- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Texas offered early. Both committed early. Their recruitment ended, and they haven’t looked back.
But reaching that decision came with its costs.
They are both in-state recruits who don’t live far from Austin, but both recruits’ families learned that playing the recruiting game isn’t cheap.
Raulerson, for example, is a Longhorns die-hard. But the kid still did his research.
He and his father, Jay, hit the road last summer. In addition to Texas, they visited Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida, Texas A&M, TCU and Baylor.
And they would’ve hit Florida State and LSU had Jake not gotten tired of taking unofficial visits.
Jay Raulerson added it all up. He and his son racked up more than 5,200 miles -- all in the name of finding Jake’s perfect college destination.
When the fall came, the Celina (Texas) High School lineman attended at least three Texas games, two Oklahoma games, Alabama-Florida and Auburn-LSU.
“We went to a lot of football games. And it was all on my nickel,” Jay Raulerson said. “I mean, it’s not really fun to go on a visit unless it’s football season.”
Smythe’s experience wasn’t quite that extravagant. He was lightly recruited as a sophomore. Few schools were filling his pockets with free passes to games during his junior season.
When word finally got out about the tight end from Belton, Texas, more than a dozen offers all seemed to come at once. Smythe and his father sat down and sorted out their options. Taking a handful of visits wasn’t one of them.
“We’re a family that could afford to take them a number of places, but I’ve got a job and Durham has school,” Roy Smythe said. “Taking six or seven trips out of state would’ve been technically impossible and not feasible.”
They agreed two out-of-state schools demanded unofficial visits: Stanford and Notre Dame. But the Irish didn’t offer until a few days before Smythe chose Texas. Too late.
In the days leading up to their Palo Alto trip, Durham had second thoughts. He went back and forth about whether he even wanted to go.
Dad waited to book the trip until Durham made up his mind. When he finally did, the plane ticket prices were exorbitant. They spent two and a half days in California. Roy Smythe paid for all the expenses.
“Even for a family that can afford to take some trips,” he said, “we’re all on a budget.”
Both families are grateful that of all the things that stressed them during the recruiting process, Texas wasn’t one of them.
“They’ve been very up-front with us throughout,” Roy Smythe said. “We haven’t felt like there were any secrets. They said, ‘We don’t invite very many kids to junior days, so come prepared to talk seriously.’”
Raulerson committed to Texas 10 days before that first junior day, and there was a reason he felt ready to pick a school on Feb. 2.
It all started with advice he got from Texas offensive line coach Stacy Searels last spring.
“He told us how Texas does it,” Jay Raulerson said. “He said, ‘If you kick butt at our camps -- and we’re sure you will -- we’ll have you back in February. What we expect is that when you come you’ve done your due diligence and you’re ready to commit.’
“That’s what he told us. And I took him for his word.”
Knowing the Longhorns’ expectations helped both recruits.
They knew Texas coaches don’t want their commits to take post-pledge visits elsewhere. They knew early commitments were the norm, as were unofficial visits taken before their senior season.
Both fathers are just grateful they could afford the visits -- and they worry about the families that can’t.
“It sucks for them,” Jay Raulerson said. “In my opinion, we need to change the rules. They just need to move the whole thing back a year.”
Raulerson wishes schools could begin hosting official visits once a recruit starts his junior season. His son couldn’t wait until senior year to start checking out schools. That’s just not how recruiting works anymore.
And kids need to be on campus for football games, Raulerson said -- not on a cold weekend day in February or March.
Roy Smythe agreed. He said he doesn’t understand how a recruit can commit to a school sight-unseen.
Five months have passed since his son became a Longhorn. For the Raulersons, it has been more than six. Their wallets are a bit lighter, thanks to the recruiting process, but neither family has regrets about how it all worked out in the end.
They could’ve waited longer. They could’ve taken more visits. But why waste more time and money just to postpone the inevitable?
“Texas didn’t pressure us,” Smythe said. “But what you know in the back of your mind is that Texas is Texas. You need to make a decision.”