It's so easy to look past the fact that recruits are actual human beings. It really is. Just look at the way we treat them.
16 or 17-year-old kids that we do not know at all, whom we bombard with tweets and mock-ups and praise and adulation all in the name of serving our own purpose, completely devoid of what that kid's actual desires and hopes might be. We work hard to convince them to come to Syracuse because we want them to come to Syracuse, even if that's not in their best interest. We don't really care about their best interests. We care about ours.
So lost in that shuffle is the fact that the decisions these kids make are the end result of a process that begins in their personal lives which we are not privy to. We really don't know what it's like for these kids at home. We don't know what makes them tick and what gets them out of bed in the morning. They might share some generic motivational talk to convince us they meet the minimum criteria we have for a "good kid" or a guy with "a good head on his shoulders" but we all know we're bullshitting ourselves.
He's playing the game. We're playing the game. Everyone's playing the game. It helps us all sleep better at night.
So when Robert Washington decommited from the Syracuse Orange, it was easy for all of us to put the blame on him. He'd said all the right things, done all the right things, met our criteria...and now he's walking away? The nerve on this kid to get our hopes up! I was right there with everyone else wondering aloud if Washington lacked maturity.
Now comes news that Washington was actually homeless for a period while verbally-committed to SU. We've heard about the rift between Washington and his father for a while now but it seems like the No. 11 running back in the Class of 2016 was truly on his own while getting bombarded with hype and excitement from Syracuse fans, who, frankly, didn't really care what was happening in his personal life.
There's even more to the story, including promotional pictures that almost made Washington ineligible to play this season. Who knows what really happened there. But now Washington is back on track and playing for East Gaston in North Carolina. If he keeps his nose clean, he'll do fine and he'll end up playing somewhere in college. The road won't be easy for him but it sounds like that's something he's getting used to.
I still wouldn't say I know the whole story. I don't even know most of the details. But it just reminds me that there's always so much more to a story like this out there than we think we know. We think we can decipher a kid's entire life from a couple tweets and a quote. Clearly not.
Nothing will change in the big meat grinder that is college football recruiting. We'll keep trying to convince kids to attend Syracuse over Pitt because, well, because we're from Syracuse and they're from Pitt. We'll get way too excited about recruits when they commit and way too disappointed when they choose not to. Let's all just try to remind ourselves every once in a while that these are actual human beings, not just jersey filler.