Mark Richt and UGA recruits Jay Rome and Malcolm Mitchell pay tribute to deceased Valdosta High School football player (UPDATED)

UGA coach Mark Richt, along with two of his top football recruits, paid a special tribute to a deceased Valdosta High School football player (AJC file photo)

UGA coach Mark Richt, along with two of his top football recruits, paid a special tribute to a deceased Valdosta High School football player (AJC file photo)

At least 10 people have forwarded me the same email this week about UGA coach Mark Richt and two of the state’s elite high school football players, the UGA-bound tandem of Jay Rome and Malcolm Mitchell, participating in a special tribute to a Valdosta High School student who died last month. Maybe you had it sent your way or saw it somewhere posted on Facebook.

Well it turns out that this email forward (author unknown) is true, said Rome’s mother, LaVerne Rome, who is the District Parent Involvement Coordinator for Lowndes County Schools.

James Eunice, 17, drowned while duck hunting in a nearby lake on Jan. 15 and his body was found two weeks later, according to the Valdosta Daily Times. Eunice was an honors student with a 4.0 GPA and played football this past season at Valdosta High with Rome and Mitchell. His funeral was held last Saturday.

In the email forward which has been making the rounds to many inboxes, it was said that Richt sent a letter of condolence to the family which was read at the funeral by Rome. Among other things, it was said that Richt acknowledged in the letter: how he had been contacted by Eunice about his plans to “walk on” with Georgia’s football team next year — and that Eunice had been added to the roster and officially “made the team.”

Then it goes on to say that Eunice’s family was presented a Georgia No. 23 football jersey with “EUNICE” on the back of it and “those gathered at the funeral … stood, applauded and cried.”

UGA sports information director Claude Felton could not be reached for comment. However, Rome’s mother told the AJC “for the most part, [the email letter] is fairly accurate. The only thing I saw incorrect was the statement that Jay read the personal letter to the family from Mark Richt. Jay did speak, but the Pastor actually read the letter. Jay and Malcolm Mitchell presented the jersey to the family.”

You can read the rest the email forward here.

On behalf of the AJC, many thoughts and prayers to the Eunice family for their loss. I can’t imagine anything worse than the death of a child.

UPDATED: The forwarded email was copied from this Opinion column called “Winning isn’t everything” by Randy Young in the Thomasville Times-Enterprise. (Click here to read)

185 comments Add your comment


February 11th, 2011
2:58 am


Mark Richt is a classy man


February 11th, 2011
3:44 am

The story and email are accurate. I have been on Richt like many others for the dismal on-the-field performance this past season. It is a shame that it takes a death such as this to remind us that winning is not the only thing that matters. The gesture by Coach Richt was incredibly classy. My hat is off to CMR for representing the University in such a positive manner. I am sure that Valdosta Coach Gillespie would have had to coordinated this with CMR. Great job Coach. Your efforts both on AND off the field are appreciated.

Tater Tot

February 11th, 2011
4:09 am

Man, Thats really nice of what was done and hit me right there.


February 11th, 2011
6:05 am

It really is about more than just winning. We all lose perspective from time to time, it is sad that it takes something as tragic as the lost of a child makes us realize what is really important. Coach Richt is a class act. While we may get frustrated with what happens of the field at times, we can always be proud of the character he leads his life with.

Down in Albany

February 11th, 2011
6:24 am

Coach Richt is the kind of man that every father can trust their son with. That’s all you can ask for.

Palm City Dawg

February 11th, 2011
6:25 am

Richt is nothing but a class act. He is a great mentor and someone you would want your son to play for. There is more to this college football than just championships. I have and always will respect and honor the man.

Dawg Consultant

February 11th, 2011
6:41 am

This simply highlights was has been recognized nationally for over a decade now: Mark Richt is the best possible ambassador for this program. He is a championship caliber coach and given the time he will get the program to the top.

A sad reminder that this is ultimately only a game, and as they say “winning is not everything.”


