As angry fans and bitter media members spend time opining about the out-of-control nature of high school recruits, another story comes up that reminds us these big-time athletes are still just kids. Matthew Thomas, a 2013 Florida State signee, is now trying to get out of his letter of intent and released from his scholarship, so he can go elsewhere. As Thomas told the Miami Herald:
"I’ve told them it’s nothing personal. I just didn’t make the decision I really wanted to on Signing Day,” said Thomas, who picked the Seminoles over Southern California, Georgia and Miami.
“What happened was on Signing Day [was] I wasn’t sure who I wanted to sign with. I had issues with different schools. But when I told my mom I didn’t want to sign with anybody and wait and give it a few days she said I couldn’t do that. She said, ‘FSU is a good school—pick them. It’s close to home.’ I wasn’t agreeing with it. But I felt like I was being disrespectful to her if I didn’t sign. So I made her happy.”
Thomas' story has not changed; he was iffy about signing with the Seminoles and, after trying to come around on the idea, his heart still is not in Tallahassee. If there is a finger to be pointed, it should not be aimed at the attention-starved athletes, as so many fans and media claim. No, the issue is the same one we've seen play out with other athletes: the parents.
In the two most recent signing periods, four of the sport's most high-profile recruits have had their decisions impacted in a big way by their parental figures. Josh Harvey-Clemons and Alex Collins both ended up at their schools of choice, Georgia and Arkansas, respectively, but not without having to fight for that right.
Meanwhile, Gunner Kiel and Matthew Thomas did not get to sign where they truly wanted. Kiel, who is now at Cincinnati, spent a season close to home at Notre Dame, where his mom wanted him. Now, after a year spent in a situation not to his liking, Kiel is on to another school hoping things get better after sitting out another season.
As for Thomas, thanks to his mom's insistence upon signing with Florida State, he's now at the mercy of the Seminoles' coaching staff. What Florida State does and how it handles this is another story for another day. In this case, the issue is that Thomas should have never been in this situation.
The All-American linebacker from South Florida had mixed feelings about the Seminoles, lost his primary recruiter, James Coley, and should have taken the time he needed to make his decision. After all, national signing day is the starting line, not the deadline, for letters of intent.
Thomas was one of the few recruits in the position to make teams wait a couple days as he ran through his pros and cons in an effort to arrive at his decision. As an elite talent, he's a guy who teams will wait for as he figures out where he wants to go. Georgia, Miami and the Southern Call had the room to take the linebacker, had he been able to wait a bit.
This is not about whether parents have their children's best interest at heart. Rather, it is about how, at times, the best thing parents can do is to let their children find their own way. The kid is the one who has to live at that school for the next three to five years. The kid is the one who has to work with those coaches every day. The kid is the one who has to look at that depth chart and figure out where he fits.
So it stands to reason that letting them play a big role in this decision makes sense. Every kid who plays college football just wants to be in an enjoyable situation, Thomas is no different, as he points out to the Miami Herald.
I’ve been in Miami all my life. Georgia needs linebackers. It’s a big program. I have family in Georgia. USC, growing up I never thought I would have an opportunity that big. I just want to go have fun and play football.
"Go have fun and play football" are the operative words here. Had Thomas not been under the pressure to make a decision at the time, he wouldn't have arrived at this current impasse. Rather, he'd have hopefully ended up somewhere that allowed him to have fun and play football.
Parental input in college decisions, athletics or not, is huge. Parents are supposed to help protect their kids from mistakes, prepare them for what is to come and help make sure they end up happy when it is all said and done. Finding balance is the key, and at times it better suits the situation for the parents to be the party that bends, that compromises by taking a step back.
Going forward, Thomas is waiting to see if Florida State throws him a bone of sorts. A bone that, had the pressure not come from his mother, he would not have needed in the first place.