Internet recruiting: a gift to fellow athletes
Former student Shomari Williams, Ed’11, who was a starting linebacker with the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders this past season, already has a career plan for life after professional football. A former star player with the 2009 Vanier Cup-winning Gaels team, he is the founder of Top Prospects Canada – an online database where student-athletes can create and post a free profile, including academic and personal information, along with a highlight video. Coaches can browse the site for potential recruits. Currently, the database features football and basketball athletes.
Shomari established the database from personal experience. “When I was trying to get a football scholarship to a university, I had to create all of the DVDs myself,” he recalls not-so-fondly. “I would then mail them out to NCAA coaches. I also had to call every coach to make sure they had received my DVD. It was an extremely time-consuming and tedious process. I thought there had to be a better way.”
All of Shomari’s hard work would eventually pay off. After playing football for two years at the junior college level in Quebec, he earned a full scholarship to the University of Houston. To put it mildly, college football is a far bigger thing in most U.S. states than in Canada. “It was amazing to play in front of 30,000 people and up to 90,000 at the conference finals,” Shomari says. “I spent three great years at the University of Houston and earned a degree in entrepreneurship.”
In 2009, he transferred to Queen’s and played football for the Gaels during that storybook national championship season. The Roughriders made Shomari their number one pick in the 2010 CFL draft. That year was also an important one for Shomari for a reason other than football. “We were able to officially launch Top Prospects in 2010,” he says.
The company now has the largest online recruiting database in Canada. The site has profiles of several thousand student athletes, including two who recently earned NCAA football scholarships.
However, the Top Prospects website is much more than just athletes’ profiles. “The database is searchable, and we have a Top 10 ranking making it easier for recruiters. We’ve also started to do a combination series where athletes do the 40-yard dash and various other physical tests. All testing results and player evaluations are sent to more than 25 colleges and universities.”
Without an extensive advertising budget, Shomari has embraced social media and old-fashioned word-of-mouth to help promote Top Prospects. “I maintain active Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts,” he says. “I’ve also got a blog that talks about all facets of sports recruiting.”
Shomari would like to make his fulltime career with Top Prospects eventually. “I don’t want to quit football any time soon, but I do see a great future with this project. I want every high school student athlete who is thinking about getting recruited to a Canadian or NCAA school to first think about Top Prospects.”
- After we went to press, Shomari signed a three-year deal with the Hamilton Tiger Cats.