Last Thursday, Florida teenager CeCe Jefferson had a birthday, an altogether unremarkable event to anyone outside of his family and friends. At least it would have been if Jefferson were not one of the best football recruits in the country. So in addition to those who love him, Jefferson’s birthday was celebrated by those who covet him: fans of the colleges he may attend. An Auburn fan told him on Twitter that his birthday would “blowup 100 times better” if he became a Tiger. A Florida fan photoshopped him into a Gators jersey. And, as Jake Wimberley at FanSided pointed out, Ole Miss fans treated the day “like a national holiday.”
Obviously, it was weird. But if you pay attention to college football and you’re on Twitter, you also know it’s also common. And today it’s going to get nuts, because it’s National Signing Day, when hundreds of future college football players make their commitments official. Many have already publicly declared where they’ll enroll this fall, others have kept it a secret and will make the big reveal today, some in front of an ESPN camera.
Jefferson is one of those waiting to the last minute and once he makes that announcement the tweets will come rolling in. They’ll range from the relatively innocuous to the outrageously celebratory. And there will be some assholes chiming in too. We know this because it’s already happening.
Check out this middle-age, bald, Tennessee man who celebrated the commitment of running back Kendall Bussey over the weekend by tweeting him a photo collage and a message about how he can’t wait to see the three-star recruit “SO TuRnT up.” When Bussey flipped his commitment on Monday, the Tennessee fan added to the one-sided conversation, telling Bussey, “hate to lose you as a #Vol but it's understandable.”
At least the Vols fan with way too much free time was nice about being spurned. That’s not always the case. On Monday night four-star offensive lineman Drew Richmond decommitted from Ole Miss. Yesterday, mega creepy Ole Miss fan Jim Shute tweeted Richmond, “Drew I thought you were committed to Ole Miss? hope you honor it. kids today don't know what the definition of commitment is.” This dude certainly knows commitment. A stroll down his timeline shows that stalking recruits is Shute’s hobby, and he doesn’t limit it to football. Here he is in January telling a five-star basketball recruit that he should enroll at Ole Miss because he’d get more minutes than at better basketball schools. It should be noted that it’s easy to find other Ole Miss fans calling Shute out for his creepiness. Here’s one telling him to stop being such a weirdo and Shute responding with a story about a recruit who committed thanks to his tweets. Don’t believe it.
As odd as all of this sounds, it’s not entirely clear that the players agree. Go on their timelines and it’s easy to find retweets of messages from sycophantic fans and in at least one case, a call for more. Georgia defensive end GG Robinson committed to play in Louisville over the summer but his status was called into question over the weekend after Florida, Mizzou and Auburn made a late push. On Monday, he tweeted, “Where is #CardNation??? Man, they done stopped messing with me.” Though he appeared dejected about the lack of supportive messages from Louisville fans, Robinson remained committed to the Cardinals. How did fans of the other schools respond? A guy who calls himself “mizzou 4 life” Tweeted, “I guess you don't want to play college football with the men i guess the girls.”
Even the clowns who think it’s OK to occasionally tweet at recruits would disown this slimeball. They’d say something like, “Being nice is OK. Insulting someone is not.” But they’re wrong. Being nice isn’t OK. None of this is OK. When it comes to the college decisions of teenagers we don’t know, let’s all agree to leave the decision, and the attempts to influence that decision, in the hands of the people who love them. Because doing things like dedicating a round of golf to a kid you’ll only care about if he puts on the same colors as you isn’t just cynical, it’s downright disturbing.
Photos by Michael Chang/Getty Images