As mainstream recruiting coverage has developed into a year-round phenomenon, the hype, pageantry and fanfare surrounding National Signing Day continues to grow along with it — especially in the SEC, where many of the country’s top recruits wind up playing.
And with the heightened public attention created by TV networks and by-the-second social media updates comes a ton of signing day silliness. It should be no different in 2017: Hordes of highly-coveted teenage football players will make a huge life decision surrounded by family, cameras and usually an auditorium full of people.
What could go wrong?
In the spirit of the season, SEC Country has rounded up some of the conference’s craziest moments of signing days past. Enjoy.
Better late than never?
In 2009, 5-star running back Bryce Brown’s recruitment devolved into a laughable spectacle that we can probably credit to Brian Butler, his handler of sorts. Butler became a source of controversy when he set up a website that provided updates on Brown for the low, low price of $9.99 per month. Yes, for news about one player.
In any case, Brown had committed to Miami in February of 2008 after his older brother Arthur (a 5-star linebacker) signed with the Hurricanes. But in the days leading up to NSD 2009, word leaked that Brown wouldn’t announce until “well after signing day” — March 16, as it turned out. His offer from Miami actually expired before then.
“If there’s no letter here from Miami on March 16, then I’ll get on the phone. So that’s up to Miami. Bryce has his timeline set. We’re not changing it at all,” Butler told USA Today.
Brown took an official visit to Tennessee on Feb. 13 and LSU on Feb. 27 before ultimately signing with the Vols. He told reporters he “asked God for a sign before I left to go to Tennessee. … Before I left, got the sign and I knew in my heart I’d be a Volunteer.” Brown lasted one season in Knoxville before transferring to Kansas State.
Bottom line: Leeching off gifted high school athletes is a pretty scummy thing to do. It’s hard to blame Brown too much when Butler seemed to be the man behind the curtain.
The LOI read-option
Fort Lauderdale product Alex Collins, the nation’s No. 5 tailback in 2013, committed to Arkansas a couple of days before signing day. The only problem: His mom, Andrea McDonald, really wanted her son to stick with the hometown Miami Hurricanes.
Collins was all dressed up to sign his letter of intent Wednesday morning, but he never showed up for the ceremony because momma “confiscated the papers and took off and ran with them. They are looking for her currently,” according to an ESPN report.
Collins did eventually official ink his Arkansas paper, but only after getting his father’s signature on them nearly a full 24 hours later. We can only imagine the level of hysteria seeping out of the Arkansas internet forums that day.
Bottom line: When one parent won’t give you what you want, ask the other. Works every time.
Surely you remember the story of Willie Williams?
Back in 2004, Williams was another high school football wunderkind — a 5-star linebacker and the most coveted recruit in the talent-rich Sunshine State. All the top schools wanted him, including Florida and Auburn. And though he eventually signed with Miami, the world knows all about Williams’ official visits to those aforementioned SEC schools thanks to a brilliant, terrible idea.
The folks at the Miami Herald decided to let Williams chronicle his recruiting visits in the form of a first-person diary published by the paper. And boy, he told their readers everything they wanted to know and then some.
Auburn: ”I really wanted to go to Red Lobster for some more lobster and steak, but they told me the wait was two hours. So I got me some baby back ribs, Buffalo wings and shrimp,” Williams said. “Even though I ordered first, somehow, I was still the last one to get my food. It took them like two hours.”
During the wait, several of the female hosts, nicknamed the ”Tigerettes,” offered him some of their spinach dip.
”You know how it is, those girls are supposed to be there to cheer you up,” Williams said. “But I told them, ‘I ain’t no animal, and I ain’t going to eat no plant.’
“But they kept pushing it toward me. It was disgusting. I told them, ‘I’m from Miami. I don’t eat that. You farm people are used to it, but not me.'”
Later that night, the recruits were invited to a party on campus with their hosts.
“The girls at the party were much better than the farmer girls we’d see all day around campus,” Williams said. “I was kind of worried all Auburn had to offer was those farmer girls that talked funny. But the girls at the party weren’t farmer girls at all. I thought they must have bused them in from Miami.”
