SAN ANTONIO – Mike and Natasha Juarez’s baby boy is all grown up.
At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Mique Juarez is one of the most coveted high school football players in the nation.
Named after his father and nicknamed “Mique” by his parents, the native of Torrance, Calif., is rated as the second-best linebacker in the Class of 2016 and the nation’s 16th overall prospect by 247Sports.
Like so many athletes in this New Media Age, Juarez’s every word and picture on Facebook, Twitter and Instragram are scrutinized by fans, reporters and coaches in hopes of learning what university he will choose. The personable Juarez doesn’t mind all the attention, but he does worry at times for loved ones – his and those of his fellow recruits.
“I think it’s kind of heartbreaking for parents seeing the way that fans kind of go far with the way they talk bad about an athlete,” Juarez said. “I think it’s kind of heartbreaking for the parents to see that, but they are just fans.”
Many fans are following Juarez’s words closely this week as he prepares for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday at the Alamodome.
Juarez announced Monday that he is no longer considering USC and that UCLA and Mississippi are his top two choices. On Wednesday, he added that he is still considering Alabama.
“I’m still undecided,” Juarez said. “I’m not leaning toward any school. With Ole Miss and UCLA, I can go eeny meeny miny moe with any of those schools. They are great programs that I enjoy and I feel would be right for me. If I like Alabama, I like Alabama. If not, I have these two schools to look.”
The Crimson Tide could join the list of favorites following Juarez’s official visit on Jan. 22.
“What I really like about (Alabama) is the ‘D’ tackles for us linebackers to not get touched and open the holes to make plays,” he said. “So, I really think that’s a very good consideration for why I would to play for Alabama.”
Juarez has turned to his dad and uncle, Jason, who both played at Harbor College in Wilmington, Calif., for advice during this long and exhaustive recruiting process. The best advice they have imparted to the 18-year-old from North High School is that where he goes to college is about him and no one else.
“Even though they’ve been giving me the guidance, they’ve been supporting me, they tell me, ‘You make the best choice for yourself and if you like it, you like it,’ ” Juarez said. “It’s been giving me less stress and less pressure. Really it’s just my decision on what I want to do.”
Juarez expects to announce his final decision on Feb. 3 during National Signing Day.
One thing is certain no matter which university Juarez attends, he is going to miss his mother – just ask her.
“She’s always telling me that I’m going to miss her,” Juarez said. “She’s just being a mom. She knows how it’s going to be. She’s just trying to go with the process and accept the fact that I’m leaving.”
In the end, Natasha Juarez just wants one thing for her baby boy turned monstrous linebacker.
“She just wants me to be safe and taken care,” Juarez said.