ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — For the second time in two years, April Justin stood on stage at Tropicana Field alongside family members wondering which pair of gloves her son would pull out of a bag.
Would her son, Karr standout defensive lineman Gerald Willis, choose LSU? Or would he choose Florida?
This time, much like in 2012, Justin wasn’t sure?
Willis had gone back and forth over the past 24 hours.
“I really didn’t know because he kept switching,” Justin said. “Last night it was Florida, then he woke up with LSU. Then he changed his mind on the way to the game back to Florida, then back to LSU.”
But when it was time to decide before a national TV audience during the Under Armour All-America Game, Willis chose the Gators, then did the Gator chomp.
Justin was able to manage a smile this time around though.
“I’m OK with it,” she said. “I’m just glad it’s over with. It was more relaxing this time because I got really familiar with the Florida Gators. I didn’t know anyone (with Alabama) last time.”
That wasn’t the case two years ago when her son, Landon Collins, shocked Justin, choosing Alabama over LSU. Her obvious disappointment that day made her one of the most famous recruiting moms ever. The video of her disappointment made her an instant Internet star.
This time around was much better, she says.
“I was more proactive this time,” she said. “Last time, I didn’t get involved until late in the process. I would have rather seen him in purple and gold, but I could tell when he first went to camp at Florida three years ago that he felt at ease there.”
As crazy as it may sound, it was an Alabama player (his big brother) who helped Willis finally make up his mind.
“The last person I talked to was Landon,” said Willis. “He just told me that I need to get out of Louisiana and see a different life. He told me the Gators defense fit me and I would be dominant at Florida.”
Willis, who will enroll at Florida in two weeks, was one of three players who announced Thursday and did not choose LSU. His Karr teammate, receiver Devante “Speedy” Noil, and Texas native Tony Brown also opted not to play in Baton Rouge. Noil chose Texas A&M and Brown chose Alabama.
St. Augustine running back Leonard Fournette, considered the nation’s top prospect, rescued LSU from what might have been the most disastrous recruiting day in Tigers history.
Fournette and safety Jamal Adams of Texas both committed to the Tigers.
“The good news for LSU is when it comes to addressing immediate needs, they came through with two of the best players in the country,” said Shea Dixon, recruiting analyst for 24/7 Sports.
Fournette and Adams boosted LSU from 10 to No. 5 in the recruiting rankings by 24/7.
“At the end of the day, everyone has their own paths to go,” Fournette said. “I am happy for Speedy and I’m happy for Gerald.”
So is Justin.
“I’m just glad it’s over with,” she said, shunned purple and gold gloves still in her hand.