Dad Helping Pipkins Push Toward Goals

Al Pipkins, father of top DL Ondre Pipkins, talks to GBW about the Saginaw influence on his son.

Ondre Pipkins Player Page.

Sam Webb: Ondre looked like a man amongst boys as the Columbus Nike Camp. As dad, how do you think he did?

Al Pipkins: "I'm dad. I thought he did pretty good, but he's still got some things to work on."

Sam Webb: Ondre told me that you coached a lot of guys that we know well, LaMarr Woodley and Ron Stanley and all those guys. What was your position at Saginaw High?

Al Pipkins: "I started coaching, it was way before Saginaw High. I was coaching them in elementary, middle school, and then I kind of got onto the high school coaching later on with Coach Don Durrett. We were there feeder system. Ron Stanley, Charles Rogers, Cliff Ryan (St. Louis Rams). All those guys. I started with them at Jesse Loomis, went through middle school, and then they went on to high school. And I was able to take over a position later on as a high school JV football coach. We were always a feeder system to the Saginaw High School program."

Sam Webb: How much do they reach back and talk to the kids and talk to Ondre?

Al Pipkins: "Lamarr, Cliff Ryan, Ron Stanley, Chuck Rogers, they always came back to the community, they come back. They sponsored football camps. Lamar has one coming up in a couple of weeks. So they are always are here to reach back and talk to the young student. Lamarr is a personal friend of mine, Cliff Ryan is a personal friend of mine, Ron Stanley is a personal friend of mine, his dad and his family. It is just not the kids. It is family. Their families, we're very close with their families too."

Sam Webb: Did you know Ondre's recruitment was going to blow up this big this quick?

Al Pipkins: "I don't think it is quick. I think it is kind of late really, because he is going into his senior year, and some of the things he could have done early on, by him moving out-of-state, he probably could have done early on. That's no fault of his. His mom has a job with GM and that kept them moving from state-to-state. We were always in touch, but not as close as we need to be."

Sam Webb: What schools are you as dad talking to the most?

Al Pipkins: "I'm not hearing from pretty much anybody. Everything I'm hearing is from my son. Michigan was the first school I talked to, which was a big deal. Then I also talked to Missouri. I don't have any preference. I'm Michigan born and raised, and he was born in Michigan. We all love Michigan, but right now we don't have any preference of one over the other at this point."

Sam Webb: Not talking about any school in particular, but when you're just talking about recruiting in general, what are you telling him to look for? What are the factors that you are telling him should weigh into picking the school that he eventually goes to?

Al Pipkins: "My thing is grades. We talk about education, what schools are going to present the best opportunity for him to get a good education. All of them are good schools, don't get me wrong. I hold a master's degree and my thing is education and grades. I'm talking to him moreso about what can they do for him. We all know he can play football, we know that. So now we're looking at what can schools do for him academically to help him be successful. Right now, we are just talking about the immediate future and after football. That's mostly what I'm talking about, and making sure that he is not pressured at this time. This is the time that he should be enjoying it — he works hard to be in the position that he is in, and he should have the options and opportunity to visit the schools and make sure that he meets with the coaches and gets a good feel to be on a college campus. If it doesn't feel like home, it might not be the right place for you. If you do not feel close to the coach or the recruiting coach that is recruiting you, then that may not be the right place for you. I've been in athletes for over 20 years and I've seen it come and go. I've seen recruitments come and go. I just want him to understand that some people will tell you anything just to get you to say okay. Make sure that it is the right decision and don't make any decision without consulting his parents first. That's all we're doing."

Sam Webb: What about the timeline? You said you wanted him to get out and take some visits. Do you want him to wait until closer to signing day to make a decision? Have you guys actually hammered down on a timeframe?

Al Pipkins: "We have, but I am going to let him be the one that let that cat out of the bag. It is a big deal for him, and like I've told him is to enjoy the process. We have hammered down some situations, and like I said before, it will be him that lets that cat out of the bag."

Sam Webb: Has he been selected for the Army game, the Under Armour game or any all star game yet?

Al Pipkins: "Not to this point. He went to the Army All American Combine and he did really well. I think he got overlooked because he was pretty much a newcomer. He goes to Columbus and wins the MVP and that is when everybody is like ‘Wow, why didn't you get selected.' Now he gets invited to Oregon, is in the top 150, and you tell me now that he should be selected. But he is not selected to any Army All American Combine or the Under Armour. He really wanted to compete at Ohio State Nike camp to prove himself. We kind of made that vow when we got back from the Army All American Combine. He said, ‘Dad, I really want go' and he said, ‘we're going to win the MVP.' I said okay, if that's the goal then let us start working for it—and when we get there, we ain't taking no prisoners and we didn't."

Sam Webb: It is clear that you guys have a set list of criteria and you want him to work the process himself. I just want to know in your private moments, not influencing him in any shape, way or form… is there ever any part of you that says, ‘I hope he plays his college football close to me?'

Al Pipkins: "Definitely. Are you a dad?"

Sam Webb: Yes sir.

Al Pipkins: "If you got a son wouldn't you want your son to be close to you?"

Sam Webb: Yes I would.

Al Pipkins: "He has been away from me for quite some time as far as distance, never away from heart, never away from a phone call. We talk every day and we try to visit two to three times a year. Wouldn't you want that if that was the case, without saying anything. When he was at Rochester a year and a half ago, I was at every game, I was at practice. I would ride 45 minutes to an hour just to see him practice. So wouldn't you want that as a dad. That's where I'm at, but I'm not influencing him. Like I said, I've been coaching for years and my kids are my heart, my love, my joy, but I've always told him that you make a decision that's best for you, you can't make it for me, you can't make it for your mom, can't make it for your brothers, your sisters, your aunts or uncles, none of that. I can help you but ultimately you got to go wherever you got to go to play football and be there for three or four years or whatever and make the best thing for you. I'm just going to be that guiding force. I've got a big influence….yeah, but I'm not going to make that decision for him."

Sam Webb: Tell me this… growing up were you a Michigan State or Michigan guy?

Al Pipkins: "Let us just say living in Michigan you're born a Michigan fan. As you grow up, you become more of a Michigan fan. We love Michigan. We love Michigan State too. We have a lot of kids that filtered from my high school, my alma mater Saginaw High, into Michigan and Michigan State. Right now, I'm just torn between the two. He has friends at Michigan State, Jordan Sanders. We've got ties to Michigan with Roy Manning at this point, the coach that is back there as a grad coach, but we have plenty of people who went to both schools. Cliff Ryan, Michigan State, Ron Stanley, Michigan State, Charles Rogers, Michigan State, Lamarr Woodley, Michigan and the list go on and on. Roy Manning, Michigan, Jerome Jackson, Michigan. Right now, I would love for that to be his choice; yeah I would love for him to play close to me, but ultimately that is going to be his decision."

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