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College football moms: The year in review

What a year for moms in college football! Happy Mothers' Day, everyone.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a great year for moms in college football. On this Mothers' Day, let's look back at the best of football moms from the past twelve months.

Inspiring Moms

Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had an excellent 2012 season, leading the Cardinals to a Big East championship and Sugar Bowl win over Florida. He's a preseason Heisman Trophy contender for 2013 and potential top draft pick in 2014. Bridgewater's mom, Rose Murphy, has been at his side throughout, an amazing feat given that she was diagnosed with breast cancer when Teddy was 14.

Bridgewater had designs on football and entered Miami Northwestern High in 2007 with plans to play receiver. Around the same time, Murphy received her cancer diagnosis, and Bridgewater began to re-evaluate his priorities:

"I was the last child in the household, so I basically just wanted to give up everything and take care of her because she couldn't work, and I was asking questions like, 'How would the bills get paid?'" Bridgewater recalled. "It was hard because in a situation like that, you want someone else to be around to help provide for her."

Murphy planned to keep her job as a transportation supervisor for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, so she told Bridgewater not to concern himself with finances. She wanted him to focus on football.


Her treatments went on for months, during football season. Her hair fell out, she lost her appetite, her legs were weak with fatigue. Her whole body ached. But Rose Murphy went to work every morning. And she refused to miss a game. She was there, every Friday night, her fortitude fighting the poison trying to destroy her.

"I know being there gave him strength," Murphy said. "I always tell him he's my biggest inspiration, and he always tells me I'm his biggest inspiration. I always tell him we can inspire each other."

Murphy has been cancer-free since 2008, and Teddy is just a year or two away from buying her that pink Escalade.

Then there are the moms who help others, who take their own experiences and try to comfort another person in the same situation. Take Karen LeGrand, mother of former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand. Eric suffered a spinal cord injury in October 2010 that left him paralyzed (he has since regained some movement, but remains in a wheelchair). When Karen heard of a similar injury to Tulane safety Devon Walker, she reached out through the school and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Walker is also limited to a wheelchair, but is undergoing physical therapy and plans to return to school in the summer or fall.

Protective Moms

There is one universal rule: Do not mess with mama bear's cubs. A fan critical of Southern Miss quarterback Anthony Alford found out the hard way:

Lawanda Ann Alford became so irate at a fan berating her son's play in a loss to Marshall that she went on a tirade ending with her arrest.

According to the Hattiesburg American, Alford, 38, was booked into the Forest County Jail on Saturday on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. She was ordered to leave the stands after getting into a shouting match with a fan who reportedly ripped her son during the game.

As the report points out, Alford previously came out of the stands and onto the field during a Southern Miss baseball game when Anthony was thrown out for arguing with an umpire and had to be escorted from the stadium. Instinct is a hard thing to break.

Then there is Dee Dee Bonner, mother of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, who took her protective trait to Twitter to shoot down news of an alleged injury to her son:

Bonner's protective instinct wasn't limited to her own cubs. When a comment by Brent Musberger during the BCS National Championship game put McCarron's girlfriend, Katherine Webb, in the national spotlight, Bonner jumped in to defend her cubs' significant other from an absurd media firestorm:

Bonner did say the reaction to the relationship between the Alabama quarterback and the former Miss Alabama USA was a bit of a surprise, but one they understand.

"Of course, she's getting negative press, people saying she's asking for this," Bonner said. "The only thing this poor baby did was come to a ballgame to see her boyfriend play. She hasn't asked for any of this. AJ hasn't asked for any of this. It's evolved."

Mom stays protective even when the cub is a fully-grown man, with a family and a job as, say, the head coach of the University of Tennessee football program:

"I think Derek went to Tennessee and the cupboard was really bare. It was bare, bare," [Barbara Dooley] said. "So I think he's done a really good job of recruiting his own players in there. But it's just going to take time. I hope the fans realize you can't snap your finger and do it. They look at [Nick] Saban, who had tremendous success at LSU and tremendous success at Alabama, but the cupboards were full there. They just needed somebody to point them in the right direction. This is a whole different situation and I think the Tennessee people realize it."


Barbara was asked if she was concerned about her son's job security.

"Of course I'm worried," she said. "I was worried when Vince was coaching. Are you kidding?"

Unfortunately for Barbara and Derek, Volunteer fans didn't realize that he could not snap his fingers and make the Vols a winner, but it was not for lack of support at home.

Nosy Moms

Sometimes, mom knows too much about her child and cannot follow team protocol. Such was the case this year when Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel suffered a shoulder injury and head coach Will Muschamp wanted to keep it close to the vest. It did not work out quite the way that Muschamp had planned, thanks to one Mary Driskel:

Mary Driskel told USA TODAY Sports her son told her he injured his left, non-throwing shoulder in drills on Sunday and woke up sore on Monday.

