Tales from the road

With national signing day little more than a week away, coaches are crisscrossing the country to lock down key commitments. It's during this time -- at in-home visits -- that anything can happen. While making last-minute pitches to recruits and their families, coaches will do almost anything to secure a signature. Whether that means choking down some bad food or doing whatever it takes to meet a recruit, coaches have great stories from this time of year. Here are some of those stories:

A coach. A coach and his car. And locking the keys inside.

"I remember going on the road with Coach [Fred] Goldsmith to recruit Brendon Fitzgerald out of Dallas when I was at Rice. I meet up with Coach Goldsmith at a filling station in Dallas near the airport. I'm filling up the car, Coach jumps in the car, but then he sees there's a McDonald's across the street. He hollers out 'I'm going to go get a quick burger.' The only problem is that I left the keys in the ignition because he was in the car. It was one of those really, really nice rental cars in the early '90s that the doors locked when you shut the door. So I'm filling up the gas tank, he shuts the door and I'm like, 'No, Coach.' The keys get locked in the car.

"I called Brendon to ask him if he can pick up Coach. He comes up in his pickup truck. He gets Coach, and I tell him I'll call the rental car place, and they'll bring me some keys and I'll meet you at Brendon's house. Well, the rental car place is at DFW airport and we're out toward Richardson. They tell me they can't bring me the keys, so I have to go to the airport to get them.

"A policeman shows up, so I explain to him what's happened. I beg him. I say 'I'm Coach Koenning with Rice. Can you take me to the airport?' He says 'Sure Coach. I'll help you.' So I jump in the police car, and we're riding toward the airport and all of a sudden he gets a call that there's been a wreck. He says 'Coach, I have to work this wreck.' So here I am in a car with a police officer and my head coach is in the home visit now with the parents.

"I have to borrow his phone and call Brendon. He puts Coach Goldsmith on. I say 'Coach, this is Les.' He goes 'Where are you at? I've been in this home for over an hour and a half.' I tell him 'Coach, I've got a small problem.' I tell him about how I'm stuck with the policeman.

"Somehow after he worked the wreck, we made incredible time on the highway, got the keys and he jets me back to the car with the lights on and everything. I get in the rental car and finally make it to Brendon's house. It's been two and a half, almost three hours. Coach Goldsmith apparently has talked about every part of the University, and I mean everything. I knew I was in trouble when I saw that they had a dip bowl and it looked like somebody had taken their finger and just cleaned the dip bowl out. The most beautiful thing about the story? We signed Brendon."
-- Texas receivers coach Les Koenning Jr.

Clean your plate -- or else

"During the final few weeks of recruiting, you're so sick of eating every time you go into somebody's house. But what do you do? You eat because you have to get that commitment. I was raised to eat what's on your plate, but there was one time I'm glad I didn't eat a whole lot on an in-home visit. I was out with one of our coaches recruiting in Chicago, I didn't eat a lot of it, but he did. He ended up in the hospital with food poisoning. He asked, 'Did you eat the finger foods?' But I decided not to eat at the time, and he did. He picked and prodded at it and had a 6 o'clock flight the next morning that he missed because he was in the emergency room." -- Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Tony Alford

"One time, Johnny Ringo and I were on the road when I was at SMU. We had home visits at 4:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and then 8:30 p.m. I swear to goodness, I had no idea we ate at all three places. We're driving down 635 in Dallas, and I told Coach Ringo, 'I have to undo my pants.' I didn't realize I ate so much because I was too busy trying to impress momma. If you go in there and you don't eat, you're in trouble. You can't say no. You eat." -- former SMU head coach and current Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett

"We were recruiting a kid and the head coach and the assistant went in for breakfast with me. For breakfast they had boiled fish. You don't want to offend the family and not eat it, so you're sitting there and scarfing down boiled fish at 8 o'clock in the morning. That's what you do doing the final few weeks. You'll do about anything and everything to make a good impression, including eating boiled fish for breakfast." -- TCU co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie

Where am I?

"Last week, I was in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and New Orleans. All those cities equal different hotel rooms each night. I made the mistake of going to 527 one night when that was my room last night. Trying to get my key to work at 10 p.m., and a lady comes to the door in curlers. Not a pretty sight for her or me." -- Oklahoma State cornerbacks coach Van Malone

Ants in your pants

"When I was at Tennessee, I had been recruiting in Buffalo, N.Y., and it was very cold. I had on wool pants and a big coat. I go to South Georgia. It's amazing. It's 19 degrees. But I was dressed OK, so I go in a home. It's a modest home, like I was raised in. There was a big space heater and one place for me to sit. The couch was covered in plastic. There used to be a thick plastic you put on furniture, and a lot of people kept it on there. I sit down, and it's so cold outside that in the house, that every bug in the neighborhood had decided to come inside. I'm trying to have a conversation, and I have roaches crawling up my pants. I'm trying to shake them. They're crawling across my back. I'm trying to remain focused and sell. And they acted as if, God bless them, they had never seen any of these bugs, that none of this is going on."
-- Duke coach David Cutcliffe