Under Armour roundtable
Editor's note: This interview took place prior to the 2010 Under Armour All-American Game. While these players have verbally committed, no commitments are final until letters of intent are received on National Signing Day.
ESPN.com: When was the first time you received mail from a college?
Dietrich Riley: My sophomore year, at the end of my sophomore year. USC was my first. They were the first school to offer me.
Devin Gardner: It was funny, my first piece of mail, it was in the 10th grade. I got a letter from Hope University. I was just so excited, I didn't know what to do, I thought that was the best thing ever. That was my first letter. [Second was?] Virginia, then they started rolling in.
Da'Rick Rogers: My first wasn't bad, it came from Georgia Tech, a little rival school of where I'm really going. It was a good letter though, it was hand-written. It made me happy.
ESPN.com: When did the contact really heat up?
Rogers: It started heating up for me at the end of my junior year. It really kicked off then. I'd been to a couple of camps and a couple of combines and it really started rolling. All the schools started coming in then.
ESPN.com: Did the combines help get your name out there or was it just another step?
Rogers: It helped me get my name out a lot. It really exposed me in getting everybody to know who you are and that's the name of the game in recruitment.
ESPN.com: How much does exposure factor in? Do you feel pressure to go to camps and make your name known?
Gardner: I think it's a big part of it. Before I went to a camp, nobody knew who I was, but I was still a good player and you would go to camp and show off what you can do against the best, sort of like what we're doing at the All-American game where you get your name out there, and the offers started rolling in. [When did you go to your first camp?] My sophomore year. I think it was the right time for me, I wasn't hitting my peak, but I could still hang around with the big boys, the seniors and the juniors.
Riley: It helped me a lot, it just helped me compete more at a higher level, to be more advanced when I went back to my school and played against teams in our league. I was just so far in my techniques that I was learning because I wasn't really learning stuff at my school. I learned man-to-man coverages; because I played linebacker at school, but it helped me play safety. I felt it helped me to take my game to another level as I was competing more and more and I was getting to know all these recruits that I would read about and build a relationship with them.
ESPN.com: When did you realize you could play at a big-time college level?
Grimble: Junior year at a Nike camp when I got to go against a lot of the top corners and top safeties in the camp and I did really well against them, then I think I really started to see that I could compete at a high level. In a regular high school game, everybody here is pretty much a dominant player and we know how to dominate to get here. It's a little bit better [at the Under Armour Game] because if you dominate here, you're probably going to be one of the best players.
Riley: My freshman year in high school, I played varsity football when I was 14 years old and after the season, I received first team all-league honors, first team All-State uderclassman, so that's when I began to realize that football is going to take me to the next level. That's when I knew that playing against guys that were 17 and 18 year olds that had more exposure -- bigger, stronger, faster, but my game was just at another level. That's when I realized I could excel at football. In Pop Warner, I always played with guys older than me, so I wasn't afraid to compete at all.
Gardner: My ninth grade year, my school already had a quarterback who was a real big guy -- bigger than me, stronger than me, everything and he was established and I came in and the coach said 'if I do what I'm supposed to do, then I'm going to play'. He told me 'if you listen to our coaching, then you'll be a Division I player.' I took that and ran with it.
ESPN.com: What's your favorite high school football memory?
Grimble: My two state championships. A lot of kids go their entire high school careers with playing in a state championship or even making the playoffs. At the end I can say I made two state championships and made two All-States.
Gardner: I remember two things. Winning All-State two years in a row as a junior and a senior and then this year we played a team that hadn't lost a game in 68 games straight and we didn't have any home games this year and the school was five hours away and we went down to their stadium and we beat them. That was a great memory and listening to complete silence in that big, giant stadium; it was just amazing.
Riley: Defeating Loyola, they're our big rival and we haven't beaten them since the 90s, they're a big-time program and one of the best in Southern California and I had two touchdowns and 13 tackles, but I went down in second half, hurt my hamstring. But to watch my team bounce back without me and win. It was real emotional to go down and I was having such a superb game. When I went down, to see my team respond without me, that was a great memory.
Rogers: Getting to play with the football team I played with, all the seniors on the team, getting to share what we had.
ESPN.com: What was the worst experience you've had during the recruiting process?
Riley: I must say the reporters. That was really, really stressful and it came to a point where I was tired and wanted to announce early. They would call me during finals week, I couldn't get any of my work done. They would just continually bug me to the point where I would just turn my phone off. I ended up changing my number and not telling anyone and all the reporters would hit me up on Facebook and ask me why I haven't been answering their calls or returning emails and I would just lie and say 'I don't have a phone', but I did.
Gardner: This past summer, I was reading something on the internet. I was picked for Elite 11, but they said I wasn't going to do well because it's not my scene and when I did well, I was waiting to see what that same reporter was going to write, but it looks like he didn't get a chance to get around to it.
