The family of 2016 US Army All-American outside linebacker/defensive end Erick Fowler has a clear preference -- they want their son to remain close to home and play for the Texas Longhorns, Fowler told the Austin American-Statesman.
The statement confirms previous reports about about the family inclinations of the LSU Tigers commit, who pledged to head coach Les Miles and his staff back in June of 2015. Left to his own devices, Fowler might stick with his original decision, but he wants to see if Texas "can offer more than LSU" when he visits on January 15.
In one large sense, the Horns can offer more than the Tigers -- head coach Charlie Strong can offer Fowler the opportunity to have a happy mother for the next three or four or five years. Strong can offer Fowler the opportunity to play in front of her every home game.
Proximity often makes a huge difference in recruitments when families want to keep their son close to home. Such considerations helped Malik Jefferson eliminate UCLA in late 2014 and 2016 Under Armour All-American offensive tackle Jean Delance became the most recent Texas commit in no small part because his family wanted him to stay in the state instead of leave for Michigan or LSU.
Just listen to the reaction from Delance's family when he announced his decision on ESPN2:
That's the sound of genuine happiness from a lady who just got what she wanted.
If there's one area where Strong has found virtually unqualified success at Texas, it's in winning over the parents of recruits. So if there are still those who question the wisdom of dismissing all those players in 2014, these are the moments those decisions pay off. If there are still those who want to poke fun at Strong's core values, these are the moments when his commitment to enforcing those core values pays off.
When Strong sits down in the living rooms of parents and looks them in the eye, he's able to convince them, with the aid of proximity, that he's the best person to turn their sons into men. It's not about a helicopter or DJs or barbers, it's about selling the substance of personal development and the power of proximity.
The positive on-field results have been too few and far between to provide a major recruiting boost. Yet, in the efforts to keep the top prospects in the state of Texas, even SEC cachet can't always overcome parents wanting their sons to stay in the state of Texas. And the continually diminishing returns compared to the talent compiled in College Station is increasingly making Austin look like a better choice, even with Strong's own tenuous situation.
Perhaps Fowler will follow in the footsteps of the notorious decision from Landon Collins and ignore the wishes of his family. But a better bet is that mama gets what she wants.