Mother of Indiana Signee Michael Penix Jr.
On April 22, 2017 he verbally committed to the University of Tennessee under the leadership of Butch Jones. Entering his senior season with Tampa Bay Tech and having verbally committed to a college, we thought his recruitment would start to settle. As the 2017 college football season got underway, things were not looking too good for UT. The coaching staff was under fire and the season just seemed to dwindle away.
Still committed to Tennessee, Michael never paid much attention to the fans outcry to fire the head coach Butch Jones. He stayed loyal to the team although other colleges continued to pursue him due to the uncertainty with Tennessee.
Fast forward to November 12, 2017, Tennessee decided to fire Butch Jones, now what? As I watched twitter and all the comments I wondered what will happen next for my son. I constantly asked Michael how he felt about the situation and was he still interested in going to Tennessee. Michael was committed and felt that Tennessee was the place to be. Although he was being recruited alongside another QB from California, that never seemed to phase him.
With the season still underway and Tennessee having two more SEC games to play, we decided to visit on November 18, LSU game. The love from Tennessee was still there, with the old coaching staff and the new Interim Head Coach, Brady Hoke. The visit was just like normal.
Weeks have gone by and the search for a new coach was happening, finally we would get to know who the new coach would be. Then more drama, a coach was somewhat selected and the fans were not having it. I couldn’t believe what was happening…thought Tennessee finally selected a coach and that changed immediately. Day turned into weeks searching for a coach. Then the Athletic Director was relieved of his duties. When I say my nerves were bad, you would not understand.
Twitter was consuming my time all day and all night trying to figure out who the next coach would be. On December 1, 2017 Tennessee announce Phillip Fulmer as the new Athletic Director and things were looking okay. Saturday December 2, we got to speak with Fulmer. He was excited to be the AD and while we spoke we verified with him that Michael’s scholarship offer was still being honored. That was a relief for us due to the uncertainty of the coaching hire. Fulmer stated that he would be hiring a new head coach very soon.
That happened on Thursday December 7, Coach Pruitt was introduced as the new head coach for Tennessee during a live press conference. As we watched we wondered would we be getting a call from him that night. Around 10pm on the same night of his announcement we spoke with Coach Pruitt. He recalled the time playing against Michael Sr in college and they chuckled a bit about the game. We asked him if Michael’s scholarship offer was still available and in his own words he stated they would be honoring Michael’s commitment and that they were excited about having him become a Vol. That was truly good news since the decision usually lies with the head coach.
Michael stayed true to Tennessee, but we had this feeling that he should still take his Official Visits with other schools. Since the OC was not hired yet with Tennessee, there was still a good chance that the new OC would not want Michael to be the quarterback. We had home visits from University of South Florida, Florida State, and Indiana during a two week span. Since the Tennessee official visit was pushed back to December 15th weekend. We decided to take an official visit to USF the weekend of December 8th. Coach Strong and staff did not give up on recruiting Michael since they offered him after his sophomore year. The official visit went very well, but we were not committing to any other schools.
At this time Michael was still committed to Tennessee. On December 10, Michael was offered a Scholarship from Florida State and new Head Coach Willie Taggart. We had an in-home visit on Monday the 11th and then Michael and I took a midweek official visit to Indiana later that night, since we were already scheduled to go to Tennessee on the Saturday December 15th.
While on the visit with Indiana we learned that they had officially offered Michael two years ago, but due to his commitment to Tennessee they did not want to pressure him. They kept in contact with Michael over the years and built a relationship with him.
On Wednesday December 13, Michael gets a call from the newly selected Tennessee offensive coordinator, Coach Helton, who tells him not to come to Tennessee over the weekend for the official visit because he has another QB that he wants to bring in.
As a mother, I felt angry that they would do this. A trip that was already planned for and to be told not to come just seemed cold-hearted.
We felt that if the AD and the head coach of Tennessee honored his scholarship then who was the OC to come and snatch it away? Michael posted his decommitment from Tennessee making sure the fans knew that it was not his choice. This led us to making change of plans and changing the official visit from Tennessee to Florida State.
With everything changing in two weeks we went from knowing which school Michael would sign with on December 20th to not knowing his next move. Michael had a lot to think about over the next few days. We as parents could only advise him of his choices and help him to figure out what would be best for him. Michael narrowed his choices down to three schools: FSU, led by Coach Taggart whom offered him at each school he coached; USF, led by Coach Strong who never stopped recruiting him and Indiana University led by Coach Allen who built a relationship with Michael and silently recruited him. We constantly told Michael to pray about it and write out his pros and cons of each school and why he would choose the school he wanted to play at. On December 20th Michael made his decision to play for Indiana University.
As parents, we always want what is best for our children and support them in every way possible to help them achieve their dreams. Being former athletes, Michael Sr a running back and myself participating in Track & Field for Tennessee Technological University, recruiting was not unfamiliar territory. It was just different times for us. There was no Twitter or Social Media outlets available.
Prior to Michael Jr entering High School I made sure that I joined twitter to see what the colleges were looking for in recruits, how various high-level recruits were being recognized. I learned that going to high dollar camps was not the only answer. We signed him up for various local camps, BCP being one which was very affordable and produced really good exposure results for Michael. We also had him join a 7on7 team, Unsigned Preps his sophomore year.
Recruiting is a business and we were aware of that. Every year the coaches are looking to replace the kids on the team. I feel that parents need to take the time to invest in their children’s future, understand what the recruiting process is and how it is ran.
Having the scholarship taken from Michael was a great lesson learned, I couldn’t be too upset with the coaching staff because this is a business. We just picked up the pieces to the puzzle and started to put it back together again to help him find a school that was best for him.
Author: Takisha Penix