February 16, 2012

A mother's blessing

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While the kids are almost always the focal point during the recruiting process, often lost in the process is the fact that the parent's are along for the ride as well. Through recruiting visits, meeting with coaches, providing transportation to and from workouts, and aiding in the decision making process, the parents go through the same emotional swings as their children. While football is a sport played mostly by males, it is often times the blessing of the mother that is needed to finalize a commitment. For the newest Buckeye, Eli Woodard, securing that blessing from his mother, Annie Apple, didn't take much.

"I think one thing that Tim (Eli's father) and I really stressed to Eli was that this definitely has to be his decision," said Apple. "We've already been through our process and this one is his because he will have to be there every day. Going to college, your parents need to have an idea but you really have to see yourself being there and it really came down to Eli's decision. There are things that we talked about as a family, you really want to make sure it's a place where we have access in case something happens but I think we just went through the process and advised him of the things to look at but it was totally one-hundred percent Eli's decision."

After a year that saw a lot of mileage on the family car and stops at several of the nation's top programs, to have things come to an end is a relief for the entire family.

"We're extremely relieved," Apple said. "The whole process has been a great blessing and I think it's always a great thing when people have great things to say about you and your reputation so Eli was definitely very grateful to all of the schools that offered and all of the opportunities that were open to him but now I think he's ready for the next phase."

Apple says she was impressed with her son's focus and maturity throughout the process and his willingness to look into all of his options.

"Even though he's been going back and forth to Columbus since seventh grade, one thing I really admired about him is that he was really focused on this process," she said. "He really looked at all of the schools very carefully. We really liked Notre Dame, we really liked Rutgers, we liked a few of the other schools that offered him and that we visited but it had to come down to where Eli is going to see himself and that was Ohio State."

"I am extremely proud of Eli in the way that he has handled this whole thing," she continued. "So many kids in his position would have really just got a big head and really just manipulated this. He's the same kid he's always been, he's kept a very level head, and been very focused and calm. He doesn't get excited about much and I think as a parent, I really admire (his calm nature)."

Ohio State sealed the deal with both Woodard and his family during last weekend's three-day unofficial where the family was able to get an up close look at the academic side of Ohio State.

"It was really great," she said. "I think this one for me specifically was just to look at more of the academic side and could I see Eli here day after day and how would he be nurtured and just to see everything they had in place for academic success. I felt really great about everything that was in place to help him evolve both on and off the field."

One concern the family had throughout the process was the turnover of the coaching staff during the last 18 months. Those concerns were put to rest over the past several weeks, especially during the visit.

"The changes were hard, it went from coach (Jim) Tressel and coach (Darrell) Hazell gone to coach (Taver) Johnson gone," she explained. "I saw one thing that was constant and consistent was what Ohio State is all about. After meeting with coach Urban Meyer and listening to his vision for the program, it really aligned with what we were really after. We're not just looking for a great University and a great football team, but really a family atmosphere because he's our youngest son and we wanted him at a place where he was comfortable to excel, to fail, to do everything he needs to do to grow."

"I felt very comfortable that whoever Urban Meyer has there, will also be dedicated to (Eli's) interests and goals," she continued. "One thing that coach (Luke) Fickell said a while ago is that Ohio State is not just about one person. It's disappointing to see people that you've really grown to know (leave) but that's part of the business of football. People move forward and move on so I definitely wish all of those coaches the best."

Most mothers struggle with the idea of their sons going a long way from home to college but Apple is putting a positive spin on the empty nest.

"You know, we have three sons so any time they leave we save money on food so that is always a great thing," she joked. "All of the money we'll save without him eating up everything, I think I can buy some new shoes. As parents we are like coaches in a way and coaches don't train people to not put them in the game. He's been taught well, now it's time for him to go and utilize what has been taught. It's a six to eight hour drive and we're confident in the coaching staff and the system of accountability that has been put in place there. Also we have met some of the other parents so he has an extended family over there now and we're really comfortable."


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