Dorian Thompson-Robinson from Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) is ranked among the top 50 prospects in the Class of 2018 and the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback. He will announce his college destination on Sunday between Michigan and UCLA. His mother, Dr. Melva Thompson-Robinson, is a professor at UNLV, the director for the Center for Health Disparities Research, and the Social and Behavioral Health Program Coordinator. She got a window into football recruiting through her son and is sharing her thoughts about the process and more with USA TODAY Sports. This is her second edition of her diary.
So, let me tell you, if December, January, and February weren’t eye openers for me during Dorian’s recruiting process, his unofficial visits have been. He can’t do anything official until September 1, so everything to this point has been unofficial. But I can assure you, Dorian is officially a popular young man.
And while I know there are coaches salivating at the thought of landing a skilled dual-threat quarterback, I have my priority list and I would say there are several things in general I’m looking for in a school. One of which must be that they have to have a major medical school there, so in the event there is an injury, he can be immediately taken care of.
UCLA obviously has that. And when you drive in on Westwood Plaza, you go right past the medical school and hospital.
Now, we have had a relationship with the offensive coordinator, Jedd Fisch, when he was at Michigan. He was primarily the one recruiting Dorian when he was at Michigan, and now at UCLA. And the thing I can say about UCLA, is they really took time to do their homework, and not only learn about him, but also about me. For example, they brought a professor in to talk to me to discuss the work she does and being a faculty member on campus, because the work we both do is in similar areas. They also brought in a professor to talk to Dorian about the dental school and just in general being at UCLA. So, in terms of our visit with UCLA, those were some of the big things.
Everybody obviously shows you facilities, and they show you their locker rooms and their jerseys. So, after a while, football fields don’t change that much. And yes, everybody’s locker room is a little bit different, but it’s still a locker room. It’s kind of those extra things that people do that are impressive.
When we visited UCLA the last time, Coach Jim Mora was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, so he kept trying to call on Fisch’s cell phone to talk to Dorian. They sent a couple of pictures from Kilimanjaro for us to see, and he ended up leaving a message with Fisch so Dorian could hear him talk about how important he was to UCLA football.
Now, fast forward to Spring Break, when a lot of kids – including some of Dorian’s friends – are getting to relax on beaches, and here we are traveling around the country to visit three schools: North Carolina, South Carolina, and the big trip to Ann Arbor.
We arrived in North Carolina on the Tuesday, after flying all night on a red-eye, and went straight out to our visit. They showed us all around and toured their dental school with their person that oversees admissions and minority student recruitment. We saw their weight facilities and training facilities. We had some good talk with the quarterback coach about their offense and how they run plays and different conversations about their academics and we ended the evening by eating dinner with them.
They have a coach there – their running backs coach DeAndre Smith – who used to coach at UNLV and has a son who goes to Bishop Gorman. So, it wasn’t just talking about North Carolina football and us, it was a little more conversational. I found the touring of the dental school to be very informative, because I’m not as familiar with the academic side of dental school and what happens and what goes on. We were able to walk into a lab where they were doing testing, and really see how they do hands-on dental education. The head coach, Larry Fedora, wasn’t on campus that day so we ended up Skyping with him so we could have an initial conversation and ask questions. So, that was a good visit.
Wednesday, we visited South Carolina. And that was a little bit of a different visit for us. I was born in Columbia, so was Dorian. Our families are from South Carolina. So, there was some sentimental value. It’s changed a lot since we were there last and it was interesting to see the changes. Looking around, for example, the building I had most of my classes as a doctoral student is no longer the School of Public Health. The School moved down the street and somebody else is in that building, and it was kind of like: “Why are they in my building where I used to have classes?” So, it was a little eye-opening to see how much it has changed.
We ate lunch with them first, then did a tour of campus. I attended the University of South Carolina, almost 20 years ago, working on my doctorate. It’s changed a lot since I was there, so it was interesting to see the changes. They showed us their dorms that they have specifically for the athletes, that are being paid for by athletics. We went through their academic presentation and speaking with their associate athletic director. We went to the football facility and talked to them about everything. Dorian talked football with the quarterback coach Kurt Roper, we talked with the head coach, Will Muschamp. We had a good conversation with them about their program and where they’re at.
