Mike Hall: My favorite 2016 Big Ten signing day commit backstories
National Football Signing Day is always a big day for the nation’s college-bound high school stars. But as you scroll through the lists and the rankings and the player ratings, keep in mind that every one of these players has their own personal story.
Here are several interesting stories from this year’s Big Ten class that I discovered while doing my own research for this year’s #SigningDayOnBTN show.
Let’s start with Wisconsin’s Dallas Jeanty, a three-star linebacker who battled homelessness and spent two months one summer finding a different place to sleep every night. Jeanty eventually found a home and worked two jobs, one at a restaurant and another at Whole Foods, all while managing a 3.8 GPA. The high grades resulted in several Ivy League offers, but the linebacker picked Wisconsin.
His perspective on how things have gone in his life is impressive, too, evidenced by this quote: “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react.”
Michigan’s Ahmir Mitchell, a 6-foot-3 205-pound athlete out of New Jersey. He filmed a video of himself working out in his hometown, and at the end of the video he stands on an Atlantic City bridge as a biplane flies over with a banner that reads “Go Blue.” He showed the video to his mom and 50 other guests at his home, and that’s where everyone learned where he was going.
At Michigan State, Hinsdale South (Ill.) defensive lineman Josh King passed on offers from Michigan, USC and Notre Dame to become a Spartan. His father died when he was seven and Josh never knew him, and as he grew up around other family, his earned the playful nickname “Big Head” from his grandmother. He won a state wrestling title as a junior and brought home so many wrestling trophies the family ran out of room for them.
Another Spartans newcomer is 6-1, 215-pound linebacker Brandon Randle, and his story will be familiar to anyone who read the book (or saw the movie) “The Blind Side.” He’s a young black football player who was taken in by a white family living in the suburbs. But unlike Michael Oher, the real football player in “The Blind Side,” Randle wasn’t homeless and his adopted family isn’t wealthy.
At 13 Randle’s parents moved to North Carolina, so he stayed with extended family in Michigan and lived with his grandfather. After a summer in North Carolina with his family, he was preparing to return to Michigan when his grandfather was in a car accident. In order to have a place to live while finishing school in Michigan, his high school coach offered him a home.
Michigan St. on BTN (@MichiganStOnBTN) February 03, 2016
New Minnesota linebacker Carter Coughlin knows the school all too well as his grandpa was Tom Moe, Minnesota’s athletic director from 1999 to 2002, and his father played defensive line for the Gophers. His mom was a three-time All-Big Ten tennis player at the school, too.
JoJo Domann hails from Colorado and comes to Nebraska as the 2015 Colorado Player of the Year. A versatile athlete, Domann scored a touchdown on offense, defense and special teams during the 2014 state championship game.
And he can kick! He made 59 of 60 extra point attempts and seven of eight field goal attempts as a junior. His dad, Craig, is an NFL player agent and played safety at Kansas.
His new teammate at Nebraska will J.D. Spielman, a familiar surname. Spielman won the Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year in 2015. His father is Rick Spielman, the GM of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, and his uncle is Chris Spielman, the former Ohio State and NFL linebacker.
J.D. and his brother Ronnie are African American, and the Spielmans adopted them. Both are elite lacrosse players and Ronnie now plays at Ohio State.
Penn State landed DeMatha High School defensive lineman Shane Simmons, who has called former Penn State great Lavar Arrington a family friend and mentor since Simmons was 13 years old. Once Simmons asked Arrington, “How do you get in an aggressive mindset before a game?” Arrington responding by showing him a video of wild dogs chasing down a zebra and eating it. Simmons said he watched it and then “went out and crushed it” in his next game.
A Penn State fan for a long time, Simmons played varsity as a freshman and committed before his junior year . When Penn State coach James Franklin visited his home, Simmons played loud music and had his own pom-pons.
Rutgers landed Florida native Jonathan Pollock, a linebacker and early enrollee. Pro golfer John Daly is a family friend as Pollock’s father produced a reality TV show about Daly in 2010. When Pollock committed, Daly went to Twitter to congratulate him.
Rutgers On BTN (@RutgersOnBTN) February 03, 2016