(Editor’s note: Sarah Barnes, the mother of Mountain Pointe wide receiver/defensive back Jalen Brown, was asked by the AFN to reflect on the parent’s perspective of having a big-time Division I recruit in the family and the process that led to him choosing Oregon.)
I am lucky enough to be the parent of a son who has been heavily recruited in high school for football, and who also happens to be a very good student.
Because of his success on and off the gridiron, Jalen received 35 college scholarship offers from all over, including places as far as Yale, Virginia, Ole Miss, Florida State, Texas Tech, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt, to closer to home from Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC, and Cal, as well as from Arizona State and University of Arizona.
Because of the variety of offers, and the NCAA only allowing five official visits (all expense paid trips by the schools for the recruit and a parent, other than the parent’s flight), I set aside time to take Jalen on unofficial visits (which are visits not funded at all by the schools) to see some of these schools in which he thought he would have interest.
The unofficial visits are all on the parent’s dime, but well worth the investment considering the incredible full scholarship opportunity being offered.
I was also happy to be able to take Jalen on these visits in different parts of the country to not only give him firsthand experience with different programs, but to see for myself that if he chose to move far away for school/football, he would be in good hands and in a good place.
We first drove to UCLA and USC last spring, and we also took a couple of his friends/teammates who were also being recruited.
We then set up a trip to drive around the Midwest this past summer to visit schools in that area, where Jalen had never been.
We started in Chicago and drove to Ohio State for the better part of a day, then on to Michigan for an evening visit, and to Michigan State the next day for most of the day.
Our final stop (after driving back to Chicago to drop off his stepdad at the airport — Jalen’s dad also drove to the first three visits before flying back home) was to drive to Madison, where I am originally from, to visit family and to spend the next day at Wisconsin.
The last unofficial trip we took (he also visited ASU and UofA numerous times over the years because they are so close) was about a month later to fly to Nashville to visit Vanderbilt for the day and to visit Jalen’s older brother, who just relocated there.
Like the Wisconsin visit, Jalen was surprised by how much he liked the school and staff (as was I), and he ended up not only choosing Wisconsin and Vanderbilt to also visit officially, but they were two of the final few he considered before choosing Oregon.
Had he not taken the unofficials, then he probably would not have included those two schools in his final few and may have included others that he actually discovered he maybe did not like as much.
All total, I think we drove over 1,200 miles and spent hours and even days in cars and hotels to all of these schools in fairly short periods of time.
But, it was well worth the expense, as Jalen got to have an inside look at several schools, talk one-on-one with receiver and head coaches, and got to see facilities/campuses in person, meet players, and we all got a feel for where Jalen might ultimately be living.
These unofficial visits also allowed for more undivided attention to us and Jalen, whereas the official visits are more hectic due to game day events, and are also often attended by several recruits at the same time.
However, the officials (Oregon, Oregon State, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt, all of which I also attended a couple which his dad and stepdad also attended), were still enlightening due to getting to see coaches and team interact and in action, game day atmospheres, and Jalen had more time to get to know players.
It was also the first time seeing Oregon and Oregon State, and again, the Oregon trip surprised Jalen and was a huge factor in his final decision to go there, as we liked it and felt like he fit in far more than he thought going in.
All of these visits were great for us as parents, as we got to see Jalen get excited when a visit really made a strong and positive impression, and again, to give us peace of mind sending Jalen off to college quite a distance from home.
It was bittersweet, though, knowing that because of the great experiences Jalen had at a few of these far away schools, that he would likely not be going to school and playing football anywhere near home.
And while it has been exciting traveling all over with Jalen to help him make this major decision, the reality of him leaving to play football and go to school for the first time nowhere near our family, probably won’t totally sink in until I get back on that last flight home from Oregon on Jan. 6.
This time without Jalen.
• Sarah Brown is the mother of Mountain Pointe wide receiver/defensive back Jalen Brown, who is headed to Oregon for college.