DeAnthony Arnett plays the media like a pro
If DeAnthony Arnett doesn’t make it to the NFL one day, he would sure make a savvy publicist.
Often the media comes under fire for the amount of exposure they give to top high school recruits, the attention making them bigger public figures in their final two prep seasons than their first two in college — when they’re buried on the depth chart.
Arnett, a top wide receiver recruit out of Saginaw High in 2011, had reporters and fans hanging on his every word in the days, weeks, months, even a year or so before he eventually picked Tennessee over Michigan State, which he said was the runner-up, and dozens of others. But he had fun with it.
In the days leading up to his announcement, he posted several comical videos to YouTube, fake committing to CMU, MSU, UM and others — essentially mocking and exposing the ridiculousness that has become the recruiting hype machine, whether he knew it or not.
Now, after announcing he will transfer from the Vols following a freshman year in which he caught 24 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns, he once again has fans enraptured with where he will go next.
I’m not going to pretend I don’t follow recruiting. I’m one of those people that is always checking up on who is leaning in what direction, etc., and watching film of athletes that are pledging to play for Michigan State. I’m a diehard fan, and I want to know who’s coming down the pipeline.
I watched Arnett’s film and badly wanted him to play for MSU. His skills on the field were obvious from his laser-precision route running to his explosive burst. But in the past week or so, he has me even more intrigued. I’ve rarely seen an athlete — let alone a college freshman — play the media as well as he has.
And he had to do it. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley gave him no choice. Arnett sought to be released from his binding letter of intent so he could transfer to a Michigan college (Michigan or Michigan State) to be closer to his ailing father in Saginaw.
Dooley, in a move that was not only insensitive to the player’s family situation but also boneheaded for future recruiting efforts, said Arnett could transfer, but they would only release him to a Mid-American Conference school if he wanted to continue at the FBS level. Why should he be punished for something out of his control? He backed Arnett into a corner. Where could Arnett turn now?
He emailed ESPN’s Joe Schad, who wrote a story that went on ESPN.com’s college football section’s front page, detailing what Dooley did. That, along with a column on Yahoo! Sports, dozens of other reports and a social media firestorm made Dooley’s hotseat even hotter. And on Tuesday, Dooley granted Arnett unconditional release.
As much as the current standards for recruiting reporting puts unfair pressure and amounts of attention on high school kids, Arnett showed how they’re not powerless in this game. Just as the media can take advantage of them, they can take advantage of the media. It can empower them, if they play it right.
Now excuse me while I hold my breath once again hoping he comes to play for Michigan State. But even if he doesn’t, I’m glad he at least had the freedom to make a choice.