• November 24, 2014

Picking a school is no easy task

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Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:03 am, Tue Sep 25, 2012.

Johnny Jefferson wasn't comfortable.

He felt pressured into picking Texas A&M.

It's where the last great Shoemaker star, Jameill Showers, is playing on Saturdays. It is where the hot ticket seemed to be. He was going to the Southeastern Conference. He was going to have the hot new coach in Kevin Sumlin.

But something about the Grey Wolves running back's decision to play football for the Aggies last month didn't feel right.

And eventually - with a little help from his grandma - he knew he was going to have to do something about it.

His grandmother, who lives in Mississippi, told him when they talked over the phone two weeks ago that if he wasn't happy, then it was nobody fault's but his own.

But how can anyone be happy if they know they made a hasty decision? That they did not even bother to look at all of their options?

After getting off the phone with grandma. Jefferson realized what he had to do.

Two weeks ago, despite his pledge to the Aggies, he visited TCU. Tuesday, he went to Baylor and saw its pro day.

A day later and out of visits, he committed to play for the Bears in Waco.

It is abrupt and careless decisions - like Jefferson's initial choice of the Aggies - regardless of how thought out or comfortable they may seem at the time, that promote the growing trend of athletes decommitting.

Athletes across the nation and, of course, locally, are pressured into making a hasty decision.

Many top recruits receive scholarship offers during their junior years. Last year, Texas got 16 pledges from its 28-member class by the end of February 2011.

This year was no different.

Every area athlete that has had initial interest from Division I schools has already given their commitment to a university - most to Texas.

Despite having several offers from Division I powerhouses, Harker Heights junior Naashon Hughes took Mack Brown and Texas up on its offer of a grey shirt, which does not even guarantee Hughes a scholarship in his first semester on campus.

He joins Durham Smythe and Darius James, who also picked the Longhorns. James did it without taking his other two official visits (Oklahoma, LSU).

That is something Jefferson at least took the time to do - even if it was after he had already committed.

But there is no guarantee that they are all going to stay with their respective choices come February 2013.

Coaching changes, rules violations and bad publicity all can lead to lost commitments.

After Texas A&M fired Mike Sherman in December, Sumlin kept some recruits but lost others. After firing Joe Paterno, Penn State was plundered for recruits.

The reason is simple.

Life changes at an alarming rate for teenagers. The right decision now is not the right one 15 minutes from now.

That is why college coaches never give up.

The depleted Nittany Lions staff was furious with new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer on National Signing Day in February. Why? Because he took advantage of their situation and talked the Lions' recruits into coming to Columbus.

Because, like every other college football coach, he took advantage of the emotional instability of teenagers.

After National Signing Day, student-athletes are blitzed with offers from colleges.

And that same pressure that Jefferson felt - be it from college coaches, fans, or even their friends and family - becomes overwhelming.

It is a process that forces 16- and 17-year olds to make a monumental decision at the blink of an eye.

Choosing a college isn't easy.

Whether you are going for academics or you are a top-recruit, the decision can be excruciating.

But, unlike almost every other student, athletes aren't given the liberty to just leave a university if they feel uncomfortable. Once a letter of intent is signed, the recruit is bound to the college, and if a player wants to transfer to another school in the Football Bowl Subdivision, they must sit out a year.

That is why coaches are so relentless. Once they have a recruit signed, they can leave for greener pastures, but the athlete is pretty much stuck at the university for four years.

That's why Baylor coach Art Briles and TCU coach Gary Patterson did not stop recruiting Jefferson when he committed to the Aggies.

They knew he could change his mind, that he was young and impressionable.

And they knew in the end they just might get him.

All they had to do first was make him a little uncomfortable.

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