NCAA Football Recruiting Turns to Social Networks

At a time when national unemployment keeps hovering around 10 percent, you’ve got to know where to look if you need to latch on somewhere. If you’re a working professional, that might be a social networking site like LinkedIn. But if you’re, say, a high school athlete looking to snag an all-important Division I football scholarship, there’s a service for that, too.

Play Next Level is a site designed to connect college coaches with prospective football players. Just like other social networking sites, players log in, create a profile that’s crammed with all sorts of personal info, and then hope to hear back from some college coach – preferably at some D-I powerhouse – that’s looking to fill out his roster with one more body.

The site was launched earlier this year by Alex Mortensen, a former college quarterback at both Arkansas and Samford. With the public backing of Chris Mortensen, Alex’s father and a longtime ESPN football reporter, Play Next Level has so far corralled more than 900 high school players graduating anywhere from two years ago to five years from now.

Each player’s profile does offer a impressive amount of info on each prospect. All the standards are there – height, weight, academic achievements – along with a dedicated statistics page, an easy-to-find list of colleges the player is interested, and the ability to upload a video highlight reel as well as a photo album. Coaches, as they pick through the profiles, can search for players by any number of parameters and then add them to a “playlist,” which is essentially an in-site bookmarking tool for remembering players they may want to follow up with, though they can also “follow” players when they’re logged into their account.

There’s little doubt that as high school athletes get more savvy about using new technology to further their chances at playing collegiate athletics, more sites like Alex Mortensen’s will pop up. But so far, Play Next Level is the leader in helping players who hope they haven’t played their last down of football once this fall’s Friday night lights dim for good.

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