If you missed part one of this feature, click here.
Michigan's attention to the details away from the football field made during Rashan Gary's official visit last weekend struck a necessary chord with his mother Jennifer Coney. Looking back on their time spent in Ann Arbor, that was even more impressive than the Wolverines 31-0 dismantling of BYU.
At least to mom it was.
“I’m not thinking about football,” Coney said matter-of-factly. “Football is great and if my son can get to the NFL and fulfill his dreams, that is a blessing on top of a blessing. But I’m a realist. Even if it does happen it’s not going to last forever. He not going to be 60 years old on the football field. I just want him to be a realist as well and know that that degree is important.”
“(Football wasn’t her chief concern) because Rashan (is the one that) has to develop a rapport with the football coaches. I know I’m not going to make the calls Coach Mattison or Coach Durkin or Coach Harbaugh and tell them this is how I want things to go for Rashan. I know that’s not even possible. I think that I can have more of an impact and work on what’s going on with him academically. That’s something I can have an input in. But all that football stuff… I know if Rashan goes and works out good and plays hard, he can do anything he wants because I know Rashan is proven, he’s motivated, and he wants to be the best.”
So when it came time to focus on the relationships in the football building, the coaches weren’t the people she concentrated on getting better acquainted with this time around.
“I love Ann Mattison, which is Coach Mattison’s wife,” Mrs. Coney said. “One of the academic ladies (Shari Acho) went also. We all went out. John Rotche was there. Coach Partridge was there. D.J. Durkin’s wife. Coach Mattison was there briefly but you know, they were preparing for a game and the guys were in the hotel so he just left. Everybody (not on the coaching staff) was there. ”
Other key interactions occurred with the players. That mother and son connected with Paramus (N.J.) Catholic alums Jabrill Peppers and Juwan Bushell-Beatty was to be expected. (Gary hung out them with after the game). Getting a positive feel for others in the program like her son’s host Tyrone Wheatley Jr. had a much greater impact.
“I love that kid,” Coney said of Wheatley Jr. “He went to dinner with us the night before (the game). That’s the kind of young man I want Rashan to be around. Just a positive, motivating kind of guy… one just a bit older than Rashan, but not much. The guys that I met, I like them. No knuckleheads and that’s what I liked when I walked through the campus.”
And that experience of Michigan people making positive impressions didn’t end when the Gary party left Ann Arbor.
“Oh my gosh… everybody on the whole plane on the way back to Newark had Michigan t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats,” Coney stated. “It was like, ‘wow… Michigan is really full of alumni.’ When we got back to Newark Airport you should’ve seen all the people that had on Michigan gear. And it just goes to (show) that a Michigan degree goes further than Michigan. I was just impressed.”
And therein lies one of the most significant takeaways. The appreciation for how well a Michigan degree travels definitely resonated.
“(It’s about) contacts,” explained Coney. “Who you know is very important. If this football thing doesn’t work out like he would like it to or I like I would like it to, then he is going to have an education, he’s going to have a career, he is going to have that degree, and he is going to have tons of contacts.”
In the days since the visit Coney has had conversations with her talented offspring about what he thinks of the Maize and Blue after experience, and it’s clear that they definitely helped themselves.
“I think he’s comfortable (with Michigan),” she said. “He knows Jabrill, he knows Juwan, and now he has befriended Tyrone Wheatley and some of the other kids on the team that really embraced him. He is comfortable with them and he is comfortable with Coach Mattison, Coach Durkin and Ms. Gwen (Bush). And I have to be honest… Coach Harbaugh is the most down to earth (guy). He is a like a homey (laughter). He is that dude. He is like a homey. He is not all stuck up. He is kind of quirky-cool… and I like him. And I think Rashan likes him as well.”
Needless to say, if there was a checklist Michigan crossed off every entry. Which begs the question, has Coney seen all she needed to see to be comfortable with her son donning the Maize & Blue should that be his choice.
“I have,” she replied. “I’m good. Somebody tell me the name of that restaurant (The Chop House) because I’m the next time I go back (that will be a stop). That steak was bigger than Rashan’s head!”
Next up on the visit docket is Auburn November 28th for the Tigers’ Iron Bowl clash with arch rival Alabama. There are a number of programs still in contention for his remaining officials including Georgia, LSU, Mississippi, and USC among others.