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Commit to the G? How is Kirby Smart and his staff doing recruiting the families of UGA recruits?

What does Mom think? Mothers weigh in on UGA recruiting approach

Jeff Sentell

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. The budget for Monday calls for a “Mother Knows Best” overview. We found out what the mothers had to say about how UGA has gone about recruiting their sons. 

How does Georgia do in recruiting the families of the young men the football program hopes to sign? Those players are far more than just star rankings to their families.

They want their potential college options to feel that way, too.

DawgNation has put together a series of interviews with the mothers who have raised their sons into elite athletes. What do they think? How does UGA rate among the chief influencers in a prospect’s most trusted inner circle?

We’ll start with the mother of a prospect who is not committed to Georgia. Ruth Faalele, the mother of 3-star OT Daniel Faalele, lives in Australia. That’s a 23-plus-hour flight to Atlanta, so the initial impression and the official visit will clearly matter.

Faalele took his official to UGA for the Missouri game. It allowed Team Faalele to form a very powerful opinion of what Daniel’s football life would be like in Athens.

Ruth Faalele described UGA as “a flawless university.”

“UGA is a great college,” Faalele told DawgNation. “Their academic system and support are on point. Their football program is great and their facilities are great. UGA is, to me, a flawless university.”

Ruth Faalele referenced a tweet that her son sent out that said “Something ’bout them Dawgs” when she shared her feedback from that official.

https://twitter.com/DanielFaalele_/status/919721929942228994

“The whole UGA family left a massive impression on me,” she said. “Everything and everyone was on point. I cannot find any faults with this visit apart from wishing we had more time with the UGA family. The academic staff answered all my questions with ease. [Georgia provides] a very supportive atmosphere during and after college life. I love their proactive approach. [The] football coaches are just an amazing team of coaches.”

Faalele explained every detail she soaked up. That included what the team wears on gameday during the “DawgWalk” tradition.

“I love the professionalism on gameday,” Faalele said. “I’m looking forward to seeing my son in a suit.”

A mother’s view of an official visit

Ruth Faalele said it was too hard to single out her favorite parts of the UGA official. It was basically a tie between the gameday experience at Sanford Stadium and the chance to eat lunch with a former Georgia quarterback.

“He was just such fun company,” she said. “I haven’t laughed so hard like that in a long time.”

Justin Fields-UGA recruiting
5-star QB Justin Fields (left) has a word with UGA Director of On-Campus Recruiting Lukman Abdulai and coach Kirby Smart (right) prior to the Samford game. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

As part of the official visit, the Bulldogs were able to pay for two guests to accompany Daniel. The Faalele family then was able to pay for her younger son, Taylor, to also fly halfway across the globe to check out Georgia.

“Taylor and Daniel are very close and it was great that they were able to spend this experience together,” she said. “Taylor and Daniel look out for each other, so it was important that he came along, too.”

It was a mini-family reunion, but it seems like she had a deeper agenda for that trip.

“My plan for this visit and future official visits is to ensure the college has everything that Daniel will need to accommodate him through his college life and to prepare him well for after college life,” she said. “I can definitely tell you UGA ticked all the boxes for me.”

She then rolled off all the areas where she felt that UGA deserves high marks.

“Their academic programs and support, football family, strength and conditioning program, nutrition program, recovery facilities [and] living facilities, plus more, were much more than what I expected, and my expectations when it comes to my boys are very high,” she told DawgNation.

Her remarks also included a very big thumbs-up for Lukman Abdulai. Abdulai serves as the Director of On-Campus Recruiting for the football team.

“Lukman runs a tight ship,” she said. “His staff was on point.”

She went on to describe all of her hosts by name. She remembered all of their first names even after the jet lag from that long flight home.

“These hosts were the best fun,” she said. “Overall it was such an awesome official visit. More than what I expected and I wish we had a lot more time. We didn’t want to leave. I have comfort knowing if Daniel were to choose UGA he will be looked after well.”