Grimble: I know it's their job and everything looking for the next big thing or the next hot story. You get a lot of calls, like five to ten calls a day going through the recruiting process. You can let it get pretty stressful especially if you start reading to much into what they have to say. They'll be reported that like you, then some that don't think you're that good or they don't think you're as good as you think you are. You just have to stay humble and everything.
ESPN.com: Did you have any experiences with people using things like Facebook and Twitter?
Riley: I had a funny story with a Twitter incident. I have a friend that goes to UCLA. We were talking on Twitter, I was asking 'who they played this week' he told me. I asked him 'why isn't the offense throwing the ball? What's going on with the play calling?' He singled out his coach and all this other stuff. He wasn't talking negatively, but come to find out a couple of days later, the LA Times calls my coach say we have this whole profile of him [Dietrich Riley] talking to this person [the UCLA player] and my coach was so upset and I was too because they really made a big deal and I think they shouldn't have. This stuff was all over the place on CBS, Fox, the Pasadena Star News. People were calling me saying 'what were you doing on Twitter?' From that point on, that reminded me to watch what I have to say. Being a highly-recruited athlete, people are always going to follow the actions that you commit. So that told me to be more aware of the things I put out on the internet.
ESPN.com: Do you think texting and Facebook, etc. should be regulated by the NCAA?
Rogers: Yes, especially Facebook and I only think they should be allowed to text us on the weekends. During the week, they shouldn't be able to text or talk to us if it's during the season.
Grimble: I think the craziest thing with MySpace and Facebook isn't even the coaches, it's the fans. Everybody wants to persuade you. [The fans] don't know your background or what you're trying to do, they just have their own interests, they don't care what you think about the school or your priorites.
ESPN.com: What's one thing you would want to change about the recruiting process?
Rogers: No contact during the week. Sometimes it just gets to be too much.
ESPN.com: Describe your first recruiting visits?
Riley: My first official visit was to Tennessee and you really don't get to experience that atmosphere in California. Hearing 100,000 fans and doing the Vol Walk, that was the highlight of my visit.
Gardner: When I took an unofficial visit to Michigan. It was the atmosphere, it's the Big House and they had expanded it. I was a young guy in the 10th grade and to go from my school where they had stands on just one side of the stadium and to see this filled up was amazing.
Grimble: My first official visit was to Oklahoma and me being from Las Vegas and the city it was different being in the country and interesting to see how they do it in the Big 12. The style of play and the team and it was a little bit louder and a little crazier and they kind of shut the whole town down when the team has a game, and it was definitely a different experience.
ESPN.com: Do you think the tradition of your schools played into your decisions?
Gardner: A little bit. It wasn't as big, it was just a plus. It was more [going to Michigan] was the best decision for me. The tradition for me is just extra.
Grimble: Tradition is good, but it's really what's best for you. How you feel when you get there and how you can impact the team. Past players and what [the team has] done in the past is great, but in the end, it's what's the best place for you.
Riley: It's about what the school has to provide and not just athletically, but academically. Going to a school where they're known for having a great alumni base and you can go outside of California and you'd be known for not only your athletic ability but they could have stuff set up for you. Going to a school where they can help you out and be successful after football. Football doesn't last too long so for you to have a career aside from football.
ESPN.com: What was the best moment from the recruiting process?
Gardner: Committing to Michigan was the best for me. Up until that point I was going into my senior year and then the recruiting just stopped for me and I wasn't getting as many calls and text messages.
Riley: I committed to USC at my family's restaurant. Alongside my family, there weren't too many people and we were just having dinner and were talking about football and academics and when there was a pause, that's when I committed and nobody was expecting it and to see everyone's reaction and when I said I was a Trojan, everybody went crazy.
Grimble: I think my moment was just all the attention being such a big-time athlete and being one of the top recruits. I got to know some of the people at USC real well and some of the coaches at other places didn't do this, but it felt like they were recruiting a player and a person.
Rogers: Fans. All the kids that knew me and ran up to me and said 'good game' and knew about me when I came. That was big to me.
ESPN.com: What are you looking forward to most about your freshman years?
Gardner: Doing my best and seeing how my best plays out. ,/p>
Rogers: I want to get a national championship and I hope none of you get one because I want to win four.
ESPN.com: What's one thing outside of football that your looking forward to?
Gardner: I want to see how school is. Some people say it's hard and some say it's not. I just want to see where I am as a student as well as an athlete.
Rogers: Meeting new people. College brings all sorts of people together.
Riley: I don't know if I should say it, but it's just the party life. I hear so many things about it, but just having fun and being with all my teammates and recruits and being a host and that's something I really looking forward to.
Grimble: Growing up, that's the biggest thing in my life. Obviously I want to be with my team and stuff, but buying clothes and buying all the towels and all that stuff. Living on my own, having to wake myself and things like that.
COUNTDOWN TO SIGNING DAY
The day that high school seniors -- and the coaches courting them -- have been waiting for has arrived. Feb. 3 marks a new beginning for programs. ESPN.com will be following all of the action. Recruiting home