The decision of where to go to school is generally the first adult decision that most high school athletes make. It is them picking which coaching staff and school they are going to tie themselves to for the next three to five years. It is a big deal in these kids' lives.
Yet, as we saw this week with the Alex Collins situation, these players are still kids who can, at times, have their decisions tremendously impacted by their parental figures.
For those that have not been following, Collins has a signed letter of intent for Arkansas, but it was not without a tremendous amount of drama. The situation concluded Thursday, but it had already made plenty of headlines. From CBS News:
The drama began on Monday when Collins surprised everybody, including family and friends, by saying he wanted to pass over the University of Miami, choosing instead the University of Arkansas.
Under National Collegiate Athletic Association rules, a parent or legal guardian must sign the binding letter of intent for any athlete under the age of 21. But two days later on Signing Day, his mother, Andrea McDonald, refused to sign the papers -- instead, she ran off with them.
So often we talk about handlers, seven-on-seven coaches and the nefarious "bagmen" who all work to pollute the college football recruiting environs. We forget just how influential those closer to the player can be on the process. This ranges from moms and dads to close friends and even high school coaches.
Every recruit has a decision-maker, and while at times it truly is just the kid's decision, most times it boils down to that decision-maker. Usually a parent. Usually a mother.
We see this play itself out time and again. Last year, it started with Landon Collins and his mother's reaction to him picking the Crimson Tide over the hometown Bayou Bengals. Sure, folks laughed, but ultimately his mother came around to allowing her son to do what he felt was best for himself.
Josh Harvey-Clemons, a 2012 Georgia signee, knows what Collins has gone through. His legal guardian, grandfather Woodrow Clemons, did not want him to opt for the Bulldogs. In the end, like Collins, the athlete won out, but not without some embarrassment and drama.
However, the athlete does not always win. Gunner Kiel, the nation's No. 1 quarterback recruit in 2012, originally committed to LSU. He was sold on the school, but ultimately his mother would win the power struggle by getting the quarterback to stay close to home and enroll at Notre Dame.
Guardians play a tremendous role in the process, especially mothers. Hell, as a guy whose father went with him on all of his visits, I can readily admit that my mother was the one who ultimately had to be sold.
Some coaches get that, which is why they like to get in front of mothers during in-home visits. That is why coaches want to get mom to campus: to prove that they are capable of the very big responsibility they are tasked with.
For most situations, you have to win the family (generally including the mom) to win the kid. Robert Nkemdiche's mom was certainly a battle that Ole Miss can chalk up as a "W," as is getting the nation's No. 1 recruit. Notre Dame won Kiel's mom by default; proximity is a heck of a trump card.
Arkansas didn't win Alex Collins' mother, and it showed. Luckily, for one of the nation's top-ranked running backs, his father was able to step up and make it happen for his son.
All you can hope in these situations is that kids do not get embarrassed publicly—that inner family dysfunction does not play out for the eyes of the world to see and joke about. Ultimately, it's just not funny.
It's sad when, on the biggest day of a young man's life, he doesn't have his whole family behind him for support. Hopefully, as we saw with Landon Collins, his mother comes around.