Two years ago, head coach Willie Simmons brought in a dedicated recruiting coordinator for the first time in FAMU’s history. Previously, recruiting was assigned to an assistant coach, but with today’s required attention needed to attract the country’s top talent, most schools have created a dedicated Director of Recruiting position. In walks Devin Rispress.
Rispress is from Tallahassee but coached in Simmons’ home of Gadsden County. He came directly from Gadsden County High School with a passion for interacting with prospects. His penchant for recruiting is truly second to none.
On Sept. 23 when the Rattlers hosted Alabama State University, FAMU hosted possibly its highest caliber of prospects in school history. Featured in the group were 4 and 5-star senior prospects. Among them were two in particular. One from Daytona’s Mainland High School and the other from Jacksonville’s Mandarin High School.
Rispress is fearless in recruiting against anyone in the country
Jaime Ffrench, a University of Alabama commit, ranks as a 5-star and the country’s No.5 receiver was on hand to watch the Rattlers take on the Hornets. Ffrench has been courted by several top Power Five schools including Alabama and Auburn. “I’m just here checking out the Rattlers,” Ffrench said in pregame.
Jaime Ffrench on a visit to FAMU
Zavier Mincey is a 4-star-rated defensive back out of Daytona Beach. He is a dual sport athlete who also plays basketball. At 6’3 and 190 lbs, Mincey is high on the ranking chart of Florida State and the University of Miami. “I am considering coming to FAMU. I’m from Mainland High School in Daytona Beach. There’s nothing like an HBCU,” Mincey said.
Another big-time recruit that visited FAMU was Wakulla athlete and 3-star Nememiah Chandler who is committed to Georgia Tech. Devin Rispress has been interested in Chandler for some time and feels he could help the program.
Devin Rispress sees going after top-tier talent now as a norm as opposed to an anomaly. “What I like most about my job is that I run my own department and I do it my way. Coach Simmons isn’t a micro-manager so I have the freedom to do things my way. Building relationships with these young men and their families is something that I enjoy. Probably the thing that I like the most is competing against other schools on the recruiting trail. I was a fierce competitor as a player, a coach and I brought that same energy and attitude to recruiting.”
Zavier Mincey on a visit to FAMU
In the big SWAC East showdown against Alabama State, for the second consecutive week, FAMU had massive official and unofficial visits. At the ASU game, Rispress entertained over 140 prospects. Under the previous model where an assistant coach added those responsibilities to his already full plate, that would not have been possible.
Simmons admires the passion of Rispress to recruit top talent
Simmons is pleased that Rispress has dedicated himself to recruiting and not coaching at FAMU. “It’s good to have a guy on your recruiting team who understands how to coach but has given up that passion to help the team by concentrating on recruiting. He has never tried to coach while at FAMU and that is rare to have someone that dedicated to what they are doing that they forfeit what you know they love,” Simmons said.
While the Rattler coaching staff is concerned with finishing this year strong, Devin Rispress is determined to reload the squad with as much talent as possible for next year. That also means ensuring that FAMU football recruiting is represented in the social media world. There is absolutely no way to attract top-tier talent from high schoolers without being active and effective in the social media realm.
The challenges of recruiting at HBCUs
It does not come without its own challenges. Recruiting against larger schools with seemingly unlimited budgets has its fallbacks. “The biggest challenge recruiting 4and 5-star athletes are the facilities. Also the advent of NIL and young men wanting to live out their dreams they have had since they were kids to play at the bigger schools. I came up with the same dreams, but the game has changed now. Kids don’t have to chase logos, here at FAMU we receive the same exposure as the Power 5 schools in many respects. We play in NFL stadiums and NFL scouts are beating down the door to see the talent here. In the past two years Markquese Bell, Xavier Smith, and Isaiah Land made NFL rosters and the scouts rave about how smart they are. Coach Simmons and staff do a great job getting our players prepared to play on Sunday if the opportunity presents itself,” said Rispress.
He hails from Tallahassee’s Rickards High School and attended college at Bethune-Cookman University. That experience at the college level gave him an understanding of the beauty of college football. His coaching aspirations have been put aside for the enjoyment of the hunt. “As much as I loved coaching running backs, I love recruiting just as much or more. The chance to return to the college level was something that I worked for and prayed for and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity when coach Simmons made the offer,” Rispress concluded.