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December 10, 2012
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
Jet-setting, red carpets and national television coverage are all just small parts of the package.
The college football awards season is a rewarding experience for participating players and coaches around the country, but it is not just a time to rack up frequent-flier miles. Pleasure often mixes with business.
"Any chance you have to be out recruiting, you have to take it," Kelly said from the red carpet at the Lombardi Awards in Houston. "We have been in a lot of cities and cannot waste that."
Kelly has been in tow with Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te'o from ceremony to ceremony.
Te'o accepted the Bednarik Award, given to the best defensive player; the Butkus Award, which goes to the top linebacker; the Lombardi Award, presented to the nation's top lineman or linebacker in conjunction with personal service and leadership; the Maxwell Award, given to the most outstanding player; the Nagurski Award for the top defensive player; and The Walter Camp Player of the Year Award. His total surpasses the five awards won by Charles Woodson in 1997.
Kelly was named the first two-time winner of the Home Depot Coach of the Year Award.
The two, along with Tyler Eifert -- who won The John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end -- are garnering plenty of exposure for a program that already enjoys prominent national awareness.
Kelly said the publicity is always welcome.
"This is all positive for our brand," Kelly said. "We are already one of the largest (brands) in college football, but this all helps."
The exposure of the Notre Dame brand has helped expand a nationwide footprint that has been effectively used as a recruiting tool by Kelly.
Sunday the Irish landed a commitment from five-star running back Greg Bryant out of Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage.
A possible coincidence, but two days prior Kelly was in Florida at the Home Depot college football awards.
The time spent in Texas was equally important. Notre Dame has five players from the state on the roster, and three committed this year.
Having the chance to be visible to Katy (Texas) Cinco Ranch running back Jamel James, San Antonio (Texas) Christian receiver Corey Robinson, and Prosper (Texas) High receiver Torii Hunter Jr. is a chance that Kelly welcomes.
"We do what we can here," he said. "We have some kids from Texas on our roster, and this state is important to us, like it is to everyone else."
For Sumlin, his home base is in Texas and the opportunity to get out of state has been a welcome one.
"We didn't have a bye week this year with the hurricane," he said, referring to the season opener against Louisiana Tech, which was postponed to mid-October because of Hurricane Isaac. "So after our last game I told the guys to get out and get away from me. I had to get out and get recruiting."
With 24 of the Aggies' 34 commitments coming from inside the state - including the most recent commitment from former five-star Ricky Seals-Jones - Sumlin looks at the awards season exposure as another positive in spreading awareness of what is happening at Texas A&M.
"Recruiting is going really well for us right now," he said. "A lot of things are going in the right direction.
"There were a lot of naysayers about us going into the SEC, and I think being successful in the conference, plus the success and exposure that we are getting (with the awards), has been a major impact in recruiting."
The Aggies' revival can be somewhat credited to the play of Manziel. His 4,600 yards from scrimmage and 43 touchdowns -- as well as a multitude of highlight-reel plays -- kept Texas A&M on national television and in front of an audience that otherwise might not have seen the team play every Saturday.
Sumlin said that building on the momentum is his next priority. Leveraging awards can lead to more victories in recruiting.
"We need to be able to take the next step and capitalize on this to become elite," he said. "I think we can get there.
"We have a lot of positive things working for us right now, and I think people are starting to see that. The first part is getting their attention, and all of this helps. Once we get them interested, it is easier. I don't think there is anything better than a Saturday at Kyle Field."
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