Florida: ”I ate so many meatballs, the people there started looking like meatballs … ‘The first night I was OK with eating at the stadium. But when they told me we’re going to eat there again, I was a little disappointed. I was like, ‘Take us to Red Lobster or something.’ That’s when I pretty much made up my mind. I can’t live in a place that don’t have any restaurants. What am I going to do — fly home to eat shrimp?”
Unfortunately, the story goes downhill from there. Williams chose Miami on signing day, and shortly after the announcement ceremony, the Gainesville Police Department reported three criminal complains against the prized football recruit — including a felony related to him discharging fire extinguishers in a Gainesville hotel. Later, it surfaced that Williams had been arrested 11 times before the age of 18.
After missing all of his freshman season with a knee injury and then disappointing the following year, Williams transferred and bounced around at several schools thereafter. He was ultimately arrested in Kentucky for burglary and sentenced to 15 years in prison; his expected release date comes in 2023.
Bottom line: Telling everyone about all the free stuff you’re getting — and setting off fire extinguishers, for that matter — might not be the best idea. But I don’t care who you are: the “farmer girls” comment is hilarious. Sorry, Auburn fans.
The LOI fake handoff
Floyd Raven, a 4-star cornerback out of Reserve, La., had narrowed his college choices down to Ole Miss and Texas A&M as 2011 signing day approached. Enter Raven’s mom. You’re beginning to see a pattern here, aren’t you?
Mom apparently tried to forge her son’s signature on an LOI, which she faxed to Ole Miss. But the Rebels had trouble reading parts of the letter, and after asking for confirmation never received any from Raven’s side. The star recruit faxed his real LOI to Texas A&M later that day. Thankfully, Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt didn’t press on the fake letter, and Raven enrolled in Aggieland without further issue.
“I want them to want to be here,” Nutt said, via The Associated Press. “The one thing I know about the other guys’ signatures that (our coaches) received is that they want to be here. We’ll leave it at that. Good luck to him.”
Bottom line: Parents only mess things up.
Breaking momma’s heart… twice
Landon Collins, 5-star safety and future college star, had committed to Alabama over LSU on National Signing Day in 2012 despite his mom being a huge Tigers fan. She wasn’t happy.
“I feel LSU is a better place for him to be,” she said. “LSU Tigers, No. 1. Go Tigers.”
Two years after that, 4-star defensive lineman Gerald Willis — Collins’ younger brother — gave his pledge to Florida instead of LSU.
“It is what it is. Florida Gators, that’s where we’ll be. LSU’s still No. 1,” mom said.
Bottom line: Football over parental approval, always.
Cyrus Kouandjio, the all-everything 5-star offensive tackle, had narrowed his decision down to Alabama and Auburn in 2011. He announced his commitment to the Tigers live on ESPNU. But then he never sent Auburn a signed letter of intent.
A few days later, Alabama — where his older brother Arie played — received Kouandjio’s LOI.
Right as I was going to sleep, I saw something from my religious leader, from God, that told me, ‘Cyrus, you should go to Alabama,'” Kouandjio said years later.
Bottom line: Just another example that it’s never really over until that fax comes in.
We all know the usual announcement ceremony setup: Recruit sits at a table with two to four hats, or sometimes helmets, in the high school auditorium/gym surrounded by family. He picks one, explains his decision in front of the cameras and that’s that.
Recent years, however, have seen several prospects show off their creative sides. They include:
- 5-star tackle Andre Smith announcing his commitment to Alabama in 2006 by donning a houndstooth hat, the trademark of legendary Tide coach Bear Bryant (PHOTO)
- Deontay Anderson, the nation’s No. 2 safety, pledging to Ole Miss after skydiving on camera in 2016
- 5-star tailback Isaiah Crowell commits to Georgia with the help of a Bulldog puppy in 2011, complete with its own UGA apparel
- 5-star athlete Mecole Hardman showed up to his signing ceremony with six cakes last year, all adorned with the logos of schools not named Georgia. Then he came busting through a banner wearing Bulldogs gear. Tricky.
- In 2009, blue-chip cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick had narrowed his decision to Texas and Alabama. He used many small boxes to reveal that he chose the Crimson Tide.
Bottom line: These guys up their game every year, and the methods are definitely more entertaining than recruits simply announcing on Twitter. #blessed
There are many other editions of signing day theater that we’ve probably missed here. Let us know which SEC moments we forgot in the comments!