Akiba Gilbert, mother of 5-star Arik Gilbert, shares her view on decision day
This is the big day for 5-star TE Arik Gilbert. The nation’s No. 1 TE for 2020 will share his college decision.
For prospects and their families, it is akin to Christmas Eve. Except they are handing out gifts, too. One of Gilbert’s five finalists will land the services today (a likely 3-year acquisition) of a rare Saturday prototype.
Looks like an NFL first-round DE or OLB. Has a heart for making big catches. Built like a first-round TE. Breaks off routes like an A-plus receiver.
The 6-foot-5, 253-pound senior (Marietta High/Marietta, Ga.) announced five finalists abruptly on Tuesday morning. He will make his decision known sometime in the six o’clock hour on Wednesday from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
He’ll be on hand to receive his All-American Bowl with 11 other Atlanta-area standouts. His decision ceremony will take place prior to that.
— Arik Gilbert (@arik_gilbert) October 22, 2019
What was last night like for his family? His mother, Akiba, granted DawgNation a chance to chronicle her views as her son prepares to make his decision.
“I thought it was really far off when he was in the eighth grade,” she said. “But it is here. It is definitely here. It feels almost like graduation.”
What is the first big thing to know? That would be that this decision has been made. It was vetted. Hashed out. Chopped up.
The second? She doesn’t care to know what that decision is. She’s one of very few college football fans in regard to that today.
“Truthfully, I don’t want to know until he reveals to everyone else,” she said. “I feel my role is to just give him the right things to think about while he makes his decision.”
That’s because Gilbert is an educator. She’s always instilled the degree is going to come first in this. That’s the way it has always been since he picked up his first offer from UGA right in that summer span between middle school and high school way back in 2016.
What did she feel his final decision came down to?
“Core criteria number one was the school,” she said. “Did it feel like the right fit? Did the football program fit with his relationship with the coaches? Did he feel he would be utilized the right way in that program? I feel like those were the key things here.”
Arik Gilbert: A few interesting things about today’s decision
Let’s step through these as quickly as Gilbert glides down the field.
- The decision was not finalized as of late Tuesday evening. He was still processing things.
- When he decides, this will be it. Gilbert and his family are the antitheses of a family that will entertain, stomach or even tolerate a flipped commitment.
- Georgia got the last official visit. That was by design. The Gilbert family hoped to give the program the last at-bat out of respect to the way assistant Dell McGee and head coach Kirby Smart have represented UGA through a three-and-a-half-year process.
- The Bulldogs requested that last official. The family wanted to honor that.
- Gilbert plans to graduate early and enroll in January as a mid-year prospect for his next team.
- The family is grateful for the opportunity to visit with the many great coaches, administrators, programs and staffers during their walk to this decision. Team Gilbert is blessed and grateful for that.
- There have been many youthful moments in this recruitment where Gilbert was ready to make an impulse decision and commit to a certain school. Or schools. The 5-star prospect was able to receive counsel from his family and inner circle to not be in a rush to make those commitments.
- This should be not regarded as stress-filled recruitment. Gilbert’s personality is not wired that way. The first stressful night might have been Tuesday night.
- Which Georgia staffer made the biggest impact during that Kentucky official visit? That was offensive coordinator James Coley.
What did Coley say?
“He just really kind of emphasized that Georgia was home,” she said. “I really think it was a moment that he really started to think about how that looks for him in the future. In regard to staying at home and family being able to come to the game. But not just that. But being able to represent Georgia as an athlete.”
“I think that was probably one of the most memorable moments of the visit.”
What has happened over the last year with Arik Gilbert?
Alabama appears to be one of Gilbert’s top choices. The Crimson Tide received his first official visit back in June.
That SEC West giant is now the popular pick for his decision on the 247Sports “Crystal Ball” feature. It will come at approximately 6 p.m. today.
It seems the more Gilbert looked around, the more his scope seemed to change. A lot of that, his mother feels, had to do with his continuing maturity.
“He’s been fortunate enough to really enjoy the process,” she said. “As he has matured and made decisions about what he really wanted to see out of a school or a program, I think his choices didn’t necessarily get bigger. I think they became more purposeful. They just became a lot more intense and carried a lot more purpose in it.”
This process once focused on which schools gave him the best experiences on visit days. It evolved into trying to find the school which would best shape his future.
“Everyone might look to this as areas where Arik has found a lot of stress deciding over all of this, but I think it has been more about gratitude,” she said. “He’s been grateful to just have all these options and receive all of this attention from these elite schools. When you take that perspective, I think all the stress kind of disappears.”
The appeal with Alabama also can’t be ignored.
“I think the thing with Alabama is how could anybody discount them,” she said. “They are legendary. Coach [Nick] Saban and what he has done with that program has been tremendous. I think that you just can’t exclude them from the conversation.”
Arik Gilbert: The Georgia pitch
Did Georgia do everything it could to try to land Gilbert? That’s what the DawgNation reader still hopes to learn by this point of the narrative.
She shared her view on that topic.
“I think so,” she said. “I definitely think so. You have to look at all of this. We are going back to the summer before the beginning of his ninth-grade year. That was the first time we met Coach Smart and Coach McGee. Man, that relationship has been going for three and a half and almost four years solid.”
“I think there’s a real bond. A real connection. I think that’s something that goes outside of just football and recruiting.”
The Bulldogs tried to show exactly how he would be used on the visit. While she shared that she doesn’t really know the Xs and Os of everything the Bulldogs had for him, she conveyed the general idea.
“They were showing him exactly how he would be used,” she said. “Not just from a hypothetical situation but guys they are actually playing right now and that are making plays for them right now. How he would line up. Where he would line up in different manners. … I can’t get into all the football stuff, but I think he liked what he saw.”