VYPE Houston Region
"Mr. Houston" OSU's Joe DeForest Gives Real Scoop on World of Recruiting
May 15, 2011By Matt Malatesta of VYPE MAGAZINE - Central Houston
Oklahoma State University Associate Head Football Coach
In recruiting circles, Oklahoma State associate head coach Joe DeForest is considered "Mr. Houston." He has recruited dozens of Houstonians over the years, and every season the Cowboy roster has anywhere from 25 to 30 Houston-area athletes in their program. He must be doing something right as Oklahoma State finished No. 10 in the 2011 Coaches' Poll after being co-Big 12 South champs, and will be a preseason Top 10 pick entering the fall.
Names like NFL first-rounder Russell Okung of Bush High School to St. Louis Ram back Keith Toston, must credit their recruitment to Oklahoma State to "Mr. Houston."
But his career hasn't come over night.
DeForest played his college football and baseball at Louisiana-Lafayette, and upon graduation and being cut by the Houston Oilers he got a job at NASA back in his home state of Florida. His coaching career started as a volunteer at his former high school in Titusville after his job as a logistics engineer was over for the day.
Still in shape after his college days, DeForest took a shot as an NFL replacement player during the 1987 strike season. He caught on with the New Orleans Saints that year. He was invited back for a tryout with the regular team and made it to the final day before getting cut. From there he tried his hand in the Canadian Football League for a season.
After making a run at his football dream, DeForest returned to teach and coach at Titusville, before getting a job at Rice University as a graduate assistant. After two years he was hired full-time to coach running backs and Doak Walker Award Winner Trevor Cobb. He followed coach Fred Goldsmith to Duke University of seven seasons. He was plucked off the Duke staff by then-coach Les Miles and he's been a Cowboy ever since.
VYPE had the opportunity to talk with "Mr. Houston" during the open recruiting period and pick his brain about the world of college athletics.
VYPE: WHAT DO COLLEGE RECRUITERS LOOK FOR IN HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETES?
DEFOREST: "We first look to see if a potential athlete can academically make it at Oklahoma State. Then we look at the character and research the player's background to see what kind of kid he is. Another important factor is if the athlete really loves the game of football. This is a tough sport and you have to train 365 days a year. If you don't love football, it makes it very difficult for that athlete. We also like to see how competitive a player is. How they react to winning in losing."
VYPE: WHAT ARE THE MISNOMERS ABOUT RECRUITING?
DEFOREST: "There are no sleepers in high school football anymore. In Texas, these coaches do an outstanding job of providing information about their prospective student-athletes from the DI to the JUCO levels. They provide everything from transcripts to game film. No parent can really say that their coach didn't promote their kid. They do their jobs. It's our job to evaluate a player and see if he fits our program. With all the information and technology that we have today, no one slips through the cracks anymore. It's our livelihood to make sure no one goes unseen. We get prospect sheets for kids from as early as the ninth grade."
"The other misnomer is that recruiters get kids to sign. Totally false. Our job is to get the prospects on campus and it's our current players that sell our program. Our players are going to tell the truth about what really happens in their day-to-day lives. I'm not trying to trick players to come here. If they want to go check out other campuses before they commit to reassure themselves, I'm all for it. We want them to want to come here and be the right fit for him."
VYPE: DID YOU EVER HAVE ONE THAT GOT AWAY OR ALMOST GOT AWAY?
DEFOREST: "Russell Okung, who went on to be the No. 5 overall pick in last year's NFL draft, almost got away. I had been evaluating him for a few years and loved how athletic he was. He suffered a sports hernia and couldn't lift much his senior year. I couldn't get my offensive line coach to offer him because he was really tall and thin at the time. Not until a holiday party we were having with the coaches did he come up to me and ask if we could still get Okung. It was late in the game, but we signed him and he ended up being terrific. You just never know about kids."
VYPE: WHAT IS YOU MOST PROUD ACCOMPLISHMENT IN COLLEGE COACHING?
DEFOREST: "This might come to a surprise to some, but it's the opportunity to have my daughter go her entire school career in the same place. In this profession, that is so tough to do, but I'm really proud of that. She entered the first-grade in Stillwater and will graduate high school here next year. That is better than any win or getting any big-time recruit."
For any questions about recruiting, email joe at firstname.lastname@example.org.