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Helping athletes to succeed
North Stafford football coach takes an active role in seeing that his athletes have every opportunity to perform at the college level

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Date published: 7/21/2004


THE START of the high school football season is still about six weeks away, but North Stafford head coach Eric Cooke already has an impressive 3-0 record.

How's that?

Since April, three of Cooke's rising seniors--Patrick Slebonick, Tony North and Cordarrow Thompson--have made oral commitments to Division I college football programs.

Slebonick plans to attend U.Va. in the fall of 2005. North has committed to Virginia Tech. Thompson will attend Syracuse. And another player, Jarvis Williams, is being considered by several Division I schools.

Considering the competition for football scholarships, it is commendable for any of the county's high schools to have even one Division I recruit. For North Stafford to have three commitments prior to the players' senior season is extraordinary.

And it is not just coincidence.

"Each coach probably defines his role in recruiting differently," said Cooke. "But I see it as a big part of my job.

"I hold it in high regard and I want to give as many of my kids as possible an opportunity to play at the next level."

The 33-year-old Cooke will be starting his fourth season at the helm of North Stafford's program in September. But this year represented his first encounter with the Division I recruiting process as a head coach.

"It's been a great experience," Cooke said. "Blue-chip recruits like these kids have helped me learn a lot about being a good facilitator."

Cooke said the two most important things in the recruiting process are that the kids have the grades that make them eligible for a college offer and that they have the necessary athletic ability.

"Those two things are equally important whether the sport is football or anything else," Cooke said.

As an example of how competitive the process can be, Cooke said some universities have one recruiter covering all of Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey.

That recruiter may start out with a list of 500 kids, Cooke explained. Then he may whittle that list down to about 100 that he will visit. Then he may decide to recruit 50 of those. Then he may offer scholarships to about 10, and hope to sign maybe two or three.

"The college coaches are so busy, their time is even shorter than ours," Cooke said. "So it's important to make their job as easy as possible."

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