Buford brothers Thomas Wilson, left, and Terrance Wilson, right, sign the paperwork with to their respective college choice with their parents parents Janice and Thomas Wilson Sr., by their side during football National Signing Day in Buford Wednesday. Thomas Jr. committed to Missouri and Terrance committed to University of Buffalo. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
BUFORD — First, Janice Wilson let out a big sigh. Second, she smiled.
The mother of twin football players who both signed national letters of intent to play in college on Wednesday, Wilson lived the recruiting process two-fold over the past few years.
“We are very organized and structured. A lot of times it was chaotic,” Wilson said. “We were running to the airport for one and the next weekend we had to go to the airport for the other. I think it was a great experience. I would say you have to be organized, you have to be ready to go and you have to have a lot of energy once you get there.”
Wilson’s sons, Terrance and Thomas, both played football at Buford and even playing for a program comfortable with the recruiting process, the stress seeped well beyond the Wolves’ athletic facilities. Beginning this past summer, the family made a dozen visits to schools across the country. They met with coaches, toured campuses and athletic facilities and heard plenty of sales pitches. Add in letters, phone calls and texts messages, the stress only builds. For the Wilsons, times two. In the end, Terrence signed with Buffalo and Thomas with Missouri, choices that made both them and their parents happy and comfortable.
“What we did was, their dad (Thomas) and I, we talked with them and we identified the colleges based on what they were going to do for the next 35 to 40 years of their life, not just what they want to do now,” Janice Wilson said. “This is just the beginning of where they will be going.”
The Wilsons’ experience, though compounded by the brothers, model the long process shouldered by most of Wednesday’s signees. Some do it with cameras, reporters and websites chronicling each step and visit, others send out their own highlight tape and their coaches make pitches to recruiters searching for overlooked talent.
In his long career as a head coach in both Kentucky and in Georgia, North Gwinnett’s Bob Sphire has learned just how to talk with recruiters and works as hard to win games as to sell his players to college coaches.
“From a recruiting standpoint as a parent, you have to kind of trust the coaches and trust the program,” Sphire said. “In our setting, part of it is just trusting the process and the school and the exposure they are getting. I am not saying don’t be involved and don’t be aware and don’t monitor. The recruiters want to deal with the high school coaches.”
That changed for Sphire this year with his son, Hayden, finishing his senior season as the Bulldogs’ quarterback and chasing his own college opportunities.
“I had a lot of my assistant coaches really chew me out because they felt that I was actually shortchanging Hayden during the recruiting process because I wanted him to earn it,” Sphire said. “They weren’t going to get anything special from me just because I was the dad.”
Now, Sphire laughs looking back as how correct his coaches were. The night before the Sphires planned to take an official visit to Murray State in Kentucky, the head coach’s phone rang.
“They call me the morning before we leave and say, ‘Coach, you never sent us his transcript, he can’t come visit,’” Sphire said. “Here I am neglecting my own son’s recruiting and taking care of everybody else.”
Hayden eventually signed with Murray State, a choice his father believed was in his best interest now and in the future.
“It was more to me about what it would do for him after he graduated as it was (during),” Sphire said. “I think every parent thinks that way.”
Myron Burton Sr. did. The former Auburn player admits watching his son, Myron, traverse the recruiting trail conjured up his memories of the process.
“It was a flashback watching him go down the same steps I went down years ago,” the elder Burton said. “It was different seeing it from a different angle, from a parent’s perspective, you just want to make sure he makes the right decision.”
Because of his relationship with some of the coaches and with Auburn generally as a member of its unbeaten 1993 team, Burton tried only to influence his son to make a good choice.
“At this point, he’s a young man,” Burton said. “You do present him with the information to let him make the best decision possible. I might have brought up Auburn a little more than others, but it was his decision.”
And as every choice became official Wednesday a smile followed. For both player and parent.
“We are very glad this is over,” Janice Wilson said, speaking for her whole family. “It’s been stressful, but we managed to make it work.”