It happens every year, even before the Internet and recruiting services became cottage industries and ever-present influences on our lives. Someone--parents, coaches, alumni, friends, fans--will call or write or e-mail to tout an athlete whom they believe isn't getting his props.
They have seen another athlete who is getting more publicity and they are convinced they have seen somebody better. They have seen an athlete who has been offered a dozen Division I scholarships and can't understand why another athlete has none.
Sometimes, they are just looking for publicity.
Apparently, this is one of those times.
A year ago, we began receiving e-mails about a player at Clark High School in Chicago His name is Earlzo Singleton and his benefactor thought we were missing the boat. Singleton is a major Division I prospect, the e-mailer insisted, and we should acknowledge it.
I called Clark coach Tim Lacy, who is building a successful program at one of the Chicago Public League's newest schools.
Yes, Lacy said, Singleton is a 5-8, 160-pund junior receiver, cornerback and tailback on his team. He predicted the youngster will do well in college as a safety. He has 4.4 speed. Lacy said Singleton is a great defender. He had eight interceptions as a junior. Michigan State has invited him to attend its summer camp.
But Singleton isn't the best prospect on his team, Lacy said. He said Kyle Gipson, a 5-8, 180-pound running back is his best player. He is an honor student. He said Gipson has attracted interest from Nebraska, Illinois State and North Central. Lacy projected him as a strong safety in college.
I filed the episode in the "overzealous parent" portfolio with a note to check out Singleton's progress as a senior. But it didn't go away. Singleton's publicist had made other calls, including one to Rivals, the national recruiting service. One call insisted Singleton was going to make an oral commitment to Louisville within a week.
Rivals, recruiting analyst Tom Lemming and other services have been on the alert ever since an offensive lineman named Kevin Hart from Fernley, Nevada, fabricated his recruitment last February to the point where he conducted a press conference to announce his decision and nobody had ever heard of him.
In another recent case, a player said he had committed to Ohio State but he hadn't even been offered.
Singleton has fooled some people. One service ranks him among the top 150 juniors in the nation. Another service that covers Notre Dame said he is one of the top 10 players in Illinois. And another service said Singleton has scholarship offers from Louisville, Boise State, Oklahoma State and Southern Mississippi.
All untrue. Rivals did its homework. In fact, Rivals lists Singleton at 5-7 and 152 pounds. They checked him out and revealed that he has no offers at all. Yes, he is on the mailing list of several colleges. But nobody has offered. Some have never heard of him.
"My first red flag was that I remembered the kid from when he came to one of our events this past spring and he wasn't very big and wasn't very thick," recalled Illinois-based recruiting analyst Tim O'Halloran of Edgytim.com and Rivals.com.
"Seeing him in person, there was no way I would have thought he would be a national recruit. Red flag No. 2 is that he has never sent out a video. If you have that much to show, you'd want your video everywhere.
"And red flag No. 3 is that he plays in a lower level of competition in the Chicago Public League. I went out and watched him play a few weeks ago against Harlan. He is not a Division I player, simple as that. If I thought the kid had a chance, I'd tell you. But he doesn't look like a Division I player."