Road-tripping E Texas with Lemming

Or, Oh Recruit Where Art Thou!<br> Yours truly, along with photographer-daughter Cally got swept up Sunday, wandering the byways of East Texas: that vast ocean of land larger than our beloved Blue Homeland, and populated mainly by forlorn Longhorns - cattle that is. But Cally and I were not aimlessly wandering. Nay! We were on a lofty quest: in search of the elusive Texas U-M Football Recruit.

We had been tipped off by the noble Tom Lemming that he'd be meeting with top East Texas recruits that day, and in attendance might even be that most rare and precious of species: The Texas U-M Recruit. So daughter-Cally and I awoke at the crack of dawn Sunday, girded ourselves, and headed into the bright sunrise of a already stiflingly hot-humid Texas spring morning. Northeast was our direction, Bryan-College Station our destination. An hour later, flagging from hunger, we were saved in the nick of time by a familiar Scottish pub, McDonalds by name. We broke our fast with good ol British Muffins and cheese, then set off again, determined to reach our goal before the sweltering sun reached its zenith.

And at late forenoon we made it, Texas A&M! The Aggies were in the midst of checking in high school footballers for their four-day camp. Cally and I mingled freely with the young men and met a couple of the A&M coaches, always on the lookout for our prize: two Michigan recruits we'd heard rumors might be there. About ten top Texas prospects were there, most of whom had come to meet with Tom Lemming, not to camp. We exchanged pleasantries with them. Two of the state's five Division One quarterback prospects were there: camping was A&M commitment Steven McGee from Burnet (in the Austin area -- my daughter's school has the misfortune of getting decimated again this year by little Burnet, which boasts three Div. 1 kids, including a U-Texas commitment as well). QB Kirby Freeman, Student Sports' top QB at the Texas A&M Nike Camp, came just to meet Lemming, as did the state's top RB Adrian Peterson from Palastine (who was not allowed by his burnt-orange-bedecked guardian to actually enter A&M's plush training complex). There were a few other top 100 Texas prospects there as well, but not all that many -- most, we learned, were at a Junior Day at the University of Texas the same morning.

And, alas, no Michigan recruits! Bummer. MAJOR BUMMER! But just as we about to succumb to despair, Tom Lemming gave us another enticing and spirit-raising tip: he was making another stop later in the afternoon, at Aldine High School, a couple more hours further away in Houston. By noon it was already pushing 100 degrees in the shade, but we were determined not to be denied in our quest.

We set our course for Houston, and off we went. But an hour later we found ourselves off course, and traversing the endless Lake Conroe. Our spirits once again flagged -- and this time the sweet siren song of temptation struck our ears. Or Cally's, that is. It was her cell phone -- her Boy Friend was spending the week with his grandparents in ... Conroe. Tired, hungry and weak of spirit, we succumbed. We forgot our quest, falling under the spell of burritos-and-boy-friend in the coolness of a Conroe Tex Mex Cantina, followed by the even more seductive iced libations at the ubiquitous Starbucks. We slunk into a pleasant stupor of beans, cheese, sugar, caffine, and for Cally, cuddles.

Suddlenly, by some miracle I can only attribute to Wolverine Intervention, into my brain rang a Clarion Call: Rise Up, it said, Rise Up and Go Hence. The Grail is within Reach!

I looked at my watch: 3 PM! If we drove like the wind we could still make Aldine at the appointed hour, 4PM! Cally and I jumped up, barked our good-byes, and, reinvigorated, headed off once again.

At 3:59 we were streaking down I45 into Houston when, suddenly, there it was! Aldine High School! Just off the freeway overpass we were traversing. Quickly we got off the highway and tried to back-track. Would this side-road take us there? No! It dead-ended just a block away - we could see the lights of the outdoor track over the trees of the intervening forest but we could not make it through. Another side road looked promising -- again a dead end! Another -- just an apartment complex parking lot. I looked at my watch: 4:20! The goal, so close, seemed desparately just beyond our reach. The school was on a one-way freeway access road, and we were a mile down the road from it, the wrong way, with no seeming way to get back!

I slumped over the steering wheel. I give up. Let's just get back on the highway and go home. We got on the access road going back the other way when -- SUDDENLY - there it was! The Aldine track was right in front of us and the driveway was right HERE (the lights we were futilely chasing on the other side of the freeway were of the football field!). We had arrived! But ... would the prize, the 'Blue Grail', be there?

Gathered on the Aldine outdoor track with Tom Lemming were over a dozen of East Texas' top high school footballers and their parents, all struggling under the shadeless and now 110+ degree Texas heat. We withstood the sun's fierce fury for over an hour to visit with them: including among others U-T wideout commitment George Walker from Houston Westbury, Galena Park's quarterback/athlete Robbie Reid (one of the top two A&M Nike QB's in my opinion), linebackers Rashad Babino from La Marque and Roderick Johnson from Galveston, defensive backs Byron Richmond from Humble and Andrew Kelson from Houston Lamar. We also chatted with the handsome (Cally's scouting report!) Samson Taylor from The Woodlands, who told us, "Coach Jackson from Michigan came by my school in May, but he hasn't called me on the phone. Michigan State is recruiting me hard though." Taylor, who had the best overall stats at the A&M Nike Camp (4.34 in the 40, a 3.97 in the shuttle, 37 inch vertical jump and 21 bench press reps), is a 'Morgan Trent Clone' although he'll play tailback for The Woodlands this year.

And then, suddenly, unexpectedly, I turned -- and there was Michigan recruit Joseph Fields, quarterback from Houston Washington (the other of the top two A&M Nike QB's in my opinion). Cally and I renewed out acquantinance with Joseph, and Cally shot several pictures. We were feeling like the day's adventure had been worthwhile ... when ... up strode another young man, a BIG one, wearing a red tee-shirt that said Spring-Westfield on it. Are you, I asked, Jeray Chatham?

I squinted sweatily but happily into the now-low sun at Joseph and Jeray, and ... maybe it was just the heat ... but did I see an hour-glass-shaped silver cup floating just momentarily over their heads? Silver cup, or slight heat stroke? A parent mercifully offered me a cold bottled water out of his cooler-bag, and my head cleared. We did our interviews, snapped lots of photos, and retreated, contented, into another cool McDonalds with Tom Lemming.

It was approaching midnight when Cally and I finally stumbled sleepily back into our home in South-Central Texas. But we were contented -- our quest was fulfilled!

Oh yeah, interviews with Fields and Chatham will follow soon, and pictures in a day or so.

The Michigan Insider Top Stories