Southfield — Mike Dennis has made it his mission to help unheralded football players get scholarship offers.
A former high school coach, he figures he has helped more than 60 kids receive scholarships the past several years, including more than a dozen this year.
And he does it all for the pure love of the game.
"I never took a nickel or charged a kid a dime," said Dennis, 48. "There's too many people out here with these single mothers and that, that are charging these kids, and they are promised the world and they don't get it.
"One of the things I teach the kids is 'God, family, school, football' and that's at all levels. ... The other thing I preach is 'Stay out of your way.' Most of the things are self-inflicted with the kids. I tell them, 'I can get you to school, get you an offer, but I can't do the grades for you and I can't keep you from getting in your own way.' "
The players Dennis helps are not the three- or four-star recruits, but the ones usually overlooked. He also helps others who have Division 1 talent, but lack the grades to get offers.
Take Romulus defensive end Immanuel Stinson, ranked No. 14 in The News preseason rankings.
He was being recruited by Michigan State and had offers from multiple Mid-American Conference schools entering his senior year, but grades prevented him from finishing the deal.
Dennis, who has worked in the communication business, met with Stinson, who is now at River Rouge, and he is expected to sign with Garden City Community College in Kansas.
Others have asked Dennis for help.
"I came to him and asked for help since I had no offers and he sent film on me to Ferris State, Austin Peay and other places," said Southfield running back Adrian Carter, who received an offer from Ferris State. "He made sure I had everything I need to have in place academically, too. I call him every day."
Ferndale teammates Elliott Oldham and Donovan Jackson met Dennis in 2013, when they were looking for help with their football futures. Dennis helped them find their way to Minnesota West Community College. Oldham recently got an offer from UTEP and Jackson from Austin Peay.
"I wasn't recruited heavily out of high school, just got some Division II and DIII offers, but I wanted to play Division 1 ball," said Oldham, a receiver. "I never really had a mentor growing up. ... He's my mentor, calling or texting me, checking up on things to make sure everything's OK."
Jackson, a cornerback, played his first three years at Ferndale before transferring to Detroit Loyola his senior year.
"Everybody heard of Coach Dennis, but not everybody got a chance to meet him," Jackson said. "I heard he helped 50 kids get major Division 1 offers and I wanted to be a part of that. ... I got a shot to talk to him. He just leads you down the right direction."
Dennis has a connection to Austin Peay, where he has helped several players land scholarships. Central Michigan has been a destination for others.
"He's a good evaluator of talent and has given us the chance to know some of the players from the Detroit area," Austin Peay coach Kirby Cannon said. "He recommended Malik Boynton to us and he had a very good freshman season for us (25 receptions) as a receiver and kick returner. We hope to get three to five players from that area every year.
"I think it's special with what he does for those kids."
Cannon (Central Michigan) is thrilled to get Jackson, a player Dennis believed had Division 1 talent but lacked the grades.
"I told them (Oldham and Jackson), 'You have to meet me halfway, I'll get you where you need to go,' " Dennis said. "So they went to Minnesota West.
"They didn't have the grades, that's the bottom line. They were Division 1 kids when I watched the film. I just told them, 'Don't get in your own way.' "
Oldham has since earned his associate degree from Minnesota West CC and plans to major in sports management at UTEP.
Getting film out
Dennis also provides support on the field.
Running back Romello Ross was under the radar before his junior year at Detroit Western when Dennis was working a camp. He helped Ross work on his game.
Ross developed into one of the PSL's premier backs, and Western coach Andre Harlan and Dennis sent out film to college coaches. Ross, who rushed for 1,458 yards and 23 touchdowns last season, was being recruited by Iowa before signing with Central Michigan last week.
"He's a great guy, looks out for as many kids as he can, puts them under his wing and gets tapes out to colleges," Ross said of Dennis. "He showed me certain drills to work on when I first met him at a camp, gave his opinion of what he thought of me.
"He started getting film of me out like December of my junior year, and at the time I wasn't getting any offers. Things started to change after that."
There are, however, players who get help from Dennis but end up at a specific college because of their coach. One of those is Ferndale's Markell McCoy.
"You can tell he's real by the way he's up front with you, you know, tells you the truth," said McCoy of Dennis. "He sent my tapes to college coaches, introduced me to one of the Dartmouth coaches when I thought about going there, but in the end I decided on Findlay, and my high school coach got me the offer from them."
Still, Dennis will help.
"There's not many people around like him and you have to take advantage of them when you can," said Melvindale's Josh Allen, who graduated in 2010 and will be playing at Graceland College this fall. "He wants you to use him. He's always there to help, never gives resistance. He'll always have a couple of words of encouragement."