Major college programs like Florida, Florida State, USF and those in the Southeastern Conference can sign only so many of the Tampa Bay area’s bounty of football recruits.
Annually, that leaves dozens of overlooked football players – usually a little more than 100 – looking for a college program to continue their careers.
Then the recruiting can really get started.
A number of NCAA Division II and Division III and NAIA schools will descend on Jefferson High School for a two-day recruiting fair on Feb. 16 and 17, hoping to fill out their rosters with some of the area’s remaining – and available – football talent.
“It gets pretty crazy in there sometimes,” Jefferson coach Jeremy Earle said. “Lots of kids get scholarships out it.”
The Hillsborough County fair is one of several throughout the state, started by former county athletic director Vernon Kohrn in 1998 at Brandon High School. The fair eventually moved to East Bay and came to Jefferson for the first time last year.
Colleges are not required to register in advance, though local officials usually expect about 50 to 60 schools.
Earle said local high schools – from Hillsborough and surrounding counties – set up their booths that Saturday, giving the colleges a chance to gather information on the players. They’ll review film, transcripts and look for a fit between players and the programs.
On Sunday, the colleges set up their own booths and players come in to meet with them.
“It’s been a tremendous experience in the past,” said Earle, who will bring eight players to the fair. “Some of these guys fall through the cracks and then it’s a matching game.”