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April 23, 2013

Moms often take center stage in recruiting process

MORE: Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Kyron Watson is a three-star linebacker for East St. Louis (Ill.) High. He measured in at the most recent stop of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour tour at 6-foot-0, 220 pounds, and he has an opportunity to attend many of the top football-playing universities in the country.

According to the FBI's list of the 100 most dangerous cities, East St. Louis has the highest crime rate in the United States. The likelihood that Watson was destined for this type of success was low. Equally as unlikely, he openly admits to being a mama's boy.

"Yeah, I can say that," he said.

"She is going to play a big part (in my college choice); she is going to help me make my decision."

Watson is one of many major college football prospects who could be directed to his college of choice because it amounts to his mother's college of choice. It is a trend on the rise.

In this particular case, that is good news for Illinois, Kansas and Michigan fans.

The Jayhawks and Wolverines are the two programs that the matriarch of the Watson family favors. Illinois would keep the class of 2014 prospect near his family.

"(Illinois) is staying near the top right now because I'd like to stay close to home," Watson said. "I don't want to leave my mom."

The trend in recruiting is not lost on coaches trying to sell their programs to players and their parents.

First-year Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said that securing the trust of someone close to a player is paramount.

"You have to find the mentor of the young man," he said. "That could be just Mom, or Mom and Dad; sometimes it is a coach, but you need to be building a relationship with that person because whoever cares about him is who will help him with recruiting.

"I make sure that my coaches know it is their job to find that person immediately and be in touch with them no later than the second call to the player."

Andersen added that prospects are often overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation and they tend to tell coaches what they think they are supposed to say. The relationship with the adult can help to determine where the program stands in the process.

"You engage the player, and then you talk to that mentor," he said. "That is often where you can really start feeling out the situation."

Five-star defensive end Kentavious Street was born and raised in Georgia -- dreaming of an offer from the school his mother cheered for, the Bulldogs. His house was divided because his father was a Florida State fan.

He has offers from both programs, but he could be in a difficult position because his mother has flipped her allegiance from the program they grew up rooting for to one closer to their Greenville (N.C.) Rose home.

At the Richmond stop of the Rivals Camp Series, Street said his mother has made her wishes known.

"My mom really wants me to stay in the state of North Carolina or go to (the state of) Virginia," Street said. "She really wants me to go to Virginia Tech."

Street said that her opinion will play a role, although he still favors Georgia.

"Really, it is just based off me," he said. "If my mom is not happy, I'll just have to do something for her."

Failing to do what a mother wants has proven to be an interesting case study. Some players have gotten their way -- and their college choice -- but it has come at the cost of public drama.

When five-star safety from the class of 2012 Landon Collins appeared on national television during the Under Armour All-American Game to decide between Alabama and LSU, his mother, April, was seated next to him.

Landon declared, "Roll Tide."

His mother did not clap, smile or give any public acceptance of the decision. Instead, she shook her head and said, "Geaux, Tigers."

The Class of 2013 was rife with intrigue as mothers played a public role in the signing of multiple high-profile athletes.

Top-ranked player Robert Nkemdiche committed to Clemson and planned to join several of his teammates from Loganville (Ga.) Grayson.

That was until his mother, Beverly, stepped in to decide her son was to play at Ole Miss alongside his elder brother, Denzel, so that she could see both of them play when she made trips to America from her home in Nigeria.

Although Nkemdiche did not announce his decision to attend Ole Miss for months after his de-commitment from Clemson, it was among the worst-kept secrets in the recruiting industry.

Monaca (Pa.) Central Valley four-star receiver Robert Foster broke down at his commitment press conference and apologized to his mother when he chose Alabama -- his father's preferred school -- over her favorite program, Pittsburgh.

At the same time Foster was smoothing over his family situation, Plantation (Fla.) South Plantation four-star running back Alex Collins -- no relation to Landon -- literally had to chase down his letter of intent.

Collins planned to sign with Arkansas, but his mother, Andrea McDonald, stole the document.

McDonald wanted her son to attend Miami and refused to sign the contract that legally requires the signature of a guardian. She signed off on the decision the next day but put her son in the annals of recruiting history in the process.

Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said the stories are not uncommon because parents want to play an important role but by-and-large the choice still belongs to the player.

"It depends on each recruit and each situation, for the most part," Petrino said. "But usually Mom will have a major role in it.

"Most of the time it is the player's choice, but I would estimate that having her permission factors in about 50 or 60 percent of that decision."

Four-star cornerback Duke Dawson is happy that he is among those who were allowed to make their own decisions.

His mother is strict on academics and, while he has committed to Florida, the family has long been fans of Florida State.

So far his mother, Monique, has signed off on the choice.

"Watching him go back and forth between Florida and Florida State was frustrating," she said. "But it was never hard on him because, once he knew, he was ready."

The visit the two took to the school played a major role.

Dawson said he maintains a 3.4 grade point average and that the tour through the facility was great.

"The first day of camp, they took me over to the academic center and the man was talking very nice about how their academic programs go," he said. "My mom really loved that because she is hard on grades."

His mother told Rivals.com that that tour made her a believer in the program.

"The academics at Florida were what all of us fell in love with; it was more than football," she said. "Florida had people on campus who would take care of us every time."

Dawson said that it was all on his time and that Florida was what he wanted.

"My mom and dad told me it this was my decision 100 percent," he said. "They didn't want me to come back and say that Mom and Dad forced me to go to this school."

For now Watson is slow-playing the process, but he said that if he wanted to make a commitment he knows where to turn.

"If I want to make something early, (my mom) will help me with that," he said. "She's got a couple schools she likes."



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