GHSF Daily is expanding its Four Questions feature this season beyond head coaches to other voices in high school football. Today's interviewee is Janelle Woods, mother of Walton WR and five-star recruit Dominick Blaylock and two former Walton players, twins Zack and Daron Blaylock, who played at Kentucky. Woods was an all-state high school athlete and all-Big Eight volleyball player at Oklahoma.
Janelle Woods, parent of five-star recruit Dominick Blaylock
1. What's the most enjoyable part, and most stressful part, about being the parent of a recruited college football player? "The most enjoyable part would be watching them grow through the recruiting process. I was a recruited college volleyball player, my husband a football recruit, and so far I've had three sons experience it. They are exposed to situations that require them to mature in more ways than on the field. They learn how to interview early. One of my sons had his first interview in the sixth grade! Recruiting trips can all be the same with big programs such as beautiful facilities, top-notch training programs, the best training tables, tutoring and academic programs, etc. Sometimes you forget which SEC or ACC school you are visiting because they all have similar facilities. I enjoy watching them process it all and figure out where they want to go. It's probably the first big decision that they make that is going to determine their life path. So, allow them to make it their decision. And of course all parents enjoy watching their children on the field being successful. The stressful part is time management. As a parent, you want them to be exposed to enough programs to make a grounded decision, but you also only have so many weekends to travel to schools and games, and that takes time away from the rest of your family. I want them to enjoy their final year of high school because, for them, it's a treasured time in their life. I didn't want it to be consumed with recruiting."
2. Do you have any advice for parents whose children are college prospects? "One of the hardest things I see with parents going through this is their ability to be realistic about their child's ability to play at the collegiate level and especially where they can play. I've seen too many kids and parents get caught up in signing with a top-10 program; then the athlete never gets a chance to see the field. There is nothing wrong with parents and/or the athlete to ask the coaching staff where they stand and what they can contribute to the team. I am fully respectful of coaches that have that frank conversation with the athlete, before he signs, where they stand on the depth chart. When your athlete is trying to decide, ask them this: If you take football away as one of the deciding factors, then how do you feel about the school? Football programs can drastically change in the four years you will be there. And football is a part of your college experience."
3. There's a trend toward college players enrolling early at their new school. You didn't want Dominick to do this. Why? "You only experience high school once. I want the last semester of high school to be a time for memories you will have with lifelong friends and a time to close a chapter in your life. The day your athlete steps into a collegiate program is the day they begin to play a sport that is now their job. I tell all of my boys that high school football will be your best memories. It used to be only quarterbacks did this [enroll early]. Now it seems to be the trend. I don't think four months can make such a difference. It's not worth losing high school memories. I can't deny the fact that it's a little bit about Mama not ready to have one of her babies leave the nest."
4. What will you miss most about high school football when Dominick plays his final game at Walton? "Dominick playing high school football. There is something so much more special about watching your kids play high school football. I remember a special on ESPN about the Mannings. The parents both agreed the best time they had watching their kids compete was during their high school football careers. Also, I still have a seventh-grader that plays the game, and he's the youngest of my four boys. That pretty much explains 'best mode.' "
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