IOWA CITY, Iowa — Wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland runs into prospects unfamiliar with Iowa when in Florida.
When it happens, he remembers an old Ben Franklin proverb before giving his sales pitch.
Honesty is the best policy. Even in recruiting.
“I will tell them straight up this is not for everybody, but if you are willing to put in the work and not fall into the trap of what our society is right now, which is instant gratification. That is not what we are built on. That is not what Iowa football has ever been about and will never be about as long as the Ferentz family is here and [strength] coach [Chris] Doyle.”
Copeland doesn’t bring up the weather differences, the Big Ten or that the school colors are gold and black.
At least not at first.
If he is to build a bond with a prospect truthfulness needs to be at its core. So he starts with explaining who the Hawkeyes are.
“We are a break-the-rock program,” Copeland said, “which means day-by-day we are going to do extraordinary things, ordinary things at an extraordinary level. Day-by-day-by-day. It’s a process.
Some programs tell recruits anything to sign them. That’s not Iowa’s mantra.
The Hawkeyes know they’re a different program. They aren’t going to outrecruit Big Ten powers likes Ohio State and Michigan.
Their niche is as a developmental program. A blue-collar work ethic, love of football and hard work isn’t just a culture Iowa wants to build.
The staff views it as a necessity to success. Explaining as much to prospects helps Iowa identify recruits truly interested in their brand of football.
“[Quarterback] coach [Ken] O’Keefe alluded to that with earlier (in a press conference) when he was talking about high school kids (enrolling early) having to come in here and having to wake up at 5:15 and be ready for a workout at six,” Copeland said.
Eventually, Copeland hits on the more traditional recruiting topics, especially weather. It’s the elephant in the room with every Florida recruit. Any in-state program will use snow as a recruiting tool against Iowa.
Like with his opening pitch, Copeland is honest. Winter isn’t always fun, but it’s manageable.
“Obviously it looks a little different outside,” Copeland said, “Especially in January and February.”
The straight-shooter approach works. Iowa used it in Florida before Copeland joined the staff in February 2017.
Cornerback Josh Turned loved Iowa’s honest approach. As a lightly recruited 3-star prospect, Turner knew a starting position wasn’t going to be handed to him.
He picked the Hawkeyes, in part, because they didn’t play to his ego. All they offered was a chance. Nothing more. Nothing less.
“I just wanted the opportunity,” Turner told Land of 10 last spring. “That is what they told me. You’ll have the opportunity and it will depend on you. If I don’t play I don’t have anyone else I can look at.”
Copeland’s pitch worked with 2018 3-star Largo High School wide receiver Calvin Lockett. He signed in December and liked the no-nonsense nature of the program.
“I did my research on them,” Lockett said. “I saw they are a great team and why they have a good program.”
That’s the other thing. Recruits look up Iowa. The internet tells them everything they need to know.
They find out if Copeland lies. It’s why he doesn’t.
Even if the truth about January snowstorms isn’t the best selling point.