Q&A with mother of No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche

Beverly Nkemdiche is the mother of the nation’s undisputed No. 1 overall college football prospect, Grayson High School defensive end Robert Nkemdiche – who committed to Clemson last June.

Beverly Nkemdiche:

Beverly Nkemdiche: "“Every mother would want (their sons to play together). I don't want a case where they have games in two different states, and I will be running around like a rooster, or not go to one (game). Every parent would really want that. It's my wish for it to happen, but I'm not going to put pressure on anybody. If it happens, great. If it doesn't, OK." (Photo courtesy of Nkemdiche family)

The elder Nkemdiche caused some concerns among Clemson fans when she recently told ESPN the Magazine that she was “unhappy” with the Tigers and that she felt “like Robert was pressured into this decision.” Robert later told ESPN that “my mom wants me to go to Ole Miss” to play with his older brother, Denzel Nkemdiche, who is one of the SEC’s top young defenders.

Beverly, who resides in Nigeria and works in politics as a state legislator, flew to the U.S. for a few weeks to attend Robert’s Senior Night game against archrival Brookwood High School on Nov. 9. Beverly, along with Robert and many other family members, will go to UGA on Saturday to watch her older son, Denzel, who leads Ole Miss in tackles as a freshman linebacker.

Beverly Nkemdiche did a Q&A with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

What do you make out of the college football recruiting process in the U.S.? “It’s really a big deal in every country. It just depends. In Africa and most European countries, it’s soccer that gets all the recruitment buzz. But here in the U.S., it’s American football. To me, it’s a lot of hype. For Robert, to me, it’s just too much pressure, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a good thing in a way that a lot of people want him to come play for them. But for a teenager, I think it’s a lot of pressure — not just for Robert but for all teenagers that people are trying to recruit. But I guess it’s not the first time that this is happening. It has been here forever. So it’s really not that big of a deal.”

Both Denzel and Robert said you still wish for them to play together in college. Can you speak on that? “Every mother would want that. I don’t want a case where they have games in two different states, and I will be running around like a rooster, or not go to one (game). Every parent would really want that. It’s my wish for it to happen, but I’m not going to put pressure on anybody. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, OK. But I would really love for them to play together, as well as have the power of two — where two people come together and play as one. That is what I’m looking to see, where Denzel and Robert will come together and play a good game and good defense. But I’m not putting pressure on any one of them.”

So are you leaving it up to Robert to ultimately choose a college? “You asked me if that was my wish, and I answered you in a truthful way. It’s my wish but what will be will be. I’m not putting pressure on anybody. I would like for them to play together. It is a wish that I have. But it’s our understanding that Robert can go to any school that he wants to go to. But I know that he wants to play with his brother, too.”

How do you explain it to Robert about your wish for them to play together in college? “When they played together at Grayson, each game they played together was magical when they won and when they came together and play. I want to capture that again. I want to see that happen again. I wouldn’t want where one brother plays against another. I’m a mom. So regardless, I want to see both boys happy. If they play together, it would make more sense. The twins that play for UGA, they play together and they compliment one another. It’s the Ogletree twins, and they play together for UGA. I watched them this past week (against Florida) for the first time, and I kind of liked that. I want to see my boys play together like that, also. There’s nothing so wrong in a mother wanting both boys to play together. So I explained all of that to Robert.”

What do you like about Ole Miss? “I looked up their education program. I went to Ole Miss in July. I had a visit there. I looked up the academic aspect of it to see how they would care for the boys, to make sure they are doing their schoolwork. It’s not all about the football. I want my boys when they come out of college to have something other than football, something else to fall back on. If this doesn’t work out, then they will have their education. There’s no telling what will happen tomorrow. I’m not expecting anything wrong but they need to have to more than just football. So when I went to Ole Miss, I looked through all that. I talked to their dean of academics, and I talked to some of the instructors. So that got me to like Ole Miss.

What was your impression of Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze? “I like him. He is a good Christian man. I like him a lot. I’ve talked with him and I spoke with his wife. He’s a good man.”

Nkemdiche's mother says she has yet to talk to any Clemson coaches (AP)

Nkemdiche's mother says she has yet to talk to any Clemson coaches (AP)

What do you like about Clemson? “I’ve never been to Clemson. I’ve not talked to anybody from Clemson’s team. I don’t want to go there because that’s out of my way. There is nothing that would take me there. What took me to Ole Miss was Denzel. I haven’t been to any other school. Honestly, if Denzel was not at Ole Miss, I wouldn’t have gone to Ole Miss. My No. 1 team is Alabama. That’s one school I truly love, Alabama. But I don’t have child in Alabama to take me to Alabama. But my son is in Mississippi at Ole Miss. That’s what took me to Mississippi. So I’m not going to travel all over the place just to talk to coaches. No, I won’t. I’m not being cocky or anything. It’s just not in my schedule. I just went to Ole Miss to visit with my son. I had a wonderful opportunity there to talk with the coaches and the academic people, and that’s it.”

Why do you like Alabama? “Alabama has a good football team. And they’re solid. They have good academics. Right now, they are undefeated. And I’ve stayed in stayed in touch with their coach on Facebook. He is a good person. I like the school but again, I would prefer for Denzel and Robert to play together.”

