One of our former staffers is butting heads with big-time sports.

Andrew Skwara spent a couple of years in Dalton and showed then the skill and ambition that has taken him to Rivals.com’s headquarters in Brentwood, Tenn., where he’s the national college basketball and football recruiting editor.

Following his stint in Dalton, Skwara joined the Rivals.com network about two years ago as the editor of CarolinaBlue.com. He was in his element. A former basketball walkon at Florida State, Skwara relished the assignment right in the heart of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball country.

Skwara continues to spread his wings, though. The scope of his assignment is now coast to coast.

Instead of our four high schools here, Skwara now takes on folks like Texas Tech’s Bobby Knight, always one of my favorite people, and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and his recruiting effort of Nolan Smith at famed Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.

Now, his observations that have a lot to do with recruiting — well, after all that’s what Rivals.com is all about — can be seen and read on The Sporting News’ Web site. Skwara contributes two or three blog items per week as Rivals has a sharing agreement with TSN.

“It’s exciting,” Skwara said the other day on the telephone from Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville, which, of course, is the country music capital of the world.

Rivals.com’s emergence as the country’s leading recruiting service runs parallel to American basketball and football fans’ insatiable appetite for recruiting news. That began with Max Emfinger out in Texas several decades ago, spread to services from California to Chicago and just about every other guy with a Web site from Seattle to Miami.

Think we’re the only ones who know about Dalton’s Stephaun Raines? Think again. People all over the country, especially in Arkansas and Tennessee, are keeping track of Raines and wait impatiently for his public announcement that will come Thursday night at the Cats’ football banquet.

I don’t envy Skwara when it comes to recruiting. While covering Southeastern Conference football for a Chattanooga newspaper, the time period from December to the first Wednesday in February — National Signing Day — was a nightmare. It was a non-stop series of daily phone calls that would start around 7 a.m. in the east and end around midnight with checks on prep football stars on the West Coast.

I don’t miss that grind.

Skwara loves it.

“There’s always some kind of breaking news,” Skwara said. “It’s like some kid was going to Notre Dame but changed his mind. People want to know why. There are people who are just recruiting fans out there and think this 17 or 18-year-old star will be the savior of their favorite team.

“Coaches blame us for fueling the fire, and there’s some truth in that. But they’re out there recruiting kids who are sophomores, 15-year-old boys who can’t even drive yet.”

In one of his weekly blogs for TSN, Skwara writes that Duke has verbal, non-binding commitments from two players — Nolan Smith of Oak Hill and Taylor King of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. — for the recruiting class of 2007.

Bet the house that recruiting fanatics from Kalamazoo to Corpus Christi have read Skwara’s article and know exactly who he’s writing about. That’s because Rivals.com has had their names out there for at least a couple of years.

TSN, as does just about every other sporting publication in America, jumped on the recruiting bandwagon years ago. That opened the door for young journalists like Skwara.

Now, he’s at the pinnacle of that portion of college athletics that commands the attention of Web sites like Rivals.com.

“We consider ourselves the leader of recruiting services,” Skwara said. “Scout.com is one of our competitors, but they’re not our size or as well-respected. We’re trying to be a one-stop shop for the college fan, provide them with outstanding recruiting coverage and our content-sharing agreement with The Sporting News is one way to do that.”

So, if you’ve been wondering the whereabouts of Andrew Skwara, now you know.

He’s hit the big time.

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