Recruits are loving that buffet life

Pile it on! The buffet plate is as useful a recruiting tool as anything in a team's arsenal. Lamont Wade/@Goony_38

So, yeah, gluttony and recruiting visits go hand-in-hand.

From churrascarias to chicken fingers, recruiters want "prospect-friendly." Recruits, it seems want everything. And large quantities of it.

According to Arizona's team chef, they went through 20 pounds of chicken breasts, 50 pounds of chicken wings, 22 pounds of ground beef, 32 pounds of coconut shrimp, 100 chocolate chip cookies and 8 gallons of vanilla ice cream on a recent recruiting visit when the Wildcats hosted 13 recruits and their families.

That scene is repeated all over the country. For every official visit weekend, during which the host school pays for everything, the recruit's life turns part travel show, part eating challenge, and definitely, all you can eat.

"The overall official visit for us has two key components: feed them really good food and give them time with our players," said Chris Bowers, Northwestern's director of player personnel.

The first step? The buffet better be on point.

"Penn State's buffet is on top," said C.J. Thorpe, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound offensive guard and Penn State commit. "They have wings, they got fries, quesadillas. They have everything. It just keeps coming. They have Mexican chocolate cake, these brownies, real rich brownies, cookies. You know I'm a fat boy, so. The creamery ice cream, they had a whole freezer full of it."

"Steak. Lobster. Shrimp. Grilled chicken. Chicken strips. Cake. Cookies. Anything and everything your heart desired on these trips, the schools would do a great job of getting it, said ESPN 300 linebacker Anthony Hines III. "The food at Texas A&M actually played a role in helping me commit to them. Not only do they have one of the best training tables in the country with a line that's about a mile long, I had the best food ever there on my official visit."

"I had lobster, three different kinds of fish, pasta, salad, and oysters -- like two whole plates," Washington recruit Elijah Molden said. "Then the next morning I had a halibut omelet with [Chris Petersen].

When not on the buffet line, the strategy for most recruiters is to skip the glitz and make recruits notice what life is like in their future college town. For Northwestern, that's Pete Miller's in Evanston. For USC, it's the world-famous Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. Or crab cakes in College Station?

"Believe it or not, it wasn't steak or something like that that sold me," Hines said. "It was crab cakes. Yes, crab cakes. There is a restaurant in College Station that's run by an alum and they had these amazing crab cakes. They were the best thing I've ever ate. I know most people are going to think because it's Texas, it was steak this and steak that at A&M, but I still dream of those crab cakes."

From there it's all about knowing the audience. There better be steak and chicken fingers. Mac and cheese and mashed potatoes. Lobster, shrimp, omelet bars and the occasional chocolate fountain. Skip the salad. Then stand back and let them chow down.

"The quantity is ... a lot," Bowers said. "It's amazing how much they can eat.

"I've had someone pound a 22-ounce steak and ask for another one."

That doesn't mean there aren't the occasional problems. University of Arizona's director of player personnel Matt Dudek took ESPN 300 offensive lineman Michael Eletise to Lindy's, a burger bar and campus favorite on 4th Street in Tucson. The restaurant's OMFG challenge has been featured on "Man vs. Food." Contestants get 20 minutes to finish a burger with three pounds of meat, a pound of cheese plus lettuce, tomato, special sauce and tater tots. The challenge's rule state: "you MUST keep it down at all time."

Eletise, a foodie himself, decided to take the challenge.

"He didn't make the 20-minute mark, but he wanted to finish it," Dudek said. "He gets to the last bite and says 'I'm not feeling too good' and he walks outside.

"They have a street fair going on and he walks outside, and right on a tree, throws up all over the place."

It must not have been all bad. Eletise signed with the Wildcats in the Class of 2016. Dudek said Eletise now volunteers to host recruits just to go eat with them.

In the end, most recruiters don't think the food will ever be a deciding factor, they just want to be good hosts. That doesn't mean though that they'll be rolling out less food anytime soon, even if the recruits might have some regrets about eating so much.

"I took all five of my official visits," Hines said, "and I would come home after every visit feeling like I gained five pounds."