Andrel Anthony Sr. leaned forward and asked his son, sitting to his right, a rhetorical question.
“This is what you’ve been wanting, huh?” Senior asked his junior, gesturing to the row of local TV news cameras and reporters in front of them.
“Yeah,” Andrel Anthony Jr. answered, cracking a smile and beginning to chuckle with his father.
Standing and seated in front of Anthony and his family (including his mother and two younger brothers) were 100 masked invitees — media, friends and family, and coaches — distanced in the bleachers and on the track at East Lansing High School’s football field. They were there to watch and listen to Anthony Jr., a three-star wide receiver in the Class of 2021, announce his college commitment on Friday evening.
He selected Michigan over hometown Michigan State, Penn State and Notre Dame, at a gathering that in any other year could’ve packed the bleachers. More than 500 people wanted to come, Anthony Jr. said, but state executive orders regarding COVID-19 limited the number of attendees to 100. There was concern on the part of school officials that a passerby would see the large crowd and think it was in violation. The result was a sparsely filled stadium to celebrate a football player who usually packs the bleachers from top to bottom.
“It was tough but I’m glad we could make it happen,” Anthony Jr. said, thanking those who helped facilitate the event despite concerns and cap on attendees. “I’m really grateful they did that for me.”
And the solution to COVID keeping people away: Instagram live. As Anthony Jr. and his family sat and waited for the two local TV stations to come live, he fiddled with two iPhones, using one to see if his live stream video was indeed going out to his TK followers and anyone else who wanted to watch.
It was Anthony Jr. who came up with the idea and he recruited one of his assistant coaches to be his videographer.
Ethan Boyd, an ELHS teammate in the Class of 2021 with Anthony Jr., was among the attendees who celebrated his fellow senior’s decision but at the same time wished he had decided to stay closer to East Lansing.
Boyd, a three-year starter at offensive tackle, committed to Michigan State this spring.
“Of course, it would be great to have him as a teammate in college,” Boyd said, “but at the same time he has to do what’s right for him. It seems like he’s very comfortable with the decision he made, and really that’s most important.”
The enormity of his son’s announcement was a bit overwhelming for Andrel Sr.
“As a parent, you want your children to be happy and healthy,” Andrel Sr. said, wiping away a few tears of happiness. “He believes he made the right decision, and for that I am thankful.”
Trojan varsity head coach Bill Feraco spoke to the gathering about Andrel’s natural ability on the field, as well as his accountability off the field.
“We all know about his athletic accomplishments,” Feraco said, “but what makes Andrel special is how he treats others, how he respects his teachers and coaches. He is a great teammate, and that is so very important in this age of me.”
After Anthony Jr. finished his speech and put on a Michigan hat and took 15 minutes to answer reporters’ questions, he was asked how many people watched his livestream.
“I didn’t even see, that’s a good question,” Anthony said. “It looks like it was over 900.”
ELi sports reporter Mark Meyer also contributed to this report.