Southlake Carroll produces one of its best classes of recruits

Companies pay millions for 30-second time slots on Super Bowl Sunday, banking on those clever skits and humorous lines to pay off in sales.

Southlake Carroll, meanwhile, gets to market its football program for free during the biggest football game on earth thanks to alum Garrett Hartley, whose 40-yard field goal in overtime of the NFC Championship Game secured New Orleans' place in Miami.

Free advertisement was also the case during the BCS National Championship Game when former Dragons squared off: Greg McElroy of Alabama and Tré Newton and Adam Ulatoski of Texas.

That trend should continue, considering that Carroll expects to send eight players to Division I programs. It is one of the strongest classes in the storied program's history.

"It just goes to show our hard work on and off the field," said Jackson Richards, a defensive end who has committed to Texas Tech. "You've got to take care of business in the classroom because scholarships aren't just about playing football. We put a lot of effort into our football but also our academics. It's a reflection of our efforts."

Five other players are expected to sign with non-Division I schools Wednesday, the first day athletes can sign letters of intent.

"The No. 1 thing, first of all, is that they are outstanding men, have outstanding character, outstanding work ethic and are outstanding role models," Dragons coach Hal Wasson said.

"They are all really good students and were just a lot of fun to be around."

The 2005 class jumps out as one of the deepest in school history. It included six Division I players and came during the Dragons' 2002-06 dynasty, when it went 79-1 and won four state championships.

But even that class doesn't have the depth nor could it cover the landscape quite like 2010's. The Dragons went 11-2 in 2009 and lost to Arlington Bowie in the playoffs.

"They redefine 'fun,'" Wasson said. "We had fun coming to work every day. They bought into everything we were trying to do. I can't say enough good things about them. They were a great group of guys."

A group of guys who, as Wasson would say, acknowledged the process that it takes to getting to the ultimate goal of signing a letter of intent.

"We've tried to really execute a plan that let our kids understand the process," Wasson said. "Today everyone gets focused on the goal, 'Well I want to play for Texas or Notre Dame.' That's fine, but let's understand the process here. If that's your focus, then you are behind."

Wasson stresses keeping the recruiting process in perspective.

"We try to educate our players in what we are doing for them," he said. "We brought in a speaker to help them through the recruiting process because if you ever focus on the ultimate goal and lose sight of the process, it puts you behind the eight ball."

There's a certain pressure that comes with playing at Carroll. It's something of which its players are aware and take pride in upholding.

"It is very important," said Richards, who committed as a sophomore. "We take that very serious. We felt like we upheld the tradition somewhat. If you don't win state around here, you kind of felt like you didn't uphold it. We had a good year though."

Richards and kicker Cade Foster played in All-American games. Richards played in the Under Armour All-American Game and Foster, who is already enrolled at Alabama, starred in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

"Every year we try to raise the bar," Wasson said. "The guys that have come before them have set the standard. They attract the attention because of our team's success. These guys are getting to feed off of what has happened in the past. It's the next class' assignment to keep the feeding frenzy alive."