Liam Douglass is a former three-star offensive tackle from Harvard Westlake in Studio City, California. Now a freshman at USC about to experience his first collegiate game on Saturday when the Trojans face the UNLV Rebels, his mother Sahaja couldn’t be more thrilled she will get to see her son play in the stadium that held his heart as a child.
Liam Douglass is an anomaly in the world of college football, and by that I mean he didn’t start playing contact football until 11th grade.
Rarely do you hear of Power Five recruits that haven’t been playing football since their pee-wee days, though with the talent and skill Douglass possesses it seems as if he has been playing all his life.
Douglass who joined the USC Trojans in their signing class of 2018, was a baseball player turned three-star football recruit in the hotbed of Southern California talent. The 6 foot 5, 290 pound freshman had 11 offers from Division I schools such as Arizona, Colorado, UCF, and Washington State.
Though he got started late, he quickly rose to become the No. 41 offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 57 rated player in California per 247Sports.
Most high school football players work for years and never get so much as a single star. With thousands of players across the nation, it can be extremely hard to get noticed under the Friday night lights by college coaching staffs. Douglass did what all dream of in only two years.
After receiving an offer from Clay Helton and USC at a camp on campus, Douglass committed to the Trojans that same day. Never wavering in his commitment, he was one of the first to put pen to paper, locking in his roster spot with USC on the first day of the early signing period.
While Douglass took an unconventional approach to becoming a college football player, it worked all the same. I spoke with mother Sahaja Douglass about her son’s athleticism, why he chose USC, and recruiting advice for fellow moms.
Liam started playing football in 11th grade but was a talented baseball player before that, what made him make the switch to football?
“When Liam started playing football he fell in love with the game. The fast pace, the physicality on every play, the mental challenges, the close relationships with teammates —this all appealed to him. Being a pitcher can be isolating and most pitchers on his high school team only play every five days, so there is a lot of time spent sitting on the bench. Baseball is a quiet sport, and the pace is glacial compared with football. Liam likes to be in the middle of the action consistently. From the moment he began playing football, his coach saw his talent and told him he could play at the D1 level.”
“Liam was unstoppable; he gained 60 pounds of muscle in six months and worked every day to get better, faster, and more knowledgeable about the game and playbook. He got up at 5:00 a.m. to lift weights, and when the season was over he worked with a coach in the afternoons to develop his skills. There was not time to play both sports at a high level so he chose football based on his passion for the game. His high school football coach sent out his highlight tape and recruiters were amazed to see his film because he was doing everything from playing offensive tackle, outside linebacker, returning punts and he even scored a touchdown on a fumble that he picked up and ran 30 yards to the end zone. If he had been playing for a long time, he probably would have been slotted into a position already, but he was able to do a lot of offensive tackle and a bit of other things, too. Once recruiters saw his film, they reached out to his coach and Liam was given great opportunities, so he never returned to baseball.”
Being from Southern California was USC always the household favorite?
“USC was Liam’s favorite. I loved watching the USC games but I tried to remain unattached to one particular school during the recruiting process so Liam could feel free to choose the school that best met his academic and athletic needs. There were some schools that had a strong football program, but did not have an academic criteria that I felt met Liam’s potential off the field and I did mention my concerns. USC has everything that Liam wanted: a fantastic football program and inspiring coaches, great academics, an active, talented and connected alumni network, and it is close to home so we can come to all the games and many of the practices and family meals. Plus, nothing is better than “family, faith and football!”
What is something you and Liam like to do together? Any hobbies?
“We watch movies together, football games together, sometimes we read together in front of the fireplace. Occasionally, we go to the gym together. When he is home, often we’ll just do our own things in the same room — we like to be together but we don’t share a lot of the same interests. We used to practice yoga together when he was younger. We both love dogs, so sometimes we groom them together; we have two Newfoundlands and they take hours to groom.”
What is something that stood out to you from a mother’s perspective about how USC handled your son’s recruitment?
“Coach Helton talks a lot about the importance of family and the program makes an effort to include the players’ families in a lot of the events. This was so important to us because we are a close family and are used to spending a lot of time together. I thought that I would be sad when Liam went to college, but between open practices and games and the weekends he has come home, I see a lot of him and am grateful.”
What is some advice you would give to fellow moms of recruited athletes?
“Communication with your recruited athlete is important. Ask them what kind of support they want from you during the process. If you have questions about a program or a school, do they want you to ask or do they want to ask for you? How do they want to compare the schools and offers — do they want you to make a chart and list the pros, cons and impressions or will they do that? They may even have requests about how you dress on a visit; I did not realize that it was okay (even preferable) to dress in jeans and sneakers on visits and Liam had to guide me.”
“We had a lot of support during the process from Liam’s high school coach, but if you do not have this kind of support, get informed, read about the recruiting process on websites, ask questions and talk about all you learn with your athlete. But also be careful not to overwhelm them. Read about the NCAA recruiting rules so you are never in violation and so you understand why a coach may only call once a week on a given day and then go through periods when he is not allowed to call at all.”
“Do what you can to minimize anxiety; it can be a stressful process as they are constantly being evaluated and having to evaluate a slew of new people and places. And finally, enjoy all the time you get to spend together throughout the recruiting process. Soon they will be away from home and you will miss them.”
Special thanks to Sahaja Douglass for her lovely interview! Fight On