She said Driskel did not practice on Monday or Tuesday. He is expected to return on Wednesday.

The school also downplayed the significance of the injury.

"Jeff was at practice today and will be taking reps at practice Wednesday," Florida coach Will Muschamp said in a statement.

Intuitive Moms

Mom has a sixth sense: Whether it be intuitively knowing which kid took a cookie from the cookie jar, or whether her child is really sick or playing hooky, Mom somehow just knows. Occasionally, that intuition carries over to the future of her child's football team:

On the very day Notre Dame safety Matthias Farley verbally committed to ND in the spring of 2010, his mother, Falinda, had a premonition that she shared with him.

"I told him, 'Matthias, you know I don't know anything about college football, but I believe in the years you are at Notre Dame they will get a national championship!' " Falinda related via e-mail.


"Your mom will always say things to encourage you, so you don't always take heed," said the Charlotte (N.C.) Christian High product, who is in just his fourth season of organized football. "I kind of let it go. 'Whatever mom.' It was pretty crazy."

It's unknown whether Farley's mom was able to foresee the dominance of Alabama's offensive and defensive fronts. If she had, she might not have been so adamant about that prediction.

Recruiting Moms

It was a banner year for moms in recruiting. The unquestioned winner of Recruiting Mom 2013 was Andrea McDonald, the mother of five-star halfback Alex Collins, who so opposed her son's decision to go to Arkansas that she stole his letter of intent minutes before his Signing Day ceremony:

After Collins' dad signed the letter of intent on his son's behalf, McDonald threatened legal action, reportedly because she preferred he stay close to home at Miami. "Let him go," Collins' dad counseled. McDonald's lawyer wasn't so succinct:

"Ms. McDonald understands that Alex has received consent from his father who has signed the letter-of-intent for him ... to play football for the University of Arkansas. However, our client's initial intentions remain unchanged. ... She is a loving and caring mother who only wants her son to choose a university without any outside and inappropriate influences ... Ms. McDonald hopes all NCAA rules and regulations were followed during today's signing. ... She is not seeking any personal financial gain because her only concern is for Alex's happiness and well being. ... The Cochran Firm is standing by Ms. McDonald in this difficult time ... and has made all of the firm's resources available to her as she explores her options."

Andrea McDonald wasn't the only mom to get involved in her son's recruitment this season. Top-rated linebacker Matthew Thomas was one of the final five-star recruits to choose a college. It turned out the final decision, to attend Florida State over USC, wasn't his to make:

Josh Newberg: At what point did you know you were going to sign with Florida State?

Matthew Thomas: Well I decided that morning (Signing Day). The night before I was honestly thinking USC. I was trying to get the LOI and everything ready and signed first. But my mom didn't want to sign it. She didn't want me to go to USC.

JN: So if your mom would have signed the papers you'd be a Trojan right now?
MT: Yeah, I would have been a Trojan.

JN: Are you upset about that?
MT: No I think everything works out how it's supposed to. I'm going to make the best of my situation. It's not like I'm unhappy, I really like Florida State. It's not a problem, I'm happy with my decision.

The same thing happened to three-star linebacker Ed Williams, who is going to walk on at Texas Tech because his mom would not sign the letter of intent:

Williams, a three-star recruit, had wanted to sign with Texas Tech on National Signing Day, but as a minor he needed a parent to sign his Letter of Intent and his mother would not sign off. Just last week Williams said he didn't want to go to Tulane and planned to sign a financial aid agreement with the Red Raiders once he turned 18. "Right now things have been shaky, because my mother does not want me to go to Texas Tech," Williams told "She has her reasons, but I still prefer to be in Lubbock. She really wants me to go to Tulane, but I do not like it there."

Beverly Nkemdiche, mother of top recruit Robert Nkemdiche, publicly wished that her son would play football at Ole Miss. She had an excellent reason: Robert's older brother, Denzel, is a starting linebacker for the Rebels, and Beverly wanted her sons to play on the same team. She did not hold up the process or explicitly demand her son go to Oxford, but she publicly slammed the brakes when her son verbally committed to Clemson:

"His decision is not final," she says. "He's just a teenager, and people are forgetting that. We had never discussed Clemson, and I am unhappy with Clemson. I'm not there, so I don't know for certain, but I feel like Robert was pressured into this decision."

Beverly was ecstatic when Robert eventually chose Ole Miss over LSU:

"My wish was that my sons would play together," she said. "But up until last night, I wasn't sure if it was LSU or Ole Miss. But Robert came to me and said, ‘You got your wish, Mom.' When he said that, I jumped. He liked LSU, and he went there last week and, honestly, I was nervous about that, but I told him, ‘Whatever you want, I will support you. It doesn't have to be my wish.'"

