Every February, college football fans obsess over the next batch of five-star recruits, high school seniors who ink their names on signing day.
"If you want to win championships, if you want to be one of the top programs, it all starts on the recruiting trail," said James Smith with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.
In today's world of bigger, faster and stronger, the new normal is also "earlier." Players are now giving verbal commitments well before their senior year. And for the truly unique, as early as eighth grade. Zadock Dinklemann just turned 15 and has yet to play a down of varsity football, but yes, young Zaddie is already an LSU commitment, class of 2018.
"I'm an eighth-grader, they chose me over guys who played games," Dinklemann said. "I just think it's crazy they have that much trust in me."
His father, Johan Dinklemann, added, "The first play of his seventh grade year, his first offensive snap was a 45-yard touchdown pass in the back corner. You know, and we were all like, man that looked way too easy."
Definitely not your typical eighth grader, Zadock already stands 6'3", weighs 200 pounds and has a rifle arm. LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron led the charge on getting Dinklemann to commit.
"Those type of decisions are on instinct," Cameron said. "Knowing the family background because you never really know. But there are certain things you might see at an early age, that remind you of someone else, and it may be a unique situation where you might want to get involved with that young man soon."
For Zadock, that involvement accelerated this past February.
"I want to offer him a scholarship, and I'm like, what the?" Johan said. "So that was truly, it was out of the blue, a bit of a surprise. I didn't think that would happen."
Zadock added, "I really like Coach Cameron, because just talking to him on the phone, he's just real excited about me. Coach Miles, he's really a fun guy, just talking to him on the phone. It was funny because he asked me if I shaved yet, he didn't want me to be the first Tiger that he recruited that didn't shave."
There's no doubt Dinkleman has good genes working in his favor. Uncles Ty and Koy Detmer both played in the NFL - Ty even won the Heisman Trophy at BYU. Grandad Sonny Detmer is considered a quarterback guru, and Zadock's dad also played collegiately at Cincinnati.
"It's real good, like I get to follow in their footsteps, which is what I always wanted to do," Zadock said.
Johan added, "I've always known that he has an ability. And he's got a chance to do something, it's just exciting that it happened so early."
And just like early scheduling in college football, rosters are now taking shape years in advance. Just last summer, Baton Rouge freshman-to-be Dylan Moses verbally committed to the Tigers, but Dinklemann is now the earliest on record.
"When you have a guy with his attributes, and that skillset at that young of an age, it's almost like a can't miss prospect, you want to be in as early as possible," Smith said. "Generally you don't see quarterbacks getting that type of love, you see the running backs and wide receivers, some of the athletes that develop early, but it was very interesting to see, but with his long line of successful family quarterbacks, it was no surprise."
Zadock attended LSU's game against Texas A&M last November, and just recently, the Tigers' spring game. The future LSU signal caller soaked it all in, but he'll have to wait four years before it all becomes official.
"When I went to that game, I like fell in love right away," Zadock said. "I didn't have to go other places, I just knew, it's a really amazing experience to be there."
Johan added, "My dad's a big LSU fan, he lives in Chicago, so I don't know how that happened. He's a big LSU fan and because of that influence, we've all watched LSU for a while now, and I think it's rubbed off on Zadock, and so it was one of his teams. He was just a big-time LSU fan. There's got to be some divine intervention there somewhere. That doesn't happen, where it's your favorite team. And then they're the ones who offer you early. Something special."
The small town of Somerset, Texas, now has a national spotlight that could lead to an added burden, but Zadock views it all as a positive.
"It makes me feel like, it's a lot of pressure off me, because now I can check one thing off the list, and I can work on something else."
Johan added, "We talk about it all the time. It's not about trying to be a star. Or trying to be a phenom or all of this stuff that you hear all the time. All he's got to do is continue working on his craft, the mental part of the game, the physical part of the game. And he's a competitor anyway, so that part of it takes care of itself."
Recruiting expert Smith says this trend of power programs committing to younger and younger players won't go away any time soon.
"You know it's a rat race out there," Smith said. "Everybody's trying to get an advantage over the next guy, and it really started with LSU with Leonard Fournette, they offered him going into his freshman year at St. Aug. This is going to be a trend that's here to stay across the country. USC's done it, Alabama's done it. Everybody's out trying to get a head start at some of these young prospects, so 13-14 year olds, get ready, your phone is about to start ringing."
Cam Cameron added, "You look at other sports, and you look at how things have evolved, and if you look globally, the way kids minds are wired today, whether it be in golf, whether it be in soccer, there's certain young kids that are different and that's okay. We have a process that goes with making those decisions, and personally, I'm thrilled to be a part of it."
But how much will change in four years? The reality is that LSU coach Les Miles could possibly move on from Baton Rouge during that stretch or Dinklemann could change his mind, but for now, Zadock is simply focused on the here and now.
"Until the day that he signs that paper his senior year, nothing's binding. He still has to go earn it," Johan said.
Zadock added, "I want to go play Varsity football, it's what I want to do. My sophomore year I'll be up there, and I just want to show what I can do."
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