Signing day is less than a week away and it can’t get here soon enough for the mother of Starkville (Miss.) four-star linebacker Willie Gay. Bridgett Ware has been with her son through every step of his recruitment and recently noticed the process starting to take its toll.
"I think it has been stressful for him, and it's stressful for me to see him stressed,” Mrs. Ware said. “That's why I'm trying to give him some type of guidance and a map on how he should handle the recruiting process. I feel like the last week of recruiting you should take that week off and go on no official visits. We shut down the recruiting process on Tuesday so he could take this week to meditate, pray, ask God for guidance, and to clear his head from all the hype with the teams and coaches. That way he has a whole week to make a sound decision. My thing is that I don't want him to commit on the hype, but instead I want him to get the facts. I want him to set short-term and long-term goals, get them in place, and find a school that's going to help him reach those goals.”
There are several factors that Gay will evaluate before determining which school will best meet his needs, but to mom there is one trait that should receive stronger consideration than all the rest.
"A good support system,” she said firmly. “Not only on the field, but also academically.”
There are four schools that remain in contention; Mississippi State, Ole Miss, LSU, and Michigan. Gay has placed each program atop his leaderboard at various points in his recruitment. Mom, though, insists she has been, and will continue to be neutral.
“I like all these schools,” she said. “There's something about every school that I like. I try not to weigh my opinion on schools, but instead I look at facts. I'm not going to decide the school for him, but I will pull out the facts. I want to look at the coaches’ résumés. I look at the history of the program. Make a decision based on facts and not on what people sell you."
Michigan headman Jim Harbaugh and assistant Chris Partridge visited Gay in-home Tuesday night to state the Wolverines’ case one last time. The impressive tone Harbaugh struck during that interaction was consistent with that which he did during all ones prior.
"He came into the home, and any time I've been around him he always seems down to earth,” said Mrs. Ware. “He doesn't try to sell himself or his program. He's just genuine. He's just himself. At the end of the day, I like him for just being real. He's not a flashy guy, he just states the obvious."
Though clearly impressed with Harbaugh, Mrs. Ware is also comfortable with several other coaches involved in her son’s recruitment. Especially those in-state.
“I feel like Mississippi State is on the right path to building a stronger program with the new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham,” she stated. “Todd has a pretty impressive resume. As does the head coach Dan Mullen. I feel like their program is headed in the right direction.”
“As far as Ole Miss, Ole Miss has a very friendly coaching staff. You just don't know what's going to happen with (possible sanctions). I hate the NCAA is taking so long to go ahead and end that process with them because I feel like it’s hurting their program and their recruiting.”
The newest school in the mix is LSU. Gay named the SEC power his leader earlier this month during practice for the Army All American Bowl. He walked that statement back shortly after making it, but made it clear that the Tigers were surging on his list. However, mom has her concerns.
Said Mrs. Ware, "I enjoyed the official, but I wish I could've (had time) to build a relationship with their staff like I did with Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Michigan. LSU came in late. There's really not too much I can reflect on. I really don't know them that well. They came in late. It's crunch time."
That doesn’t mean the Tigers won’t come away victorious. All Gay’s suitors are viable options. Mom just wants him take all the time he has left to compare them before settling on his final choice.
"I hope at this point he's not talking to any coaches,” she said. “My only hope is that if he needs any advice or is looking for any type of guidance he's using people that have his best interest at heart. I hope he's using this time to really pray and seek God and acknowledge him. God said in all thy ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path. I feel like that's who he needs to be talking to and listening to. I'm also praying for the same things. I'm asking God to lead him in the right direction."