One week after committing to Michigan a welcomed silence has returned to Rashan Gary's household. Gone is the cacophony of ringing phones that left the family covering its ears for relief in the days leading up to signing day. Looking back on it all Gary’s mother Jennifer Coney can do is exhale as she celebrates the end to a long, and at times exasperating journey.
The most difficult steps in that trek were clearly the final few. A battle that had been seemingly over some time was suddenly up for grabs as decision time drew near.
"Rashan was pretty much sold on Michigan until he went to USC,” Gary’s mom Jennifer Coney said. “And I said, ‘USC seems like a good school (and) L.A. seems like a great place, but you're not coming home and I'll see you once or twice a year for maybe a couple of days. Trying to be realistic financially, I don't think that's an option for us and for you.’ We're close family, I didn't see that being an option. Then we went to Clemson, and I tell you, woo, that's a great (visit). Me and Rashan looked at each other on our way back to the airport and he said 'mom I don't know anymore' and I said 'Rashan, I don't know any more either.'"
And that’s when the real back & forth began. The Tigers, fresh off of a national championship game appearance, obviously had success on the football field to sell. They also had the benefit of Coney’s brother living a stone’s throw from campus. Meanwhile Michigan had relationships with coaches, players, and administrators that had grown strong over the course of four visits. The Wolverines had his former high school coach on its staff and had two of his closest friends committed to his recruiting class. Weighing all of those positive attributes against one another made for a very difficult few days.
"He was really indecisive even on our way (to the announcement),” Coney recalled. “I said 'Rashan we're gonna have to pray on it, and if you can't figure it out, it's OK. You don't have to decide. You don't owe anybody anything except for yourself.’ But something I couldn’t do (at that point) was I couldn't tell Rashan what I thought was best for him. Rashan can never say 'well, mom, if I would've went here such and such would happen.’ I couldn't do that, so I said, ‘if you can't decide then that's OK, you don't have to sign today.’ We went, he ate and he was by himself. He stepped away for like 10, 15 minutes and he came back and he said he got it. I never asked him. I know he prayed, I know he got on his knees. I never asked him what happened or how he decided it.”
Some have speculated that Gary never wavered on the Wolverines as his pick and that any suspense at the end was contrived. That theory picked up steam when pre-shot video of Gary selecting Michigan was released as he made the announcement. Any such opinions are amazingly uninformed according to Coney.
"His strength & conditioning coach Dwayne Riggins... (he and Rashan) are very good friends and he also trains a lot of the NFL guys,” Coney explained. “Every now and then Rashan will go up to Bart Scott's house (to train). That was taped at Bart Scott's house. Bart will always give him little tidbits and words and things Rashan can hold onto. Bart produced that video. Just did everything at his house. There were five endings to that video and Bart texted us a link to all five. It was supposed to be done simultaneously with Rashan's announcement. So if you had seen me holding a cell phone, when he said "Michigan" I had to tweet the Michigan link so it would go out."
In the end things happened exactly how Coney hoped they would all along.
“There are great things in every program and there's things that I don't like in every program,” she said. “It's the same thing for Clemson, but I can also say the same thing for Michigan. No matter which one he picked, I'd be happy about it.”
“I just think to be honest, because Rashan had been to Michigan so much and he was completely comfortable. He had made friends with the upperclassmen and juniors and people that weren't affiliated with football. I think that maybe if we took Clemson as a third visit and went back unofficially… we don't know. We don't know. I like Clemson and my brother is right down the street.
“But I'm glad that he picked Michigan. I think his educational opportunities are better. I'm not saying Clemson is a bad academic school. I just think that Michigan is better. That's just my belief. I know that Clemson is a good football program, but I also believe that Michigan is going to become something special. It's just like going to Alabama, Alabama is a great football program. Coaches like Bo Davis and Mario Cristobal, I love them and we established a great relationship. However, I think Rashan wanted to be on the developing end. I just think that he wanted to be a part of something that was up and coming. Michigan had been down and, especially among his peer group, building that. He's friends with Kareem (Walker) and he's best friends with Mike (Dwumfour) and he's met Devin (Bush). All of these guys that he kind of established a relationship with and, I think, that meant something to Rashan. The thought of 'we can do this together… get a championship and see what we can do here’ instead of coming on to something that has already been established. Michigan hasn't been on top for quite a while. I think that's something that Rashan aspires to. I get it."
Not even the barrage of negative recruiting targeting Jim Harbaugh down the stretch could knock Michigan off its perch. Hearing it all made an already difficult deliberation process more so, but in the final analysis that tactic wound up harming programs using it more than it helped.
"That was a turn off,” Coney said of the negative recruiting. “Bring your program up. Tell me about all the good things that your program, your school, and the people on your staff do. Don't kick this person in the back. Nobody likes Michigan. Nooobody likes Michigan. When Rashan picked Michigan, my phone stopped ringing. It was a blessing."
All that was left to complete the process was ridding Gary’s closet of any college paraphernalia that wasn’t Maize & Blue.
"He picked Michigan so we will pack up all the gear,” said Coney. “And I did. I packed up all of his Alabama, USC and all of his gear that he's collected over the last four years, I put it in a box, and took it to the Salvation Army. You chose Michigan and that's where you're going to be."