February 11th, 2011
6:45 am

Mark Richt all I can say Is God bless you man… Thanks for staying with UGA even though we blast you and your character sad that it takes something like this to make us appreciate you


February 11th, 2011
7:16 am

Maybe now some of you CMR haters will understand that winning is great but having great character is better!! One day football won’t matter any more, only what you did while here on earth will matter when we are all truly home!! Mark Richt would be the coach I would want my son to play for! Bill Shanks maybe you need to read the article!!!

Vick=Dog killing thug

February 11th, 2011
7:41 am

Would Nick Saban do something like that?


February 11th, 2011
7:45 am


February 11th, 2011
7:55 am

We should remember that football is only a game. CMR is a class man and in the game of life is a winner. We are all just one second away from eternity are you ready. Jesus is still the only way to heaven. MayGod bless the Eunice family in their time of need.


February 11th, 2011
8:02 am

Fantastic gesture from a fantastic man. Prayers remain with the Eunice family in this terrible time of loss.


February 11th, 2011
8:06 am

does a coach with this much character end up with so many losers getting arrested?


February 11th, 2011
8:14 am

Vick, Saban and other coaches has probably done lots of similar acts of compassion and generosity that have gone unheralded. There’s really no call for that kind of comment here.

D A Double U G

February 11th, 2011
8:21 am

Proud to call Mark Richt UGA’s Coach.

Class Act

February 11th, 2011
8:28 am

I agree with JT, why can’t you guys refrain from Saban bashing and Richt bashing on an article like this? Do you not have any sense of human decency and respect for this kid’s family?

You need to take a hard look in the mirror, Vick and How………..


February 11th, 2011
8:31 am

When we stop thinking about wins and loses on the field. When the season is over and the stands are empty, we are reminded that there is life beyond sports. Sometimes it is not about sports, but sportsmen and sportsmanship. Taking an opportunity to pay respects and condolences to those that lost something more important than a “game”. To the Eunice family and friends, our heartfelt sympathies on your loss. To those who handled the loss with grace and class, we applaud, but more importantly, thank you.

Nick Saban

February 11th, 2011
8:32 am

@ Vick …..

Sure I do.

Plus, I win titles with my “dream teams.”


February 11th, 2011
8:40 am

is there any place to find the the full text of the letter?

south ga dawg

February 11th, 2011
8:52 am

The wins will come guys. Just be patient!!! Go Dawgs!!!


February 11th, 2011
9:19 am

Mark Richt is a class act!

MHC Tiger

February 11th, 2011
9:23 am

I got a chance to meet Richt for the first time at Junior Day and I must say I was impressed with Richt the man. This was a very classy act.

Viva GwinneXico

February 11th, 2011
9:34 am

There’s been plenty of examples of the kind of man Richt really is. Some people say it while others actually practice it.

Its a shame that somebody has to email you stories like these. I never understand how stories like these are never heard of from you guys. If its an arrest or a kid’s scholly being revoked, you guys are all over UGA and Richt.

What’s your intentions Michael? I’m sure postive stories will get as many hits as negative ones. You guys disgust me.


February 11th, 2011
9:56 am

Thank you Mark Richt for spending the time and making the effort to comfort this family. I feel certain that this family will treasure the jersey and letter you sent.


February 11th, 2011
10:01 am

I read this article yesterday and really choked up. Should I be surprised at the response by Coach Richt? No. Is it a wake-up call to all of us in regards to faith, family and football? YES. Coach, you are a honorable man, husband and father. I pray for the family of this young man in their loss. As the father of 3, I cannot imagine the hurt and anguish they are going through. In closing, Thank God that we have young men who are not embarrassed or ashamed to display their faith on and off the playing field!!

Ted Striker

February 11th, 2011
10:02 am

Viva GwinneXico — Nothing I’ve ever ready that was written by M. Carvell has suggested anything other than the fact he’s a class act. You’re entitled to disagree but your own comments shame you.

