I am sure a lot of you have seen the story regarding David Akers and his six-year-old daughter Halley. She had a malignant cyst removed last week and will have continued checkups throughout the year. Please keep the Akers family in your thoughts and prayers. A great player and great guy.
Now that the letters of intent have been faxed in, thousand of players all over the country are trying to figure out where they want to walk-on. With this in mind, I wanted to talk today about my recruiting process and how I ended up as a walk-on at Louisville.
You never really know how things will work out or what opportunities will come your way. I was not heavily recruited by any stretch of the imagination. I played at a small 2A school (Loyola) in Shreveport LA. Our nickname was the Flyers but our mascot is actually Snoopy. Quick trivia fact: we are the only school in the country that can use Snoopy as a mascot because we have direct permission from Charles Schultz, the creator of "Peanuts." There is a framed letter from him in the front hallway of the school where he gives Loyola permission to do so. Our football helmets actually have Snoopy on them. I love it.
I had started really kicking when I was in the 8th grade and as I got through high school I thought that I might have a chance to play in college. My recruiting process started in the winter of my junior year of high school when I started getting form letters from LSU. I went down for their junior day and went to their camp that summer. I never got a chance to kick for Nick Saban and therefore any chance I had of getting an offer from LSU was done. They settled on their guys that they wanted to recruit, but I would hear from them one more time in the future.
I didn't know it at the time but everything changed and a door opened up when my dad saw an ad in the Shreveport Times for a one-day senior camp over at Louisiana Tech at the end of May. I thought, why not, and a teammate of mine from high school went with me over to Ruston, LA. At that camp, a kicker from College Station, TX and I got to kick in front of Tech's newly hired special teams coach, Tony Levine. We both had good days kicking and I was impressed with Coach Levine. However the kicker from Texas had been invited to the one-day camp and I had basically just showed up. Even though I thought I was the better kicker I wasn't expecting much from Louisiana Tech. They ended up offering the other guy.
I spent the rest of the summer working on my craft and getting ready for the football season. I had a good senior season and started hearing from Coach Levine again along with Northwestern State. The problem was those were the only big schools I was hearing from. During the season I started making tapes and sent them out to almost every school I could think of. I would get form letters along with some "thanks, but no thanks" letters. I even got one from Greg Nord. I kept those letters for motivation. The only other school to show a lot of interest was the Air Force Academy.
I started hearing from Tech again during the season and they started recruiting me pretty heavily. The reason was that the other kicker was having a great year and was getting interest from other schools. I was more of a backup plan, but I was ok with that because I figured that he would get a better offer somewhere and that would open the door for me at Tech. Northwestern State ended up not offering and instead asked me to walk on.
Signing day came and went, Tech got their kicker to sign and I turned my attention to trying to figure out where I was going to go to college, football or no football. Tech was still recruiting me as a walk-on and I felt that even though they had a kicker, I would get a fair chance to compete under Tony Levine. At the same time the Air Force Academy was sending me applications and I kept entertaining the thought. One of the questions on the questionnaire was, "Do you have an interest in flying?" Considering I had a less than stellar driving record at the time, I figured the safe answer was to check the NO box. I ended up getting an appointment to the Air Force Academy and after taking a visit there I almost made the decision to attend. It was an incredible place but just not the right fit for me.
Everything went up in the air when I got a phone call about two weeks after signing day from Coach Levine. He called to tell me that he was taking a job at the University of Louisville as director of football operations under Bobby Petrino, with the intent of being the special teams coach after one year. He wanted to call to wish me all the best. I was extremely disappointed because that was the only school that was giving me a chance. I told my parents what happened and my mom said to me, "I know this door closed, but you never know what doors might open up."
About a week later I got a call from Coach Adams, who was a GA. Coach Levine had given him my information, but since he was now director of football operations he couldn't technically recruit me. Coach Adams kept telling me how great Bobby Petrino was as a football coach and one night I got a phone call that I thought was from Coach Adams. Coach Petrino was on the other end and the first question he asked was: "So are you any good?" Straight to the point. He mentioned that he was looking for some kickers to walk on and that whoever won the job in the spring would be considered for a scholarship. He wanted his players to compete for jobs all the way down to the kickers.
I took an unofficial trip up to Louisville near the end of March for spring practice and to take a look at the school. I remember driving up to PJCS and just looking in the rod iron gates thinking how great it would be to play in that stadium. I fell in love with it on first sight. After taking a tour of the facilities and campus, my parents and I went to a late lunch at the Arby's right by campus. It was in that Arby's that I figured out where I wanted to go. I wanted to play division 1 football at a big school, and they were the only school that was giving me any sort of chance.
I was invited into the 105 for fall camp and worked on earning the job. Coach Levine would take over the special teams job that January and in a coaches meeting (he told me this years later after he had left to go to the Carolina Panthers) Coach Petrino asked what they needed to do about recruiting a kicker and who could handle the job. Coach Levine piped up and said, "I think Carmody can do the job." And Levine told me that Coach Petrino shot him one of his patented "are you kidding me" looks. I ended up earning the job that spring.
David Akers lived in Louisville in the off-season up until 2006 and would spend time in the spring and summer training for the upcoming season. He has an incredible work ethic and it was something I tried to copy. A lot of NFL guys would want to do their thing and not be bothered. Not David. He would let us come out and kick with him whenever he was out on the field. I had gotten to know David during the spring and he kept an interest in who was going to win the kicking job.
Coming out of spring ball I had a meeting with Coach Petrino in which he said that they did not have a scholarship at the time. David asked me about the meeting and said that he thought it was bull**** that the starting kicker did not have a scholarship. He told me that I needed to transfer and that he would help me get a scholarship to a 1-AA school with some of the contacts he had. I told him that I appreciated the effort but I really wanted to be a Cardinal and stay at Louisville. I didn't know it at the time (Jeff Brohm told me this later) but David had gone up to the coaches' office and told some of the staff that I was transferring and that he was going to help me find a school. Coach Levine had called my dad at his office in Shreveport and wanted to know if I was transferring. My dad had no clue what he was talking about.
Right before camp was about to start Coach Petrino called me and told me that I had earned a scholarship for the upcoming season. The following spring David was back in Louisville. I thanked him for what he did in helping me get a scholarship, but he said he had no clue what I was talking about and that he didn't say anything to any of the coaches. He is a true class act.
I liked to think that I earned my scholarship throughout my career. I still keep in touch with Tony Levine when I can. He is currently an assistant coach at the University of Houston under Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin was his position coach when he was a WR at the University of Minnesota. I still thank him to this day for helping get me the opportunity to go to Louisville.
My decision to go to Louisville worked out for the best. A lot of players who have their pick of top schools make a decision to just play football, graduate, and move on to either the NFL or whatever life calls them to do. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Louisville football program and wouldn't change it for anything. I took full advantage of my opportunity to be a student-athlete. I hope that those players who made their commitment to Louisville this past week do the same.