Gina Tobey: The mother of 5-star QB commit Justin Fields 

Justin Fields will be the highest-rated recruit UGA will sign in its 2018 class. The 5-star prospect from Harrison High in Metro Atlanta ranks on the 247Sports composite as the nation’s top overall recruit.

But where did his mom rank Georgia?

“I think that they were the best,” Gina Tobey said on his commitment day. “To be honest with you, but I haven’t been on all the visits. But I had been on enough. … I went to Alabama last weekend.”

Justin Fields-UGA recruiting
Justin Fields (left) sat next to his mother, Gina Tobey, at an unofficial visit to UGA for the Samford game. (Jeff Sentell/Dawgnation)

Tobey is in sales. So she knows what a polished pitch should look and feel like.

“Keep in mind that we had done a lot of unofficial visits, tons of them,” she said. “We went to so many different schools. We went to Duke and Tennessee. And we went to Auburn, FSU and Florida. The only difference if we would have kept going on more official visits is that they would have been paying for it.

“Georgia just seemed to have the overall best plan and best programs in place to help Justin succeed.”

Fields has had the benefit of two very trustworthy women in his life. Jo Ann Claudrick Fields, his stepmother, is also an attorney.

Nicole Henry: The mother of 5-star target KJ Henry

KJ Henry, a 5-star defensive end, just took an official visit to Virginia Tech. His first official visit was to UGA.

Henry was in town to see the Bulldogs take their first big step as a SEC contender with a rousing home win versus Mississippi State. Prior to that, the last time the Henry family took a trip to see the Bulldogs play was a tough homecoming game loss to Vanderbilt in 2016.

Nicole Henry feels the Bulldogs “have matured” and now “seem to be a lot more settled” than they were during Kirby Smart’s first season.

KJ Henry-UGA recruiting
KJ Henry will make his college decision known on Dec. 20. He’s another 5-star recruit that the Bulldogs are chasing. (Jeff Sentell/Dawgnation)

“I could feel a good vibe with the visit, the coaches and the staff,” Nicole Henry said. “Coach Smart was very upfront with KJ and I appreciated that. He didn’t sugarcoat anything and he kept it real with him. I think that’s what you need to do with young people these days.”

Henry understands the life of a college athlete very well. Keith Henry — her husband and KJ’s father — is in his 25th season as an assistant college football coach.

He was an assistant at Wake Forest for 11 of those seasons. Keith Henry is now the running backs coach at UNC-Charlotte.

“Everybody wants to hear [they’re] going to come in and start and get playing time,” Nicole Henry said. “Coach Smart said, ‘Listen, you have got to work for it. The opportunity is there. But you are going to have to work for it. It is not going to be given to you.’ And he said, ‘You have a good chance at playing time and a good chance of this and a good chance of that, but the key to your success will be coming in and working hard,’ and I was glad he presented things to him like that.”

Angel Johnson: The mother of 4-star OLB commit Adam Anderson

Angel Johnson, the mother of elite outside linebacker commit Adam Anderson, said that Georgia was always going to have a very good shot because it was the school that is the closest to their home in Rome.

Adam Anderson-UGA recruiting
Adam Anderson is now the third-highest rated commitment for UGA in 2018. He’s the highest-ranked 4-star for the Bulldogs in the class. (Jeff Sentell/Dawgnation)

“At first he thought he wanted to go to that other school [LSU] but then he thought about it and it was too far,” Johnson said. “He then said he wanted to go to a school a little closer to home. I thought that was a good decision, but I was with him in whatever choice he decided to go to.”

Johnson also gave her thumbs-up.

“I’ve been to Georgia,” she said. “I went up there on a visit. It is a very nice school. I liked it. I can see him really succeeding up there.”

“Georgia seems to have a good plan for Adam.”

Anderson is a very mature and respectful young man. She raised him as a single mother despite some serious adversity in their family as he grew up. 

Miss any Intel? The DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to speed faster than Georgia All-American candidate Roquan Smith can find the football after the snap.