Thursday morning, we flew up to Detroit and then drove over to Ann Arbor. We did our Michigan trip with Brevin Jordan and his family. Friday morning, we went to Schembechler Hall for our initial visit, and you come in and tell the receptionist you’re there to see the recruiting people. And when we told them who we were, honestly, it was like they rung a cowbell. Coaches just start coming out of the woodwork. By the time everybody got downstairs, there were probably like a dozen coaches standing around greeting us and talking to us, including Norv Turner, because his son is now on staff at Michigan. Coach Jim Harbaugh was there, in fact he started us on our tour. They have two indoor fields, two outdoor fields, the locker rooms, coaches’ offices, and things like that. We toured all of that and had lunch.
We were supposed to tour the dental school, but Dorian decided he would rather talk with Pep Hamilton, who is their passing game coordinator, and talk football. Except during the meeting, it wasn’t just us and Coach Hamilton, Norv Turner is sitting there, one of the current quarterbacks was there and then Coach Harbaugh came in and watched and talked with Dorian. As it turned out, Coach Hamilton said they ran something very similar to what Dorian is used to, they just call it something different. So, it’s a lot of the same offense, just called something different by different teams, and that made Dorian feel a little bit better.
We sat with Coach Harbaugh for another meeting, and he was able to show us a depth chart and break it down from scholarship players, to walk-on players and see where everyone was at. He went through and explained who was there and what he was expecting, how many people they’re recruiting for their 2018 class, so it was nice to hear but also see it visually, where you can look at the actual board and have it laid out in front of us. We then toured the Big House, and the locker room, and they had jerseys with No. 14 and No. 9 laid out for both Dorian and Brevin. They had all the Jordan gear the players get, the gloves they get, the shoes they get – everything was explained in depth, in terms of what they get if they attend Michigan. Some of the shoes and boots are limited editions, and because they’re made specifically for Michigan, some of these are worth $10,000 a pair. We were very surprised by that. That was a little bit different than what we had seen.
So now we have gameday, it’s time to attend the Spring Game. This was an experience!
When we came in, they had a brunch for the recruits, and also for players’ families and other people from athletics. We came in and paid for our brunch and the coaches were around a little bit. Other people I knew from athletics were there, and we got to talk with them. We were supposed to have dinner with some of the dental faculty the night before, but didn’t, so they came out that morning and had brunch with us. That made for great conversation. Once that was over, they loaded us up on buses and drove us to the Big House. And this is where everything came full circle for me, in seeing just how popular Dorian has become. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure whether to be proud, happy, or nervous about all these people knowing who about my son.
I’m trying to figure out where we’re supposed to be going, and the next thing I know Dorian is standing there taking a picture with a fan. And slowly, more and more people are walking up to him asking him for autographs, and at this point I’m still like, “whatever.” We have to get in there, and figure out where we’re going. We end up going in through the tunnel, and down on to the field, and while I’m talking to some people, Dorian is off talking to other recruits and at one point I look around and it’s like he’s at an NFL game and he was an NFL player, just standing there signing his autograph. I was kind of like: “Woah! That wasn’t what I expected.”
We had to walk around the end zone to get to the other side of the field, and as we’re walking around, people are literally chanting: “D-T-R! D-T-R! D-T-R!” and “DOR-EE-UHN! DOR-EE-UHN! DOR-EE-UHN!” One fan had Michigan tattooed on one forearm, and Wolverines on the other, and was telling Dorian: “This is where you need to go, this is where it’s at baby!” When he and Brevin went to the concession stand, they were mobbed by fans for pictures and autographs. On Twitter, people are posting thank you tweets to Dorian for pictures and autographs.
This was a little crazy, to say the least.
When the game was over, we walked back to the tunnel, and Dorian was kind of behind me and suddenly, a fan leaned over the rail and yelled “D-T-R!” And it was like that the rest of the way out of the stadium. We ended up walking back to Schembechler Hall, and decided to get something to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings right there on campus, and people walking through the restaurant knew who he was. And at one point, a little kid got his autograph and looked at his dad as they walked away and asked: “well who was that?” And his dad replied: “That’s the future Michigan quarterback.”
Even when we got back to the car at Schembechler Hall, after we ate, people came running up before Dorian could even get in the car, looking for an autograph or to get a picture with him. Needless to say, we were all wowed by the entire experience. It’s more what you would expect for a college star or NFL player. Not a high school junior who has never started a varsity football game.
What I think I learned most during this entire recruiting process, and something I can take pride in feeling and knowing about my son, is he’s still very humble through all of that. He is still very respectful of people—from the little kids, to the adults, anyone who wanted pictures, autographs, etc.—he was very patient, very humble and didn’t let it go to his head or anything. So, I was very proud of him for that, and really handling himself as an adult.