C-word gets different meaning

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Commitment. It’s a tricky word this time of year.

That point was recently driven home by a couple of high school players who had told Auburn they were going to be Tigers and then changed their mind.

A highly touted linebacker from New Orleans said he was going to Auburn, then told coaches at Ole Miss he wanted to be in Oxford next season. Then, just hours later, he started hedging on the Rebels, too.

Sure, it’s a big decision for a high school kid to make, where they are going to spend the next four years (maybe even five or six) of their life.

And no, a verbal commitment is not binding. Nothing becomes official until a name is inked across a dotted line and faxed to the university of choice on Feb. 2, national signing day.

But most kids who get caught up in the whirlwind of college football recruiting start feeling the warning breezes by their junior years.

They’ve got plenty of time to think it over before they shake a coach’s hand and tell him they intend to play ball for his school.

Seems like that should be binding enough, but it seems someone’s word is just not that strong in the world of football.

To be fair, players aren’t the only ones backing handshakes with shaky promises.

College football coaches have been known to tell fans, media and even their own players one thing, and then do something completely contrary.

Just ask the Crimson Tide faithful about a fellow who now hangs out in College Station, Texas.

Sometimes an athlete will feel like the deal he bought into has changed enough to rethink his position.

Take, for instance, the kid from New Orleans.

One of the coaches who convinced him to come to Auburn had bolted from the Plains and accepted a job at Texas before he wavered on his commitment.

Unfortunately, some highly recruited football players seem to be so wrapped up in self-promotion, they’ll change commitments at a whim just to get their name circulated again.

Shelby County has a good track record of kids making a commitment and sticking with it.

I like to think the kids in this area were raised to honor their word.

Last year, Thompson’s Tony Bell and Briarwood’s Simeon Castille were recruited as heavily as any players in the state.

Castille chose Alabama a couple of weeks before signing day and stuck to his word, even though he likely continued to be tugged in other directions. Recruiters aren’t prone to giving up over something with as little merit as the C-word.

Bell wasn’t completely sure about just where he wanted to go until the last minute. Rather than make any &uot;soft&uot; commitments, he waited until signing day to pick up an Auburn hat, his first and only commitment to any school.

At least seven kids from Shelby County will sign with Division I college programs next Wednesday.

Most of the county’s top prospects have made prior commitments, and those in football recruiting circles don’t expect any surprises.

Although in recruiting, not having at least one kid pull a different hat out of his bag would almost be a surprise.

Ashley Vansant is the sports editor at the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at mailto:ashley.vansant@shelbycountyreporter.com