The Inspiration Behind SAS
Rex Grayner was an All-CIF baseball player from Southern California and was fortunate to see his dream of playing college baseball become a reality. But his college recruitment experience was anything but “ideal.” He started too late. He didn’t understand how the process worked. His parents did the best they could to help promote Rex, but they lacked the time and the experience to make much of an impact. Plus, Rex grew up in a small town, so college exposure was a challenge. He relied on his coach to drive the process but his coach only knew a few college coaches in the area. None of them were good fits for Rex.
If that weren’t enough, Rex’s assessment of his own abilities was completely unrealistic. Needless to say, Rex had very few college choices and no scholarship offers. As luck would have it, Rex was able to convince the then #6 ranked Division I school in the country, Loyola Marymount University, to accept him as a walk-on pitcher. And after 2 seasons with the Lions, he realized he was never going to achieve the amount of playing time he had anticipated. So Rex decided to transfer to University of California, San Diego. And after 2 final seasons with the Tritons, his baseball career came to an end.
After graduation, Rex headed to Michigan to attend graduate school. Shortly after earning his Master’s degree in Sports Management, he returned to California and began coaching a high school baseball “travel” team. This team was an elite squad of top players in the county. And as he did with his own coach in high school, the parents of this squad expected Rex to get their sons recruited by college baseball coaches. The only problem was, Rex didn’t understand the process much more than they did. He had a strong desire to help though. He didn’t want his kids to endure similar college recruiting experiences.
So Rex started promoting his team and talking to anyone who would listen. He called as many college coaches as he could. He invited anyone who would listen to come watch his kids play. And when they did, he worked the stands. Simultaneously, Rex sat down with each player and their parents and mapped out their goals. He began outlining custom strategies for each one of his players. Almost immediately, Rex saw results. He started to see what was possible if a solid “college game plan” was implemented. He applied some of the same simple marketing principles he had learned in school to his players. And after a few seasons of watching nearly 100% of his players realize their college dreams, Rex knew what he was meant to do in life.
In 2003, after working briefly for a couple organizations, Rex started his company. He called it Student-Athlete Showcase (SAS).
Enter Zack Walz
Soon after launching SAS, Rex was introduced to former NFL linebacker, Zack Walz. Zack was a standout at St. Francis HS in Los Altos, CA. But when college coaches all but overlooked him, Zack’s dad launched an aggressive recruiting campaign. In the end, Dartmouth College came calling. As a 4-year starter for The Big Green, Zack earned All-Ivy League honors three times and was named All-America as a senior. The Arizona Cardinals drafted Zack in the 6th round, and he enjoyed a 5-year NFL career before retiring in 2002. Zack’s story of “overlooked HS prospect to NFL linebacker” gained national attention, and it compelled him to help prospective athletes avoid common recruiting pitfalls. It was here that he connected with Rex. When they realized they shared a similar passion, Rex asked Zack to partner with him and serve as co-owners of SAS.
SAS Grows into an Industry Leader
Over the next decade, SAS would go on to serve tens of thousands of athletes, parents, high school coaches and college coaches and become one of the top college recruiting authorities in the United States. Its flagship program, The College Game Plan, would be widely considered the preferred formula for college-bound athletes and college recruiters across America. The company would enjoy national recognition and watch thousands of student-athletes secure opportunities to attend and compete for universities at every level. In 2016, SAS retired its single-fee service model and adopted a new subscription-based program. Under the new service formula, families would now have the option of enrolling with SAS on a monthly or annual membership plan. This new model opened the doors for growth and enabled SAS to offer families a more feasible, scalable service platform.
Changing of the Guard at SAS
In Fall 2017, Rex was paired in a golf tournament with a local businessman from Parker, Colo. named David (DJ) Leaverton. Prior to their encounter, DJ had served as Chief Operating Officer & Founder of a small private hospice company before selling it to a large national health care organization. The seasoned entrepreneur was searching for his next big project when he learned about Student-Athlete Showcase. As a former standout prep athlete who, like Rex and Zack, was also overlooked by college coaches, DJ was immediately drawn to the opportunity. In Summer 2018, DJ joined the SAS executive team as its new CFO.
SAS Propels into the Future
Today, with the guidance of a new executive team and new staff members, SAS continues to serve as an advocate for talented student-athletes who dream of getting recruited to play their sport in college, as a guide for parents to help make the experience more enjoyable for their children, and as a supporter of coaches in every sport at every level. As it did in its first 15 years, SAS continues to set the standard for other college recruiting organizations and services. Unlike the sea of online do-it-yourself products popping up, SAS has remained true to its identity and continues to stand apart from the pack by offering a more personalized, full-service marketing solution for athletes, comprehensive guidance for parents and a menu of ancillary college planning tools. Students from all over the world turn to SAS as early as the 8th grade, giving their families a trusted college partner throughout the entire high school experience.