For most prospects their recruitment is a journey best not taken alone. The sage guidance of a parent or coach is often a crucial element in their quest to make the best decision possible. In Rashan Gary’s case that direction is coming from his mother, Jennifer Coney. Together they hit the visit trail in earnest earlier this month, their most recent trek taking them to a few prominent southern schools.
“What I saw was everybody’s spiel was the same. I’m not a spring chicken. I’m not old, but (at my age) you can tell in a person their honesty. If you give me information before I ask it, I believe you’re telling the truth. But if I have to pull it out of you, no… now you’re just saying things that you think I want to hear.”
That is the kind of assessment Coney feels she is more equipped than her son to make at this point. Their recent visits have helped define that role for her even more.
“He wants to be comfortable with the surroundings… with the environment,” she said. “He also wants to be around a group of kids that he can be comfortable (with). Rashan would like to play at the next level after college, just like I’m sure all these kids who go to college do. So he just wants to make sure that he is being properly coached and developed. That’s very important to Rashan. I just want to make sure that his living arrangements (are ideal). I want see the dorm, where he washes his clothes, where he goes to eat. How is he going to be getting around? His first year he is not going to have a car. I want to make sure that it is safe if he is walking from one side of the campus to the other… you know, mom stuff.”
“Every school has its positive points and every school has its negative points, but you have to figure out what you can do without and what you can’t. God forbid something happens and you aren’t able to play football. Will you still want to be at that school? Is the school that you’re going to be happy at? Put the football program to the side. Would you be the average student and (still) go to this school? If you would, then now we’re going to bring in the athletics. We’re going to make the best decision and we’re not going to rush it. If he even goes to the next level, what do you have…. three, five, seven years? When you finish you’re still a baby. You’re going to have to be able to be happy with life (and) have direction and focus after football. Get your degree, start a business. I want him to have great contacts. Good alumni support from the school is important. There are a lot of years after the athletic thing is over. What do you want to do with your life once you are done with football?”
That was the mindset that she took into her solo trip to Rutgers the first weekend in April. Gary didn’t attend because he’d already gained an appreciation for the program in Piscataway. He instead opted to hit the road for Ohio State and Michigan. While Coney’s latest evaluation of the Scarlet Knights answered some of her questions about the non-football aspects of the program, in retrospect she wishes would have taken the Midwest trip with her son.
“He went to Ohio and Michigan, which was good kind of,” said Mrs. Coney. “I should have went with him because he wanted me to go. He liked Michigan. I really think that the biggest part was seeing (former Paramus Catholic coach and current Michigan recruiting coordinator) Chris Partridge. He liked the atmosphere. He liked the campus. They did give him an academic assessment, but Rashan was more taken in with everything that is Michigan. Like when we went down south, I instructed him that these are the things that are important to me. He showed me what was important to him.”
“For me, I want to make sure that Rashan is in a good space where the area is good, not a lot of crime, or a lot of nonsense that his teammates are getting into. I do understand that these are all young men everybody is going to do something, but not a lot of nonsense. I want good structure and good support. I know Michigan is a great academic school. My cousin graduated from Michigan with a nursing degree. So I know Michigan has good academics, but I want to make sure (the support is there). Part of being a student-athlete you have to be able to manage your time a lot better. I want to make sure that he is successful academically, as well as athletically.”
Even though she didn’t witness all of those positive attributes herself, she was definitely impressed by her son’s description. His recap of his time in Columbus indirectly shined a brighter light on the Maize & Blue.
“He liked Ohio State,” said Mrs. Coney. “He didn’t say too much of the school. I think they didn’t spend a lot of time at Ohio State. I think most of their weekend was at Michigan. I know he met with Coach Johnson because he called me and I talked to Coach Johnson. I’ll tell you the difference (between the Michigan and Oho State visits). When he talked to me about Ohio State it was football, football, football. But when he talked to me about Michigan he just told me about the environment, told me about the academics, told me about the dorms, told me about the campus. I spoke with Coach Mattison it was totally a different conversation. One was about athletics, and then Michigan was all about academics and the people, (and) the environment.”
‘Okay Rashan, let me go see it for myself. (laughter).’
That turns out to be the motivation behind their planned return trip to Ann Arbor in the very near future.
“I think we’ll come back on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon,” Mrs. Coney stated. “But it’s going to be the next couple of weeks. The athletic part and the strength and conditioning… I don’t need to see that. I’d like to see dorms, I’d like to see the campus, I’d like to talk to the academic staff.”
“I’d like to see all the other stuff.”