LANDON COLLINS, the nation's top-ranked high school safety, rides shotgun in an old Jeep Cherokee headed toward his mother's house in Harvey, La. Collins is not pleased with his mom. Four days ago, on Jan. 5, at the Under Armour All-America Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., he became the most recognized recruit in the country, and not because of the interception and touchdown-saving goal-line tackle he made that night. Collins is famous because his mother upstaged him, on live TV, in the biggest moment of his life.
In the fourth quarter of the game, with Collins' family and friends crowded around him on a makeshift stage, ESPN's Dari Nowkhah asked the 18-year-old senior what school he would attend; he had narrowed the choice to LSU and Alabama. Nervous, excited, Collins drawled out an "I'm gonna go 'Roll Tide, Roll.'" His mother, April Justin, sitting next to him, placed a hand on her temple and shook her head. As the rest of Collins' family tried to applaud the awkwardness away, Nowkhah put the mic on Justin.
"There was not a lot of joy here," he said. "Can I ask why?" With a defiant look, she replied, "I feel LSU is a better place for him to be. LSU Tigers No. 1." Then she held up her index finger.
Collins, unsure of what else to do, fit his hands into Alabama football gloves and made a diamond, showing the calligraphic "A" on each palm. His mom saw the LSU gloves that Landon had left on the table and, eyeing the camera mischievously, picked them up and jiggled them for everyone to see. Meanwhile, Jamie McQuarter-Collins, Landon's stepmother, reached across Justin to hug him. Landon's father, Thomas Collins, standing off camera, strode into view and embraced his son. But during the roughly two minutes on air, there was no hug between April and Landon.