For high school football players looking to compete at the next level, attending college camps and prospect showcases has become almost a necessity in recent years.
During the summer, it's not uncommon to see players posting on social media about the camps they've attended or showing off the accolades they've earned. In fact, the summer showcase circuit has almost become a football season of its own.
"The camp circuit has really evolved a great deal over the last 5-10 years," said Owensboro High School coach Jay Fallin. "It's a huge part of college recruitment now. A lot of college coaches now, when they meet a young man and think he can potentially play at their level, they'll say they need to get him on campus for camp in the summer."
Most Division I colleges offer camps and showcases throughout the summer, with smaller colleges often on hand to watch, as well.
Camp types vary, from combines -- where the main objective is to obtain a player's "vitals" like 40-yard dash times or shuttle drill results -- to straightforward instructional camps. Most, if not all, require a registration fee.
The two biggest combine-style camps in the summer are Nike's The Opening and the Rivals Camp Series presented by Adidas. Most prospects are given their grades, such as star ratings, through those two avenues.
Some camps that area athletes have recently attended include Kentucky, Louisville, Western Kentucky, Purdue, Notre Dame and Kentucky Wesleyan, among others.
No matter the type of event, however, they all focus on connecting coaches with potential student-athletes.
"We encourage our kids to attend them, within reason," Fallin said. "We encourage them to go because it's usually a good experience. They're doing football drills, getting coached by college coaches and playing against top-level competition.
"It's a great opportunity for a kid, particularly a younger player, to give themselves a chance to be seen by college coaches."
Daviess County High School coach Matt Brannon recalls going through the process with former star wide receiver Marquel Tinsley, who will play at Middle Tennessee next season.
After watching Tinsley on a limited basis one spring, MTSU offensive coordinator Tony Franklin had Brannon take Tinsley to a camp in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Following a standout performance, the offers started rolling in.
"It was immediate," Brannon said. "He got five offers at that first camp based on his in-person performance. That's the big thing. Film can be deceiving, so these camps give the coaches a chance to see the players in action."
Typically, the camp process is a simple one. Interested players often sit down with their coaches to discuss which events would be best for them to attend. And, there seem to be more opportunities each day.
"One thing that's been big the last two or three years is a lot of smaller colleges are putting on these big camps, these mega-camps," Owensboro Catholic coach Jason Morris said. "You could have 150 colleges out there. Those are good for all players to get to, so multiple colleges can see them."
Though most college coaches already have targets on certain players before camp ever begins, whether it's through social media, talking with high school coaches or other means, there is the rare occasion when they discover a relatively unknown player with potential.
"That happened recently to one of our players," said Apollo coach Phil Hawkins, referring to rising junior tight end John Lynn, who performed well at a recent camp at Notre Dame. "For him to get that notice sort of changed his whole trajectory in regards to recruiting."
With that extra bit of attention, Hawkins noted, also comes additional opportunities for other players on the team.
"The more Division I schools come out, the more Division II or Division III or NAIA schools come out, too," he said. "That traffic breeds more traffic, and the camp exposure breeds more traffic."
Despite all of the positives -- like players learning new techniques, gaining confidence or gauging themselves against top-tier talent -- high school coaches do warn of potential fallbacks.
"You've got to be careful about what's a fundraiser for them and what's an actual prospect camp," Morris said. "It's beneficial for kids to get that confidence and find out where they fit in the grand scheme of college football, but what I don't like is a kid going to a camp just to go to a camp.
"For example, Nick Saban can hold a camp and anybody can go to it, but then you give a kid a false sense of being a Division I athlete when maybe he's a Division II or NAIA-caliber player. There's a fine line there."
Attending too many camps also runs the risk of players wearing themselves out, Brannon added.
"There's that danger there, too," he said. "But I do think coaches are diligent about their recruiting. It's not just the camps. It's the film, the high school coach's input, everything."
Still, all four coaches agreed, you've got to be seen to be recruited.
"Recruiting is a business for these colleges," Hawkins said. "That's why they spend millions of dollars doing it. If you're selling an energy drink, you've got to put that drink down in front of people in order for them to buy it. It's the same thing with these camps."