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Monson: Signing day leaves some houses divided

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Teammates and schoolmates react after Malik McDowell, right, announces he will be attending Michigan State University to play football during a national signing day ceremony at Southfield High School's gym in Southfield, Mich., Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Detroit News, Daniel Mears ) DETROIT FREE PRESS OUT; HUFFINGTON POST OUT, MANDATORY

By Gordon Monson

Tribune Columnist

First published Feb 06 2014 11:48AM
Updated Feb 6, 2014 09:55PM

Prolific Haines City, Fla., high school running back D.J. Law was hard to hit on Wednesday. He swiveled his hips. He juked one direction, then another during one of those melodramatic, psych-y’all announcement concoctions at which a highly sought after prep player places two or three caps in front of him, and reaches for one, then goes for another, ultimately slipping the cap of the school of his choice on to reveal his decision.

Law gave away nothing with the sharply pressed, cuff-link-sleeved white shirt and red tie he was wearing, as each of his finalists — Utah and Ole Miss — feature those colors. He first reached toward the Ole Miss cap, picking it up, then dropping it, shaking his head. He pointed a finger at Utah, then shook his head, again, and then grabbed the red Utah cap and donned it, not only faking out the audience, including many friends and family members decked out in Ole Miss gear, but shocking them, too.

"I [picked] Utah because that’s where my heart was," he told a local TV crew. "My family and everybody else loved Ole Miss and Ole Miss is a great program, don’t get me wrong, but my heart was in Utah."

He signed with the Utes.

Only problem was, the Rebels thought he signed with them. It was also reported that, because of some possible academic troubles, Law also signed with a junior college. Amid the confusion, Law met with his family, hashed it through and supposedly straightened out the issues.

Signing day can be like that sometimes. Selecting a school for these teenagers, when they are being pulled apart, can be a difficult, stressful deal. Making one of life’s big decisions at 17, when options are plentiful, and when parents might have a different vision for what constitutes a wise choice, can be divisive and contentious. Occasionally, that drama can turn into an episode of "As the Football Spirals." Law’s house wasn’t the only one divided on national signing day.

Malik McDowell, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound five-star recruit in Michigan, announced he would play his ball at Michigan State. Seemed reasonable enough. The Spartans did win the Rose Bowl and East Lansing is where the kid wanted to go. It is not, however, where his mother, Joya Crowe, wanted him to go.

She hates Michigan State.

She emphatically did not want her son to go there, fearing too much "social life."

She told the Detroit Free-Press: "I want him to get a good education. Not that he can’t get a good education at MSU. But he also wants to be a first-round pick after college. Nothing is guaranteed, but I don’t think their defensive line coach has the background for that."

It was a confusing point of view, considering line coach Ron Burton coached a second-team All-America defensive end, Shilique Calhoun, last season on a great Spartan defense.

At an event for recruits held in Dearborn Heights, Mich., on Wednesday night, according to the Detroit News, McDowell said he had not yet actually signed his letter of intent, but that he fully intended to play at MSU. Asked why he hadn’t yet signed, the 17-year-old giant was cryptic.

"Just didn’t," he said.

A high school teammate, Carterris Carter, said McDowell wanted to play for the Spartans: "He didn’t send the letter, but he did commit. He’s waiting for his mom to jump on board."

Crowe did not attend her son’s official announcement at Southfield High School early on Wednesday, because she wanted him to choose Florida State, Michigan or Ohio State. According to various reports, Crowe said she "had a bad experience at MSU," but did not expound on her specific objections. She objected nonetheless.

McDowell’s father, Greg, had a healthier perspective, even though he, too, wanted Malik to go elsewhere: "It’s what he wants, and I’ll support that. I just want to see him walk down that aisle and get his degree."

On last year’s signing day, south Florida prep running back Alex Collins chose Arkansas, but was initially held up by his mother, Andrea McDonald, who preferred her son play at Miami. At that time, Collins’ brother, Johnny, told the Miami Herald: "I would prefer him to go to Miami, too, because it would be a better program for him, a better environment. He could get home faster and it’s more convenient if Mom wants to go to a game — instead of having to fly to Arkansas."

What Alex Collins wanted was to play for the Razorbacks.

Before a scheduled news conference at Collins’ high school, McDonald "confiscated" her son’s letter of intent and bolted with it. The school’s athletic director said the family needed more time to finalize the decision. Twenty-four hours later, Collins signed, alongside his father, but then reports surfaced that McDonald had hired an attorney.

Collins wound up at Arkansas, where he rushed for over a thousand yards as a freshman this past season.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson

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