When it comes to college football recruiting for high school stars, especially those in the upper echelon of the talent pool, things can get rather hectic.
Top players will receive upwards of 20 phone calls a day from prospective coaches, as well as media members. Parents even get involved to help ease the student/athlete through the process.
So when your household is down to a single parent, things can get even more complicated.
The demands of the recruiting process are belaboring. Phone calls are one thing, but then there are campus visits, combines, camps, 7on7 tournaments … and, oh yeah, homework, high school football games … and, um, girls.
Andrea Tate runs … and runs and runs, here and there. Every time she’s done with an event with her oldest son Marcell Harris, a top-ranked safety at Orlando Dr. Phillips, she’s off and running again, usually to a basketball game for Marcell’s 13-year-old brother Seven Banks (yes, like the number).
But she handles it.
“I think we’ve taken everything very well. I don’t think it’s over-stressed us or put too much on us,” said Tate at a recent 7on7 tournament. “We prepared ourselves for it and kind of knew what was coming. It’s actually a blessing that it’s happening. Not everybody gets this opportunity. I don’t look at it as a nuisance. I actually enjoy it.”
Most people, especially Florida Gator fans, have heard of Marcell’s father, the former Gator Mike Harris who is still around his son in terms of a relationship, but Marcell lives with mom and she deals with all of the things that come into her oldest son’s life. It’s more like the two are best friends rather than mother and son.
“Everyone knows my dad and they always ask about my dad’s influence, but my mom deserves a lot of the credit,” Marcell said. “She’s been there all along the way.”
And mom is not just a cheerleader.
“Oh, I push a little hard when I have to,” she said. “I don’t let him pout or make excuses. I think both of them [Marcell and Seven] are pretty hardcore because of it. When you have to be both [mom and dad] at times, I think I’m pretty good at it, but I don’t like it. I just don’t have a choice at times.”
Mike and Andrea never married and Marcell has always lived with his mother.
“It’s like we both grew up together,” she said. “We talk after the games and he knows what’s coming. He’ll say, ‘I talked to my coaches after the game and they already chewed me out,’ but I’ll say, ‘Well the chewin’ ain’t over.’ ”
So back to the main problem … the girls.
“Definitely the biggest challenge is all of the girls, I guess because I love the sport,” Tate said. “I’m at every practice, I’m at every game and it’s not just because my son is out there… I treat all of them like they’re my sons. I just love the game.”
Tate, who is an attractive, young mother, hopes her looks help ward off the girls.
“I hope all of them think I’m the sister or the girlfriend, “ she laughs. “They kind of catch him when I’m not around, though. They know what they’re doing. They’re always like two steps ahead of me. I just gotta keep on my toes.”
Aubrey Duty-Tyson, a linebacker at Fort Lauderdale University School, is in a similar situation with his mother, Brenda Duty.
Aubrey hasn’t been involved with his father since he was nine-years-old. He doesn’t seem to harbor any self-pity and gives plenty of credit to mom.
“She kinda guides me with it,” he said of the recruiting process, and life in general. “Even when I’m talking to people, interviewing on the phone, she tells me to calm down and just be myself. It helps a lot.”
Mom wasn’t around for this interview, but Duty-Tyson handled himself just fine.
“I kind of set up the visits when I go somewhere, but she’s the one who usually takes me there,” said Duty-Tyson, who has been to Miami, Florida State and UCF campuses. “She’s always there and supports me no matter what. She’s always more interested in the academic part because she’s a teacher … about 20 years now. That’s the most important thing to her.”
Mom teaches junior and senior math at North Miami Beach High, which is where Aubrey went to school before transferring to private University School.
“She’s been my mother and my father at the same time and guided me through a lot,” Duty-Tyson said. “With girls and everything I’ve had uncles and big cousins help out with anything I needed to know, and things like learning how to tie my tie … I always refer to them.”
And these two players aren't the only ones. Single parents are likely a majority and even considered the norm at some schools.
Some student/athletes have to deal with everything on their own, for one reason or another, like the parent is working two jobs to support the family, or there are other siblings who also need mom or dad's help.
Heck, the cold, hard truth also is that some parents just don't care. They get wrapped up in worlds their children just want to escape, and in those situations the kids are the ones to be lauded.
And it's not just mothers. Single fathers also are part of the mix, but many of these parents seem to have found ways to balance everything in their own lives with those of their children.
While certainly not enough single parents take the initiatives as have the likes of Andrea Tate or Brenda Duty, it seems to be more and more of a priority as recent economic woes take a toll on everyone.
Parents are beginning to realize the limits on the future of their offspring if they are left to fight it out in the job world fresh out of high school. While a college education does not gaurantee a job at completion, it at least puts those with degrees in a more marketable situation.
Scholarships afford students these opportunities, and if playing football is the way to get one, then those with talent enough to advance to the next level, even if it's at an NAIA school, should take full advantage.
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