What about UGA with it being 40 minutes away from Grayson? “Robert has not mentioned anything about Georgia to me. Saturday will be my first time I am going there. I went to college in Oklahoma. I came back to into Georgia to work. There is nothing about Georgia football team or university that I know about.”

Robert told ESPN that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is “trying to win my mom’s heart.” How is that coming along? “I have not spoken to the man, or the coach. We have not had the opportunity to communicate. I have not spoken to him. I think they sent a letter to Robert, but I haven’t gotten around to reading the letter. I don’t want to be distracted at this point. I’m going to go watch the game Saturday at UGA. But like I said, Clemson is out of the way for me. There is nothing that would take me there. It’s not like it’s a bad school or whatever. I haven’t been to Alabama either. I love Alabama but I haven’t been there and visited the school. Again, the only thing that took me to Ole Miss was Denzel.”

Would you be willing to talk to Clemson over the telephone if they reached out to you? “I would talk on the phone with Clemson, most definitely. It would be rude if I did not talk to them. No, no, no, I’m not like that. Some people think I hate Clemson but I don’t dislike any school. But the truth of the matter is that I have not had the opportunity to talk with them, and I don’t want to travel around just to go see a school. No, I don’t have that time to do all of that. The little time I have, I want to spend it with my children here. Like next week, I’m going to Ole Miss again to see my son.”

What about the report that Clemson may fly to Nigeria to visit with you in person? “No, I have not been told that. My husband told me he heard that somewhere. Like I told you, I haven’t had any contact with Clemson so I can’t say whether or not it’s true. If it is something that they are thinking about, they have not communicated it to us in that regard. And I do not think it’s necessary for any college to come see me in Nigeria.”

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Why do you think Robert likes Clemson so much? “I don’t know. I don’t know if he’s so attached to them. I’m not sure. Again, I can’t say. He has not expressed to me that he truly, truly wants to be there. When we talk about it, I will say how important it is for him to play with his brother. I’m not going to hide how I feel about wanting both boys to play together. If that makes me a bad person, so be it. I want my boys to play together, period. He has not expressed too much that he wants to go to Clemson, or that I’m stopping him from doing it. That has not been the case. I’ve read in the media how the mom swears up and down that he will not go to Clemson and all that. I’m not really concerned about what everybody else says. But if they were in my shoes, they want the same thing for their child. Like I explained to Robert, I want you to go where you want to go, but this is what I would prefer. And, as a family, when it comes down to it, family should come together. And I left it at that. Come February, he’s going to make up his mind and sign. To me, a verbal commitment that they said he made to Clemson is nothing. To me, that will not hold water until he signs the dotted line in February. That’s when we will know. The media will always discuss and say whatever they feel like saying. It’s a free world, it’s free speech, and they can write whatever. But the truth of the matter is when comes down to it, the family comes together and makes the decision.”

When Beverly Nkemdiche asked his son about his commitment

Beverly Nkemdiche: "I'm not going to hide how I feel about wanting both boys to play together. If that makes me a bad person, so be it. I want my boys to play together, period. He has not expressed too much that he wants to go to Clemson, or that I'm stopping him from doing it. That has not been the case."

Why do you think Robert made the verbal commitment to Clemson? What is the best of your understanding? “I don’t know. That was the first time he went without my husband, his father. The first time he went without his dad, he made a commitment. Like I told ESPN, I wasn’t there to see what happened. But if I were to say, I would think that he was probably pressured to do it, to commit. When I asked Robert, he said ‘Mother, no. Nobody pressured me to do that. I just felt like it.’  Again, I do not know what happened there. I wasn’t there. He went with friends, and kids get carried away with no parental guidance. That was my thing with Clemson. You know, there’s a child that is visiting there without his parents. And he said something and boom –  it was right there with media. My husband was watching basketball on TV and it flashed ‘Robert committed to Clemson.’ Anyways. It surprised a lot of people, and it surprised me, too.”

Do you fully understand how your son is ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect in the entire country? Do you know of big of an achievement that is? “Are you asking if I comprehend the fact that he is No. 1 recruit and how big that is and all of that? Yes, I understand that much and the magnitude of all of this. But I also understand that Robert is my son, my biggest son. That’s what he is always going to be to me. He has a whole nation of colleges that want him to come there because he’s gifted. Oh yeah, I understand that, and I thank God for it. I think God for it all the time. He’s talented, and he works very, very hard all the time. In all of that, Robert is still Robert. I love that he gets this attention. I love that Robert is big — not just by his size but also by his heart. He’s a humble kid who whom wants to help everybody. I understand all of (the recruiting).  It is a great thing. Every parent would be happy and grateful, which I am. But he’s still my child, Robert. He’s my little fat boy that has turned into big and strong man. I truly enjoy being his mother. I know people don’t understand that and will say ‘Mom just needs to let go.’ But I’ve seen all the write-ups, and I don’t pay attention when people say negative things about me (and my role in recruiting). They shouldn’t do that because they don’t understand me, and they don’t know who I am.  All they know is that I’m Robert’s mother, granted. But they don’t know that this is a child that I nurtured, and will forever be my child and my son. And that’s it. Even when grows old, he’s still my son. I don’t understand why people make so much fuss about nothing. But I do understand the magnitude of all of this, yes, and we’re very blessed. I’m grateful to God for all of this.

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