Nearly half of this year’s Sun Devil sophomore class was recruited locally, a good sign for future grads.

“THIS IS OUR HOME NOW… not even our ‘home away from home.’ It’s not like the six hours a day that we spent in high school – we’re here all day.”

That’s how Chris MacDonald sums up life in a big-college football program.

“I see more of you guys than my own family,” jokes Tyrice Thompson, referring to teammates MacDonald and Brett Palmer.

The three Arizona State University football players are part of the strong representation of Valley high school graduates that makes up much of this year’s sophomore Sun Devil class – and the immediate future of the school’s football program.

MacDonald (Red Mountain HS), Palmer (Marcos de Niza HS) and Thompson (South Mountain HS) offered to represent the group and share their insights to their first season of college ball and what this year’s graduating class should expect to experience at a nationally-ranked college football program at the Division I level; ASU entered the season ranked 18th in the nation.

“There are higher expectations (in college) – not just from yourself, but from the media, the coaches, and the fans,” continues MacDonald, a walk-on punter who earned a scholarship and played in all 12 ASU games last year. “They all expect you to perform at a certain level. There’s more pressure, more competition at your position.”

Palmer, a highly-recruited defensive tackle who played in three games last year, also points out that “the overall speed of the game is faster. We have a whole book of schemes and defenses we learned, instead of just a sheet of plays like we had in high school.”

College life in general is more demanding, says Thompson, a walk-on like MacDonald, who played in all 12 games last year and was converted this spring from halfback to the defensive line. “There’s a lot more responsibility,” he points out. “You don’t have to go to class every day; no one is taking attendance. It’s up to you to be there.” Like their other teammates in this talented sophomore class, all three had various college options open to them, but chose ASU.

Palmer, who bench presses 365 pounds and squats 525 pounds, drew the interest of schools in the Pac 10, Big 10, and Big 12. He had narrowed his choices to ASU, Oregon, UofA, and California schools, but chose ASU because he liked the coaches and the added benefit of being able to stay close to his family.

MacDonald, who was not only a record-setting kicker at Red Mountain, but also led the team as a wide receiver his senior year, says he had “a lot of smaller schools” interested, but ASU is where he had always intended to go. So his was a simple choice.

For Thompson, it was more of a lastminute thing.

“I didn’t have good grades, so a lot of the coaches were scared off, since I hadn’t taken my final SAT test yet,” explains Thompson, who played quarterback for two years and wide receiver for two years through high school. “Then I took the final SAT test you can take… and scored exactly what I needed: 820. It took a lot of studying, and the grace of God, I guess.”

He had already signed to go to college in Massachusetts when an eleventh-hour conversation with ASU head coach Dirk Koetter convinced him to attend ASU and work toward a scholarship, which he was awarded, and played all 12 games in a maroonand- gold uniform last year, mostly on special teams.

As they look back on their own experiences during the recruiting process, each has advice to pass on to those coming behind them.

All agree that it will take some time and effort if you to make the right choice of colleges. “Take all your visits and see what’s out there,” says Palmer. “Yeah, don’t limit your visits,” adds Thompson.

“Do a good job of marketing yourself,” suggests MacDonald. “Go to a lot of camps (to get noticed). That hurt me because I didn’t go to a lot of camps. And keep working at your game; make a commitment to it. Once you’re here (at college), it becomes your whole life.”

Along the lines of commitment, Thompson has a suggestion: “Do a lot of stuff you don’t like to do… you need to do everything necessary to become a better player.”

One last point that all agree needs to be emphasized as one of the most important criteria when considering a college: look beyond the recruiter’s pitch.

“Get to know your (future) teammates,” warns MacDonald. “Coaches will say things to you, but once you get there, it all changes.”

In the end, says Thompson, you need to rely on your own instincts. “Everybody will have a different story to tell you, so you will have to ultimately use your own judgment.”