I leave Thursday for Hawaii, the first scheduled trip on my 2009-10 tour to evaluate the top players in the class of 2011. It's a long trip but somebody has to do it. I won't have much time to enjoy Waikiki, however. I'll be returning to Chicago on Monday.
This is the beginning of the longest series of trips since I began evaluating players in 1979. When my odyssey is over in June, I will have covered 60,000 miles, visited all 50 states and interviewed about 2,000 players, including 750 in San Antonio in January.
I will visit Alaska for the first time. I'll fly to Anchorage from Seattle. I may drive from Anchorage to Fairbanks. There aren't many players in Alaska but there some. In fact, seven years ago, a kid from Alaska contacted the U.S. Army and was invited to play in the All-American Bowl. He played so well that he received a scholarship from Nevada-Las Vegas. No college coach I know of has ever recruited in Alaska.
Some outstanding basketball players have been produced in Alaska. But no great football players to my knowledge. The football season ends at the end of September. Kids usually aren't developed. You have to find athletes who have the potential to develop.
Honestly, I'm looking forward to getting back from Hawaii. It's a nine-hour flight. I'll go to a combine to see the top players, interview the top 30 sophomores and juniors, attend the Polynesian all-star game, then come home. I won't have time to swim or surf on Waikiki. But I usually find time to jog up Diamond Head and get a panoramic view, one of the two best I've ever seen. The other is on a cliff overlooking Edinburgh, Scotland.
What will be unique about my December-to-June travels is I will stop at more historic sites than ever before...Kitty Hawk, N.C., Bull Run, Monument Valley, the Winchester rifle house in San Jose, Calif., Tombstone, Ariz., and spend about three days in Washington, D.C., to visit the Smithsonian Institution, Ford's Theatre and all of the monuments.
I decided last year that I will spend more time enjoying myself on these trips. Last year, I drove 11,000 miles in 19 days. Ridiculous, I said to myself. I beat myself to death. I came back mentally exhausted from so much driving.
The big thing is to go to the combine and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio in January. There will be 500 campers there. Who is the best player in the class of 2011? There is no Seantrel Henderson, the 6-7, 340-pound offensive lineman from St. Paul, Minn., who is nearly everyone's choice as the No. 1 player in the senior class.
At least 15 players could be Player of the Year for the 2010 season. My early choice is running back Kenny Hilliard of Patterson, La.. But he isn't a clear cut pick. In fact, he isn't even the clear cut pick in Louisiana. There is talk of a wide receiver who might be better. I'll hold off on my final selection until I see them all in person and on film.