If things had gone the way April Justin had hoped, she would be sitting in Death Valley Saturday night dressed in purple and gold.
She’d be screaming for her beloved Tigers, especially when the LSU defense hit the field as her sons Landon Collins and Gerald Willis tried to slow down the Mississippi State offense.
But Justin won’t be in Baton Rouge Saturday.
Instead, she’ll be in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, at Bryant-Denny Stadium, wearing a shirt specially made for what she calls a special occasion.
On it are the words “House Divided.”
Crimson and white on one side.
Blue and orange on the other.
One half is for her son Landon, Alabama’s All-America defensive back.
The other half is for Gerald, a freshman defensive lineman for the Gators.
“It’s a moment I’ll cherish,” she said. “Many people don’t get to see both of their kids playing college football against each other.”
Justin, for those who may have forgotten, became one of the most infamous moms in football recruiting history back in January 2012.
That’s when Collins chose Alabama over LSU in a nationally televised announcement on ESPN.
The disappointment on her face was obvious.
“I felt LSU is the better place for him to be,” she said that day. “LSU Tigers. No. 1.”
This past January, it happened again. This time with her younger son, who chose Florida over LSU.
“LSU’s still No. 1,” she reminded the nationally televised audience the second time around.
She still holds those sentiments today.
“I stick by that and still think LSU would’ve been a better fit for my boys,” she said Wednesday. “It would have been one of the happiest moments of my life seeing them play together at LSU representing the state of Louisiana. They were born and raised in New Orleans, so it would have been good to see them finish at home. I would have loved to have seen them in purple and gold together. I wasn’t fortunate like the Ole Miss mom, but I have come to accept it.”
The Ole Miss mom she refers to is Beverly Nkemdiche, whose sons Denzel and Robert play for the Rebels.
Beverly Nkemdiche gets to watch both her sons play on Saturdays.
Justin, who now lives in Orlando, doesn’t get that opportunity.
They held a coin toss during the summer to see whose game she would go to first.
Collins won the coin toss, so she traveled to Alabama’s season opener in Atlanta and had to miss Gerald’s first game.
Or so she thought.
Florida’s game got canceled that day because of weather.
She has the rest of the season mapped out, with her going to games in Tuscaloosa and Gainesville.
But none of the rest of the games will mean more to her than the one Saturday.
Her sons are making sure of it.
They have reminded her with phone calls.
“Don’t get mad if lay your son out,” says one.
“I’m going to hit him hard,” says the other.
Although both play defense, there is a chance the two former 5-star recruits could be on the field at the same time on special teams.
“They have always been competitive, even on X-Box and Playstation” said Justin. “So they have been trash talking all summer and on social media.”
Collins, a Dutchtown High alum, has recorded a team-high 27 tackles and one quarterback hurry for the Crimson Tide. Willis, who starred at Karr, has three tackles and a quarterback hurry in his first two collegiate games.
One of them will add a big stat come Saturday: A win, plus the bragging rights that come with it, which should make for a fun Thanksgiving for one of the brothers.
But for their mom, Thanksgiving comes Saturday.
“It’s going to be a moment that our family will share for the rest of our lives,” she said. “They split up after Katrina (Collins wound up playing high school ball at Dutchtown, while Willis played at Edna Karr), so I haven’t had a chance to see them play on the same field together for the last four years. So this is a proud moment for me. I’ll be cheering for them both.”
She should be easy to spot in the crowd of 101,000 plus.
She’ll be the lady in the Alabama section wearing the multi-colored shirt cheering on No. 26 for Alabama one minute and No. 92 for Florida the next.
Roll Tide. Go Gators.