Jackie Hargreaves has been around college football for decades.
“It’s our life pretty much,” she said. “My husband was a football player and coach before we got married and we’ve been married 20 years. It’s our life.”
Jackie’s husband, Vernon is the defensive ends and special teams coach at South Florida.
Before getting to Tampa, Hargreaves spent time at East Carolina, Bowling Green, Florida International, Miami and his alma mater, UConn.
Despite being so close to the game for so long, the recruitment of her son, Vernon Hargreaves III, has caught Jackie off guard in some respects.
“It is kind of new to us,” Jackie chuckled. “We’ve been around college football for a lot of years, but it’s just so different when it’s your own son. It puts an entirely different spin on it.”
Jackie may just be getting used to it, but the attention isn’t entirely new.
Now a 5-foot-10, 177-pound junior cornerback at Wharton High School in Tampa, the younger Hargreaves was offered a scholarship by current South Florida defensive back coach Rick Smith when Smith and Hargreaves’ father were still at East Carolina. Vernon III was in sixth grade.
The younger Hargreaves is one of the nation’s elite cornerback prospects in the Class of 2013. He’s already been given five-star status by multiple services and is quickly compiling offers from schools like Notre Dame, Florida, Florida State, Duke, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, South Carolina, USC, Vanderbilt and of course, South Florida, among others.
The family is going to help Vernon III through the process, but it’s going to be his decision.
“We’ve told Vernon we’re going to see the offers he gets and go from there,” said Jackie. “If he ends up at the University of South Florida, where his dad is, that’s fine. If he really likes Notre Dame and that’s where his heart leads him, we’re fine with Notre Dame too.”
While there's no pressure being applied on him to play at the school where his father coaches and his father isn’t personally handling his recruitment, the topic isn’t exactly taboo at the dinner table either.
“A lot of the coaches here at USF, we were together at East Carolina,” Jackie said. “Whenever we all get together, it’s a joke, but they’re serious. They would love for him to be at the University of South Florida. It’s like a family here, we’ve all been together for quite a while.”
His father - and the entire USF staff for that matter - seem to have struck a perfect balance between recruiting him and allowing him to make his own choice.
“We let it be known to him that he has to go where he fits in and where he feels comfortable,” his mother said. “He has to follow his heart to as to where he wants to go. We’re behind him 100 percent whatever direction he wants to go in.
“As long as it suits what he needs academically, he’s open. I’m more concerned about the academics and whether it has what he wants to major in and that kind of thing. I want him to be able to fit in football-wise as well, but I’m more concerned with academics and that he’ll find some place that suits him.”
Jackie says Vernon III has always been interested in science and is considering majoring in biology or something similar.
While his father was in South Bend this past fall for the Bulls' upset victory over the Irish in the season-opener, the younger Hargreaves and his mother weren’t at the game and have never been to Notre Dame. That should change soon though.
“It will definitely be one of his visits,” Jackie said. “I think it’ll probably be an official visit and possibly another one during the summer.”
The reputation of Notre Dame is too difficult to ignore, according to Jackie.
“It’s one of the best academic institutions in the country, so you can’t go wrong there and that’s what I’m looking to,” she said. “Also, the tradition of Notre Dame and all that it has to offer, how do you not at least give them a visit? You have to.”
Vernon III has always been a standout athletically in basketball and track, but mostly football. Still, he’s also made sacrifices to take advantage of the physical abilities he’s been blessed with.
“He’s a hard worker,” his mother said. “He loves to stay in the weight room and anything he can do to make himself bigger, stronger, faster, he’s all about it.”
Jackie is still getting used to it, but she’s enjoying the early stages of her son’s recruitment.
“It is a little different when it’s your own son,” she reiterated. “I didn’t expect the whirlwind we’re going through right now, but we’re taking it in stride, one day at a time and seeing what it brings. We tell Vernon all of the time, he’s got to finish strong. ‘This is all great right now, but if you don’t finish strong, it means nothing.’
“We’re just trying to keep him humble and keep him hungry.”