The 30th annual edition of my magazine, Tom Lemming's Prep Football Report, nearly 300 pages of profiles, pictures and rankings of the top 1,500 players in the nation, is available. You can obtain a copy by writing to Tom Lemming, Box 59113, Schaumburg, Ill., 60159.
Over the years, I have traveled over 2 million miles to gather information on the top prospects. Each year, I travel 50,000 to 60,000 miles. From December to mid-June, I make 30 to 40 trips from coast to coast--I didn't go to Hawaii or Alaska this year--to personally see every player with Division I potential.
When I started in 1979, I was the only one in the business. Joe Terranova was the Godfather of football recruiting. He rated players but he didn't talk to the kids or watch film. He just talked to coaches.
I wanted to do it differently. After talking to Terranova at his home in Detroit and reading about how NFL scouts evaluated college players, I decided I couldn't get a measure of a kid unless I saw him in person. I had to do more than watch film.
Today, a majority of analysts just talk to kids on the phone. They get numbers from coaches and gather information over the phone. Some look at film, some don't. Some see players in person, most don't.
That's what they do and I don't knock it. All I know is, in all my 30 years of evaluating players, I have never run into another scout at a high school.
To me, the key is to meet the kid in person, eye-to-eye, sit down with him and his coach and watch film in an environment in which he is comfortable. The kid can explain what he is doing. While interviewing him, I can judge his passion and heart for the game.
When you are interviewing a kid in person, he is in front of you. You can see how big he really is. He is more likely to give you an honest answer when looking you in the eye rather than a prepared answer on the phone. I can see how he interacts with his coach, other players and other students.
Afterward, I get a collective opinion from other coaches and contacts I trust, then put together a final evaluation.
I try to watch film from everyone who takes the time to send film. I receive 2,000 films a year in the mail. Another reason to go on the road is that coaches and parents will hand you film. They don't mail film all the time. I feel compelled to watch all the film I receive. You can't see everybody live and, when you do, you don't always see everything you need to see. On film, however, everything is exposed and revealed.
Some people say I'm nuts to go on the road for 50,000 miles and seven months a year for 30 years. They may be right. I've had cars break down in the middle of nowhere. I've driven through hurricanes and tornadoes and I experienced a near-death situation in a snowstorm near Buffalo, New York, a couple of years ago.
But I don't know any other way. I try to eat healthier. I'm in the best physical condition of my life. I work out five days a week at home, never on the road. I've lost 20 pounds in the last two years. My body fat is down from 18 percent to 7 percent.
I guess the most fun I have is having an opportunity to discover great players earlier than others, guys like Michael Vick, Jeff George, Randy Moss, Reggie White, Michael Oher, Seantrel Henderson (the No. 1 player in the class of 2010), Bill Fralic, Emmitt Smith and the next great one, Rushel Schell (the No. 1 player in the class of 2012). They weren't known nationally until I saw them as freshman or sophomores and began to write about them.
It's a tough job but somebody has to do it.