Thursday, January 26, 2012 Updated: January 27, 1:51 PM ET
Leaving Twitter to mom
By Derek Tyson GatorNation
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Imagine the life of a high-profile college football recruit. A constant barrage of phone calls and text messages from college coaches, writers who cover those colleges and even overly enthusiastic fans.
Now add social media to the equation, and those coaches, writers and fans have a simple way to keep track of a recruit's every move.
Tracy Howard and his mom, Shaiy, are a team. He focuses on his game and his studies, while she handles the media and fans.
Some recruits embrace the social media revolution. Tracy Howard Jr. has taken a different approach. He doesn't have a Twitter account. But his mother, Shaiy, does.
With Shaiy Howard engaging with and responding to hundreds of comments and questions, she deflects some of the attention from her teenage son. He is ranked the No. 1 cornerback in the country by ESPNU, and just about every school and college football fan in America wants to know where he will end up on Feb. 1.
"I kind of like being involved in social media," Shaiy said. "I don't want Tracy on the social media, because it will make the process that much more difficult for him.
"The bottom line is that he's 17 years old. Some people will say you are all in his business, and you need to stay out of his business. Well he's a kid, so he is my business."
One of the negatives with social media is how fans feel they have an outlet to express their feelings toward someone without consequence. Shaiy said the worst comment she received on Twitter was when someone accused her of taking improper benefits from a school.
"Keep in mind Tracy is not favoring or committed to any school, but a fan said, 'Oh, the reason Tracy is going to Florida [is] because you took money from Florida,'" Shaiy said. "I just thought that was so wrong. I just asked my attorney about it, and he said I could go after the guy for defamation of character. That was really bad. You just don't make accusations like that.
"There's a lot of negative stuff out there, and my husband says, 'You know what, don't listen to all that stuff.' It kind of makes you mad when people say certain things. You just realize it's just junk. It's just fans talking."
Not all things are negative about social media. Shaiy said most fans have had positive things to say about her son.
"Overall, for the most part, things are positive," she said. "You have some fans that say, 'Oh, you know what, Tracy's such a good kid, so I'm going to support him no matter where he goes.'
"I think one thing about social media is that more kids get recognition. You know about more kids that you wouldn't know about without social media. So it's not all bad. There are some good things with social media."
Tracy and Shaiy Howard are key figures in Team Tracy Howard Jr.
Some of the four- and five-star recruits like the attention they receive from the fans, maybe even a little too much at times.
"Some kids will get a big head and become arrogant because of all the exposure," Shaiy said. "I haven't met any of those kids, but I've just read some things that certain kids said.
"Tracy said it best. He said it doesn't matter how many stars you have behind your name now and what you're doing now. It doesn't matter at all, because once you get to college it all starts over. You are no longer No. 1 or No. 2. You're a freshman. It all starts over."
Shaiy said she and husband Tracy Sr. are not trying to control their son's life but rather help guide him to make the best choices.
"We are not making this decision for him, but we are with him -- looking at things with him," she said. "After Feb. 1, I'm sure all kinds of negative things will be said because Tracy didn't choose a certain school. But who cares? Certainly not Team Tracy Howard Jr."
Tracy Jr. is scheduled to announce his college choice of Florida, Florida State or Miami on national signing day. The long recruiting process finally will be over.
Just don't expect the tweets to stop pouring in.
ESPN.com recruiting reporter Derek Tyson can be reached by email at DerekTysonESPN@gmail.com or you can follow him on Twitter, @DerekTysonESPN.