- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
AUSTIN, Texas -- College coaches are not permitted to publicly discuss unsigned recruits, but Mack Brown couldn’t help himself Thursday. Texas’ latest commitment was so strange it bared mentioning.
"We had our first 2016 commitment the other day, so that's new for us,” Brown said. “We're so far ahead with 2015 recruits. Our guys are fighting hard with 2014 recruits. I think everything is at a better place right now than it was three years ago, and I'm proud of that."
Brown did not mention Reggie Hemphill by name. That, of course, is prohibited by NCAA rules. He won’t be to talk publicly about the Manvel (Texas) wide receiver for another 900 days, when Hemphill signs a letter of intent on Feb. 3, 2016.
Right now, the 6-foot-2, 168-pound receiver plans to sign with Texas. But the road ahead is going to be a long one for a boy who’s only a few days into his sophomore football season.
Years ago, Brown wouldn’t have taken a pledge from a recruit this young. But these are the concessions he must occasionally make to stay ahead.
“Things are changing, and all of us and all of our businesses are changing,” Brown said. “The ones that make it are the ones that change with it.”
That new philosophy still caught Hemphill and his family by surprise. Hemphill's mother, Denetria Mapps, spoke with HornsNation on Thursday about her son’s surprising commitment and what it means for his future.
HornsNation: How much did Reggie’s cell phone blow up when the news of his commitment got out?
Denetria Mapps: Oh my gosh, I had to be his secretary. It was so overwhelming that he gave me his cell phone. And he never does that. It happened so fast. As soon as we got off the phone with Mack Brown, the phone started ringing off the hook. We wanted to keep it kind of quiet. Next day at practice, everybody knew. It was just like, wow.
HN: I’m guessing the past few days have been crazy for your family. Were you more excited or nervous when he told you he wanted to commit?
Mapps: I kind of knew in my heart that he was going to choose. Growing up, we were always Longhorns fans. He would always say that he wanted to go to UT and Vince Young was one of the athletes he liked a lot. When he got older and coach [Kevin] Sumlin went to Texas A&M, his teammates kind of swayed him and he liked A&M.
But from the beginning, he always liked UT. The chance presented itself, he spoke to a couple people he respects and he talked to his coach and then asked me what I think. I’ve always told him: If I have to pay for you to go to school, you have to go where I say. If you earn it, it’s your choice. He earned it, and this was his choice.
HN: When this early recruiting process began, was it overwhelming?
Mapps: Yeah, it was. A lot of people were telling me what to expect and saying things like, ‘They’re going to tell you this, but it doesn’t mean nothing.’ They were saying Texas doesn’t offer kids that young. They’ll tell you you’re approved, but it doesn’t mean anything. When we went in, that was in my brain. But to hear those words and hear the coach say, ‘No, we want him here. The only problem we have is, he can’t play for us this year.’
I don’t know what’s going to come after this, but I talked to him and said, ‘Now that you did it so early, people are still going to try to sway you. You need to stick to your commitment.’ That’s probably my worst fear of what’s coming up, the other schools trying to persuade him to choose them instead.
HN: Are you glad that getting this commitment done now should mean few distractions in the next three years?
Mapps: It’s very much of a blessing. I was kind of worried how that would impact him, even with his grades. Even before the offer came, the reporters would be calling. I was worried about him getting sidetracked. I didn’t want him to get too Hollywood. Now he can focus.
HN: Do you worry about what all this attention will do for his ego by the time he’s a senior?
Mapps: Actually, I’m not. He’s always been the type of kid he is now. I tell him there’s always somebody better than you. You don’t want to take your gift for granted and have it be taken away. He’s never been cocky. When we’re around people and I start talking about his accomplishments, he’s always like, ‘Momma, can you hurry up?’ I’m not too concerned about him getting big-headed.
HN: Was Reggie as happy as you’d seen him in a while once he made that big decision?
Mapps: He had a smile on his face, but he was so calm. I think he was battling with, should he go ahead and choose now or should he wait? He’s more at ease now. When he has a lot of things on his mind, he bakes. He bakes cookies and cakes. So for the last week and a half, my house has smelled like cookies and cake. So I knew there was something on his mind. And then finally, after we had the talk, we haven’t had a cake since.