I strongly suggest reading the entire Lifetime of Defeats post detailing and quoting the Facebook back-and-forth between Tyrik Rollison, Auburn's QB-of-the-future signee pictured above, and Toney Clemons, the former Michigan wide receiver who made public his decision to transfer this week. But here's a brief recap:
1. Rollison, whose Facebook updates on his efforts to qualify have been studied by Auburn fans like Torah scholars going over the Dead Sea Scrolls ever since Signing Day, leaves an update calling Clemons "my man" and asking Auburn fans to leave messages encouraging Clemons to come to the Plains on his Faceboook page.
2. Auburn fans do so, apparently in meaningful numbers.
3. Clemons responds with a message that the interest and support from Auburn fans "means a lot" to him and that he is "seriously looking into Auburn" with plans to contact the program.
Several thoughts on this entire fascinating development:
--First of all: I wouldn't hold my breath, Auburn fans. Clemons is from the Pittsburgh area and had plenty of mutual interest from West Virginia before committing to Michigan; WVU who could also use wideouts and is rumored to be Clemons' most likely final destination. If not the Mountaineers, he also has a sister (and the hometown connection) at Pitt. Clemons also said this:
"I just don't want to play in a spread offense. This is best for me as an athlete."So, yeah. There are some caveats: Clemons' problem with Rich Rodriguez's system may not have been the whole "spread" thing as much as where Clemons fit into it, since RichRod was trying to use the 6-3 Clemons as a slot jitterbug; Malzahn would very likely use him as a downfield threat on the outside, so hypothetical scheme concerns might not really be an issue. Clemons also said he would "love to play for a school in the Pac-10, Southeastern Conference or Atlantic Coast Conference," so there's that.
But still: from West Virginia, with a distrust of the spread, and with who knows how many options available to him. This is a loooooooongshot no matter how many Auburn fans whisper sweet nothings onto his Facebook site.
--Bigger picture: I officially do not know what to think about where college football fandom is headed in the 21st-century. My gut is screaming CREEPY PERVY STAY AWAY, as it should whenever full-grown adults take an overactive, direct interest in not just the athletic performances but the day-to-day lives of 18-year-old athletes. There's a reason it's called Facebook "stalking," right?
But I wonder if there aren't some fringe benefits to this new interactive landscape, too. A common complaint amongst those of us who despise the booing in Jordan-Hare and the anonymous shredding of Auburn's football players on the Internet is that fans don't see their "beloved" athletes as people, as common kids: I do think sometimes they see them from behind the "fourth wall" of TV and film, as actors on a complicated stage performing for their entertainment rather than kids trying to win a football game. I always think of Adam Carolla's description via Bill Simmons of Ron Artest charging into the stands, how it would be like Captain Hook walking out of a movie screen.
I wouldn't be the first person to say that Facebook and its ilk are blurring that wall between fans and athletes ... and I have to think that in many cases, particularly with fans that don't attend Fan Day or went to class with athletes or otherwise have some opportunity to interact with the players they're rooting for, there's good reason to want that wall blurred. But is Facebook the right way to do it? If John Q. Leather-Lung leaves a message on Tyrik Rollison's wall today, would it make him less likely to scream obscenities at him later? Or will that personal connection, however slight, just make J.Q.LL feel all the more betrayed and angry?
I don't know. But we're going to find out, since there's absolutely nothing to be done about it now. Especially when guys like Clemons continue to be genuinely (or at least apparently genuinely) flattered by the attention, the genie's not going to go back in the bottle.
--I have to wonder what Auburn's current receiving corps would think of Rollison's claims that Auburn "could use" Clemons, but, uh, Rollison's probably right. For starters, Auburn's receiving corps is the Auburn receiving corps. Secondly, Clemons (who was a true sophomore at Michigan this year and would use his redshirt during his transfer year) was a four-star, top 100 prospect ranked the No. 12 receiver in the Class of 2007. He didn't set the world on fire at Michigan, but he was stuck behind the likes of Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington as a freshman and was playing out of position as a sophomore. It's doubtful he wouldn't be extremely useful where Auburn is concerned. But again: NOT holding my breath.
--This might be the most important development out of this whole thing: there's no doubt any more Tyrik Rollison sees himself at Auburn. I've said a few times I wasn't going to get excited no matter how good Rollison was until he actually arrived on campus, since he was 1) a grades risk 2) more than good enough to get the attention of lots of other high-profile schools if he did wind up at prep school or a JUCO. We've been through this already with Enrique Davis and Jermaine Johnson and the like, so why get my hopes up again?
And still, nothing is written in stone by a longshot. But Rollison--or, um, Rollison's Facebook profile--certainly hasn't fit the profile thus far of either someone who doesn't care about his grades or someone who committed to Auburn because there was nothing better and will flitter off to Texas or wherever if he winds up shining at prep school.
So, yeah, I'm letting myself get a little excited about the possibilities of the Tyrik Rollison experience. Because of things he wrote on his Facebook. I have got to be crazy, but at least I'm not the only one.