I wrote about the Ray-Ray Armstrong dismissal last week, with the desire to close the book on that era for good. The decision had been made, Armstrong was moving on and the matter, for all intents and purposes, was closed.
And then Albert Armstrong chimed in, giving a little insight as to why the younger Armstrong might not have gotten the message, grown up quick enough and struggled to stay out of hot water while a member of the University of Miami football program.
A word that doesn’t seem to resonate with either Armstrong? Accountability.
While son continuously failed to learn from his mistakes, father chooses to blame the institution for higher learning, instead of putting the onus on son’s actions.
Ray-Ray’s UM legacy isn’t the blueprint for future Hurricanes. If anything, it will be a cautionary tale head coach Al Golden will share with future highly-touted recruits.
Armstrong came to Miami as one of the nation’s best. A five-star athlete out of Sanford, FL who played safety and quarterback, helping lead his Seminole High program to the 2008 state championship.
Armstrong announced his intention to play at ‘The U’ live on national television, from the 2009 Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando – choosing Miami over Florida, LSU and Georgia.
As a true freshman, Armstrong played in ten games and took the first step forward in being the next Miami great. As a sophomore, third on the team in tackles and a team-high three interceptions.
Year three is where the wheels fell off. Prior to the kickoff of Armstrong’s junior season, the Yahoo! Sports story broke and the safety was one of a handful of kids suspended. Armstrong was sidelined four games for improprieties on his recruiting trip prior to Signing Day 2009, but returned for Virginia Tech and had a good chance to save his season.
Weeks later, Armstrong was again suspended, this time for boneheaded decision-making on the social media front. After a dinner at Prime 112 on South Beach with a girlfriend — who happens to own a public relations firm and works with professional athletes — Armstrong posted about the meal and experience.
Harmless as that was, the timing wasn’t optimum, having recently been suspended and with the NCAA on campus investigating UM. Armstrong was forced to sit against Florida State – a game Miami lost 23-19, with the Noles’ lone offensive touchdown coming against spotty safety coverage.
Armstrong return, played the season out, decided to return for his senior year, spent the off-season training – to a point where he was singled out and praised by coaches – but old habits die hard and again, social networking did him in.
While UM has been mum on the subject, the elder Armstrong opened up to Barry Jackson at the Miami Herald and instead of showing wisdom and maturity, chose to defend his son’s actions while rattling off excuse after excuse.
Over Memorial Day weekend, No. 26 was again with his public relation firm-owning girlfriend, which is obviously not an issue – but when visiting her hotel room at the Lowes on Miami Beach, Armstrong snapped some picutres of her suite and posted on Instagram.
When UM confronted Armstrong about his social media distribution – something one would assume he was warned against after Prime 112-gate last fall, his knee-jerk reaction was to lie, stating that he wasn’t at the hotel with the woman.
AA stated that his son “felt pressured to be untruthful” and didn’t want to be suspended for a third time. The truth was finally admitted, as AA stated that his son, “told them the truth eventually”, but the damage had been done.
Papa Armstrong also stated that his son was a “sacrificial lamb” and that the dismissal wasn’t about the actual incident, but was due to UM being investigated by the NCAA and damage control.
When pressed why his son posted the Lowes pictures online, again, another deflection, blaming it on youth. “He’s involved with 2012 social media. That’s what kids do,” said Armstrong.
Kids? Sure. Even college kids, if we want to narrow it down. Going a step further, even responsible student athletes can dabble in social medial – again, barring that the word “responsible” is first and foremost.
Blind defense of our children; it’s one of the biggest disservices we can do as parents. Especially in those formative years, when a boy is becoming a man, but is doing so in the spotlight, with a target on his back as the world kisses his feet.
There is great rewards for young men who reach the NFL, as well as parents who benefit from that success. The short-lived careers of professional football players are fast-paced, well-paid and results in preferential treatment – all of which require a special skills set in order to deal properly.
These days, the issues start in Pop Warner or the Optimist leagues and grow from there. Social media, the Internet and paid recruiting sites turn high school stars into minor leaguers.
Honestly, today’s high school seniors get more hype, publicity and attention than yesterday’s NFLers.
Should anyone wonder why today’s athletes suffer from a sense of entitlement, look no further than recruiting site profiles and Signing Day hat tricks. An untamable beast has been created … while fans willingly shell out $99 annually for all the latest and greatest from kids not yet old enough to vote or buy a pack of smokes.
At no point in his recent interview did Mr. Armstrong assess any blame to his NFL-bound son. Instead, a “boys will be boys” type attitude, while blaming the system instead of his son’s poor decision-making.
With a career in professional football on the line and only a handful of games remaining where talent could be on display nationally, Armstrong refused to learn from his mistakes.
Last year’s four-game suspension was for a late 2008 violation. It was water under the bridge, it happened and couldn’t be reversed. Ray-Ray was forced to sit out the first third of the season and one would think a sit-down of sorts would’ve resulted. Something to the effect of father explaining to son the ramifications of one’s behavior, as well as what was on the line.
AA knows the money his son stands to make, and as a man who has had to work for a living and never earned a seven-figure check as a pro athlete, you’d think his years of wisdom and life wearing him down would cause him to give Ray-Ray some tough love.
Keep it together, son. Put all that social media nonsense on hold until next year. Fly under the radar. Live in the weight room and film room. Cut back on the social life as you have just over one-and-a-half seasons of college ball left to showcase your talent.
Look at those who have gone before you. Highly-touted talent that failed. Kids who thought they were NFL-ready but plummeted on Draft day because teams and GMs didn’t think their heads were right, their skills quite polished or their baggage worth the risk.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Unfortunately truer words couldn’t be spoken about Armstrong.
While the official reason for his time at UM being cut short, safe to say it was a culmination of several events, but mostly due to a lack of maturity.
Entering his senior season, coaches wanted to see the Ray-Ray who spent all winter breaking training on campus, instead of going home to see family. None expected that five months later, at the close of spring ball where he was atop the depth chart at safety, that Armstrong would revert to the boneheaded ways that got him in hot water the previous November.
Was Ray-Ray a “sacrificial lamb”, as his father claims? Absolutely not. He was, however, a casualty of an evolving system. A system that promotes growth and change and one that will dispose of those who aren’t on board and haven’t fully bought in.
Is that “fair” or “unfair”? I can’t say, but regardless, that’s not the point. Another lesson for the elder Armstrong to drop on Junior as time rolls on; life’s not fair. Never has been. Never will be.
Control what’s in your control, do the right thing and let the chips fall where they may. Ray-Ray did neither and he paid the prices.
This is what Golden refers to as “The Process” and those who don’t get the message are going to be on the outside looking in – which is where Armstrong found himself after this latest trip-up. – C.B.