Family loyalties certainly play into the recruiting mix; the son of an Auburn family doesn't want to disappoint his parents by choosing Alabama. That factor becomes more important when mom switches her allegiance just to keep her son close to home:

Five-star defensive end Kentavious Street was born and raised in Georgia -- dreaming of an offer from the school his mother cheered for, the Bulldogs. His house was divided because his father was a Florida State fan.

He has offers from both programs, but he could be in a difficult position because his mother has flipped her allegiance from the program they grew up rooting for to one closer to their Greenville (N.C.) Rose home.

At the Richmond stop of the Rivals Camp Series, Street said his mother has made her wishes known.

"My mom really wants me to stay in the state of North Carolina or go to (the state of) Virginia," Street said. "She really wants me to go to Virginia Tech."

Street said that her opinion will play a role, although he still favors Georgia.

"Really, it is just based off me," he said. "If my mom is not happy, I'll just have to do something for her."

We can't talk about recruiting without mentioning Mississippi State. Dan Mullen's staff is constantly innovating on the recruiting trail, and that innovation was not limited to the players themselves. In fact, just this week, Mullen sent a note to the mother of Chase Johnson, an offensive line recruit from Olive Branch, Mississippi:


That Mother's Day note was a nice gesture from Dan Mullen, a bit of innocuous contact with mom just to let her know her baby would be taken care of at Mississippi State. Of course, when boosters try to let mom know that she will be taken care of, it's a whole different kind of gesture:

"[Mississippi State booster Robert Denton Herrring] was trying his hardest to get Frank Herron, a 2013 recruit, to come to Mississippi State," [summer league coach Byron] De'Vinner said. "He asked me to call his mom and say if he committed to State he could get her a better job. He also told me if Brandon Hill, who did not qualify at Alabama, committed to State, he could get him eligible because of a Mississippi State booster that was a counselor in his school. It comes back to pimping kids. And I wouldn't do it."

NFL Draft Moms

Moms don't just care about where their kids go to college. When Graduation Day comes, mom wants to be sure her child has a good job in a stable company, preferably close enough to home that he can visit her frequently. The same goes for football moms. Sometimes, though, there aren't any football jobs close to home, as the mother of BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah found out:

Ansah's family is of course excited about his success, but according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Ansah's mother, Elizabeth Cole, asked BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall if there was a possibility that Ansah could be drafted by a team in Utah.

"As I was trying to explain the draft and how many teams there were, she even asked at one point, ‘Can he be drafted by the team in Utah?'" Mendenhall told the Detroit Free Press. "I explained we don't have a professional team in Utah."

Ziggy's mom gets a pass: The family is from Ghana, and Ansah grew up playing basketball. In fact, Ms. Cole is still trying to figure out what football is:

"We don't play football in Africa," Cole told the Associated Press. "I didn't know anything about football. When I'm watching the game, I am only watching Ziggy, not the game because I don't understand it."

My mom did the same thing for years, and she grew up in Nebraska.

Geno Smith's mom was celebrating a birthday on the first day of this year's NFL Draft. Many expected an NFL franchise to pick her son in the first round; after all, Geno had been a potential No. 1 selection just weeks earlier. Alas, it was Geno's year under the Green Room spotlight, as all 32 selections came and went without Smith's name being called. Geno sat stoically throughout. Sitting next to him was his mom, who had blasted those questioning his character the previous day:

Thursday is Tracy Sellers' birthday. Geno Smith's mother couldn't have imagined a better way to celebrate. But NFL teams weren't as interested in joining the party.

Smith spent Wednesday defending his character, saying anyone questioning him is questioning how he was raised and insulting his mother.

Sellers is wearing a bracelet, a surprise present from her son. The birthday gift is far from everyone's mind at the Smith table, though, as the fall continues.

Tracy had to wait for a day, but she eventually got her present: Geno was taken in the second round of the Draft by the New York Jets.

Marcus Lattimore was not in the Green Room on the first night of the Draft. Despite being one of the nation's best running backs when healthy, Lattimore was likely to fall into the Draft's final day due in large part to a horrific knee injury suffered in October. Lattimore was characteristically undeterred by his detractors. His mother, Yolanda Smith, was equally confident in his chances:

"It's not about football," Smith said. "I know Marcus isn't the greatest football player out there but for some reason, God's going to use him for greatness."


"As long as he continues on the path that he's been on," Smith explained. "Working hard and doing what he's instructed to do by the coaches, he's going to do well."

To all the football moms, the recruiting moms, the NFL Draft moms, and moms everywhere, Happy Mothers' Day.

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