the program.”
As for Coach Mendenhall, “I had a few Facetime calls with him, a few introduction calls, and we got to read my official offer letter,” Gay recalled. “My parents got to read it. He wanted my parents to see that and know it was a legit thing. We were all super excited. I let him know I was committing a few days before I announced. He was super happy. He’s excited for the future.”
Accompanied by his father and younger brother, Gay was able to explore UVA prior to his commitment. While an NCAA Dead Period does not permit official visits or unofficial visits in which there is in-person contact with coaches, a prospect can see a school in person on their own. The visit occurred approximately a month before Gay’s commitment announcement.
“It was really cool,” Gay said of his experience on Grounds. “It was a huge help. My big thing was wanting to go and visit places. I would have been nicer to walk around with coaches and players, but being with my dad and brother and just seeing everything on our own was good.”
Arkansas, BYU, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Kansas, Ole Miss, Southern Cal and Virginia Tech are among the other schools that offered scholarships. UVA was one of the only schools he saw in person … a scheduled trip to Virginia Tech was cancelled due to snow and never rescheduled.
Discussing why he decided to commit when he did, Gay said: “Me and my parents always have been kind of talking about it. My plan was just to commit sometime before my senior season to kind of relieve the pressure. My goal was to get out on some visits before April 15. When they extended the [recruiting dead period], we thought, well, we don’t know when or if I will ever get to go on visits. Virginia was the best opportunity I could have. My parents said it was up to me but they felt really comfortable with [UVA] and if I think it’s a good idea they love it. I thought and prayed over it, thinking about where to go. With the help of my parents and people around me, I decided to commit. It was a good moment.”
“As far as my commitment, there is no time like the present. I didn’t have any better offers...
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