This is the recruiting reel of Rich Tran, a senior tight end/linebacker for Dominion High School in Virginia, and as the intro warns, Be Prepared. There's Tran, No. 81, throwing a block ... on the side of the field away from the ball. There's Tran, standing on the sideline, cheering on his Titan teammates. There's Tran, hustling to run down the ballcarrier—oops, he's tackled before Tran gets there. This is the Rich Tran experience.
By now you've worked out that Tran, 18, isn't headed to a big-time college football program next season. But his self-produced highlight reel is infinitely more entertaining and honest than the thousands of "serious" videos recruits send to coaches across the country. I spoke to Tran by phone from his home in Sterling, Va., and he says it was done just to make his friends laugh—though he wouldn't turn down a full scholarship from Alabama if it happened to come his way.
It started a joke in the middle of a boring class last week; Tran had seen his teammates' impressive top plays, set to hype music, and decided he should have a reel of his own, despite having played only "30 or 40" snaps in his lone season of varsity football. He was inspired, in part, by the video of a Tennessee special teams player who didn't have much to show for his career beyond a few extra points. All of Dominion's games were filmed, so it was just a matter of Tran locating the plays he was on the field for. It wasn't easy.
"At first I wanted to use the plays that would make people laugh," Tran says, "but I ended up putting in pretty much every play I could find."
There is one tackle in the video; Tran says it's the only one he made all year.
He turned to the site Hudl, which helps prep players upload, edit, and share their videos, and slapped down a backing track (Lloyd Banks's "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley," Tran's go-to beat for pretend rap battles with his friends) and finished the video in an hour. Then he exited the program without saving and had to start over.
Tran's football story is probably a lot more illustrative of the average career than those chosen few who make a living off of it. A wide receiver on the freshman team, he took a couple years off—the first because he didn't care for the JV coach, the second because he tore his ACL. When he returned for his senior season, he was converted to tight end, destined to ride the bench behind one of the team's best players. A little linebacker, a little special teams, too, but there's only so much future for a 5-foot-8, 180-pound backup at a school that Tran freely admits cares more about academics than football.
Still, the video got a good reception from Tran's friends. (His parents were less impressed. When he told them the video was online, his father offered a dismissive, "Oh, that's great.") He thought it worth sharing with the world, and one of the people he sent it to was B.J. Koubaroulis, a multimedia executive who's one of the most sought-after endorsements for hopeful recruits in the Washington D.C. area. Koubaroulis regularly posts plays and highlights from high schoolers to WashingtonPost.com's preps section. College coaches pay close attention to Koubaroulis's finds, and having a highlight reel posted by him is a huge step to getting noticed.
Tran's video was a breath of fresh air for Koubaroulis, who's buried in emails from players begging him to view their unspectacular highlights.
"I couldn't be more excited to see that there's still hope for the next generation of athletes," Koubaroulis says in an email, "most of which have subscribed to an all-too-serious self-promotional internet campaign to up their recruiting stock. This kid obviously has a sense of humor and it's refreshing."
In a roundabout manner, this highlight reel could actually go a long way toward kickstarting Tran's career. He hopes to attend VCU or Christopher Newport University in the fall, and plans to major in marketing—specifically, sports management. Rich Tran managed to get Rich Tran's video in front of you (and speak to the Washington Post about it), so just imagine what he could do with a star player.
Our conversation turned to a certain other linebacker, and I asked him if he had a fake girlfriend he'd like to come clean about.
"She's nonexistent, I promise you," he laughs. "But maybe after the girls see this video ..."