By Michael Carvell
Cedar Grove High School linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams is one of the state’s most-heavily recruited juniors. He committed early, picking South Carolina over Alabama and UGA, among his 30+ football scholarship offers.
Bryson’s mother, Darnisha Allen-Jackson, shared some the recruiting experience with the AJC:
After months of driving up and down the highways of the South, my son, Bryson Allen-Williams, finally decided that he was ready to make his college decision.
Nervously, I asked him repeatedly, “Are you sure?” or “Are you really, ready?” -- and my favorite, “Are you really, really, really, ready?” He assured me that he was. Bryson said that he was at peace with his decision and was ready to go public with it.
He sent University of South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward a text message and told him that he was ready to verbally commit. Bryson sent me a text message that his phone was about to die and he had to go to baseball practice. Bryson wanted me to follow up with Coach Ward via phone and then it would be done. I did follow up with Coach Ward, making sure that he knew that Bryson was ready and was going public, as I didn’t want him to be blindsided. We notified a few reporters that Bryson had made his college decision, and Bryson went off to baseball practice. It was typical Bryson, though: A big announcement made, he disappears completely unaffected.
The morning began with Bryson getting a “wake up call” from Steve Spurrier. He basically told Bryson that he was the only linebacker that South Carolina was planning to take for 2014, and that they’d really like for him to be a part of the program. For Bryson, that was enough. He’d been to all of the supposed “bigger” schools; we’d even flown to the West Coast to visit USC and UCLA. Bryson was finally ready, so he committed.
Coming home that evening after committing, Bryson was almost giddy. He felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. We thought that it was over, but we were wrong. We’d always been prepared for negative backlash, but the venom in which Bryson and I were attacked following his South Carolina announcement was appalling and heartbreaking.
The same young man who two weeks ago, was being lauded for having great character, humility, and manners, had just become an egotistical, arrogant, and trash-talking jerk. As his mother, it really hurt to read all of the negativity that was being thrown about. Of course, I replied to as many negative comments as I could.
I was accused of impersonating his mother (who wants to take on backlash purposely?) and just liking the recruiting process so I could be flattered by coaches. My personal favorite was when a message board post said “This is why Mom’s shouldn’t be involved.” The more I replied, the worse the comments became.
I’d been warned by several reporters (Rivals, 247 Sports, ESPN and AJC) that the Internet can be a scary and negative place during recruiting. I “poo-pawed” them, and said I could handle it. One fan base went as far as to say the night before Bryson committed that I was calling recruits, which was so far from the truth. I was at my parents’ house for dinner, and surprisingly, we weren’t even talking about football that evening.
Bryson has been called overrated and accused of being scared of competition. One person suggested a move to South Carolina since that’s where he committed. The same person basically told that he was trash talking, good for nothing, and would be humbled soon. I’ve still been lurking on the message boards, so I saw all of the comments as did Bryson and my younger son, who is a 2016 recruit. I’ve cancelled all of my memberships to the team websites of the schools where Bryson decided not to attend just because I don’t need to see the nastiness that some fan bases throw out.
My family and I have worked really hard to make sure that Bryson is a kind, humble, and good-natured kid. He isn’t spoiled, coddled, or overhyped. We never wanted him to be known as a “bad guy”. I thought I was managing his image, his “brand.” While it doesn’t feel good to read these things about your kid, it opened my eyes to see how serious SEC football really is, and how passionate people are about the program that they follow. Bryson is an athlete, and does talk a little trash on the field. But off the field, he’s a good guy.
My advice to other recruits and their parents:
- Ignorance is bliss. (I wanted to know what people were saying about Bryson, how the fans felt about him, and his game. I really didn’t need to know). The only people you should care about are the coaching staffs at the institutions who have offered scholarships to your son.
- Make your decision when you are ready. You can’t please everyone. When your son or daughter knows, they know.
- Look up the definition of commitment. It is important to know what the word means.
- Do your research on every program. You don’t want to make a mistake, and you might be surprised in what you learn.
- Don’t judge a legion of fans based on the hurtful, insensitive comments of a fraction of the fan base. (I’m still working on that one.)
- Sticks and stones may break bones, but words are painful, and they do hurt the heart and soul.
- Internet bullying and cyber bravado is real.
- Just because your son commits doesn’t necessarily mean that the other schools are going to stop. (Coaches are still calling. and saying it’s 10 months until signing day.)
Note: If any parents have any questions about recruiting, please post them below and Mrs. Allen-Jackson will try to address them. Any inappropriate remarks and comments will not be tolerated.