It’s the kind of thing that out of context might leave a parent concerned.
College football recruiting is a high-intensity world. A coach has to make a pitch that expresses how wanted a player is, but have the tone so it comes off correctly.
Will Muschamp’s push for Concord N.C. defensive lineman Rick Sandidge was an intense one, no doubt, and Sandidge’s mother recalled one point when the coach got across exactly how much South Carolina football wanted her son.
“He actually got to one point where he said, ‘Junior, if you don’t go here, I’m going to hunt you down, son,’ ” Keshia Sandidge said. “They’ve got this little GIF, whatever they call it, or meme, in this like swamp hat, and he’s got the Carolina hat. And he’s like, ‘I will come get you.’ But yeah, he’s been awesome.”
Her husband, Rick Sr. added there’s something important about how involved Muschamp was in the recruitment. He was a primary factor and presence from Day 1. He personally recruited the 6-foot-5, 288-pound lineman who committed and signed with South Carolina on Wednesday.
That matters because assistants come and go.
“I know the head coach ain’t going nowhere,” Rick Sandidge Sr. said.
Picking a college is often, for better and worse, a family affair for many athletes. Parents want to be close or like a coach or exert some level of influence.
Keshia Sandidge wanted her son’s college choice to be his own, despite her having attended the school. This stands out because in many ways, it’s the first true life choice he’s had to make.
“Us as parents have been making his decisions for him since he was born,” Keshia Sandidge said. “So it takes a lot for us to just step aside and say, ‘Hey, this is yours. You have to be the one to go through this, so make the decision that’s best for you son.’
“That is the first decision ever for Junior. We’re like on top of everything he does, which is why he’s a good kid.”
To be sure the family talked it over. After USC’s staff visited Saturday, they got a chance to relax for a little and mull the choice. In the end, it was Rick Sandidge Jr’s ‘gut feeling’ that ultimately carried the day.
Keshia Sandidge called Wednesday a sigh of relief.
Both she and Rick Sr. admitted watching their son go through a recruitment was stressful, a word everyone in the family came back to several times. Rick Jr. said it was a weight off. His mother said she was finally “at peace,” relieved of the biggest stress of her life.
It’s been a long way since he got his first offer, from North Carolina in late 2015.
“At first, it was wow factor, like the first week or so,” Keshia Sandidge said. “We were all wowed, ‘He got an offer. He gets to go to school.’ But after that week, it’s watered down, get tired of the cattle call, get tired of going to camps, the back and forth up the road. It has been stressful for us. It has not been fun.”
The Sandidge family didn’t have trouble rustling up the chairs or getting the bodies in the kitchen to host. Coming down the stretch, they had large parties from USC and Georgia for the in-home visits.
But they were ready to host in one of the quirkier parts of the recruiting process.
“It was kind of weird, but in a good kind of way,” Keshia Sandidge said. “We got to see people in our private setting, and they were able to see how we act. So I think it worked out well. It was overwhelming as first because Georgia came down first, they were six deep. And then you’ve got South Carolina comes down five deep. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
She said there were people in groups, sitting in the dining room, standing in the kitchen and even finding spots to settle down in the living room.
And Muschamp, a veteran of many in-homes, played one card right, the kind that blends appetite and flattery.
“They fell in love with mom’s baked beans,” Rick Sandidge Sr. said. “Coach Muschamp, he went up for seconds. It was fun, it was real fun.”
An uncomfortable task
Keshia Sandidge explained that while Muschamp texted her son every day, it was not her son who responded. That was the role of the parents, having a key hand in the life of a 17-year-old.
But the final choice was his, and that comes with responsibility.
Rick Sandidge Jr. got to make the call to South Carolina, and hear the jubilation on the other end of the line. It wasn’t the only call he had to make.
“He stared calling coaches, and it was hard for him because we made him do it himself,” Rick Sandidge Sr. said. “So it means a whole lot more when you call the coaches yourself, say, ‘Hey coach, I can’t come to your school.’
“For him to be a man, 17 years old, do what he did, shows me a lot that he’s ready.”
He has plenty ahead of him, with the prospect of getting on campus, joining a football team and negotiating the rough-and-tumble world of interior line play in college football. But before that, before he could even announce to the world his decision, he had to call men more than twice his age who’d build relationships with him and let them know that, no, this is where that ends and something else begins.
“It was very hard,” Rick Sandidge Jr. said. “It took a lot.”