Dawg in Malta

February 11th, 2011
10:42 am

I’ll be one of the first to admit, I’ve been down on Coach Richt lately but this shows you the class of a man that he is!! I have three boys all involved in sports and would welcome Coach Richt to be their coach whether they win or lose! This shows you that it’s not always about winning…Thanks Coach Richt!!


February 11th, 2011
10:47 am

Although I have often criticized the coaching and team direction in Athens during the last few years, never once have I held anything but the highest respect and admiration for Coach Richt as a person.


February 11th, 2011
10:52 am

That was wonderful what CMR did and the UGA, that was kind and very good of them to show their love a good young person 1st and a football player 2nd, my praise go out to UGA for the Class they are showing.(I’m from Valdosta, and we take football very serious, but at the end of the day we are all are only human)


February 11th, 2011
10:52 am

Rome and Mitchell are the new breed of UGA football players along with this whole recruiting class.They are quality kids and are very grounded.You are a credit to the university-Valdosta and this state- we are very proud of both of you.


February 11th, 2011
11:33 am

My condolences to the family of James Eunice. Coach Richt has been a great coach and knows how to grow men of character. I am glad that this story reminds some of the haters why character is as important as wins and not mutually exclusive.


February 11th, 2011
11:44 am

Thank you BILLY JACK for recognizing Mitchell and Rome with CMR. I agree with your thoughts exactly. The U. of GA may not win championships every year, but with CMR, it produces champion people. These are mostly overlooked in favor of those that don’t think and get into trouble. The problems off the field at UGA have to be solved AT HOME, BY PARENTS TEACHING VALUES AND THE DIFFERENCE IN RIGHT AND WRONG. Before any kid gets to college, he should have a good set of values, and quite simply, that starts with parenting.


February 11th, 2011
11:54 am

I debated whether or not to say this above. I feel it’s extremely important to add here. We all know that Coach Richt is “under the gun” this season. Chances are he may not be here in 2012 if he doesn’t get it done on the field in 2011. In terms of character they don’t come any better than Coach Richt. He is the genuine article and I think he represents my alma mater extremely well. And that is what makes my next statement difficult to express. I love Coach Richt but I love the University of Georgia, and specifically, in this case, the University of Georgia football program more. I want Richt to succeed in his profession and that profession is head coach of a major university football program. Success as such is not judged just on building character in the players coached. It substantially involves consistently winning. It involves keeping the players in line. And it involves being an exceptional judge of talent, both on the staff and on the field. No one can argue that Richt has not been overall successful during his time in Athens. But that level of success has been trending downward in recent years. It first began about midway through his tenure here where every year, between the bowl game and the next season, 5-10 players would get in trouble and end up being suspended, kicked off the team, or transferring. Then the losses began to come more often. More and more each season we seemed to do less with more. We had the talent . . . it just wasn’t being developed. The 2011 season will have a lot riding on it . . . for both our team and Coach Richt. To his and the staff’s credit, they did a fantastic job of recruiting. But they have done a fantastic job of recruiting pretty much every year he’s been coach. Now they have to develop and coach it like there is no tomorrow! As much as I have complained about the coaching and team discipline in recent years, deep down, I really don’t want Coach Richt to go. I want him to stay . . . but stay and win! I don’t want a “soft” team. I want a team that will knock you on your keester! I want a team that will play with good sound fundamentals and great discipline. I want a team that understands the tradition of Georgia football and will represent that tradition so well that even when they lose, fans and alumni will still be proud of their effort. But as much as I respect and admire Coach Richt as a person . . . as much as I appreciate his truly beautiful gesture to the young man in Valdosta . . . as much as I’d like for him to be our coach as long as he wants . . . those feelings will not override my feelings for the program and doing what’s best for it. Georgia football is well represented by Coach Richt but the program is bigger than the man. I just want the program to click on all cylinders.

From Where I Sit

February 11th, 2011
12:02 pm

This was a great gesture from CMR!

GOD Bless him and his family as well!


February 11th, 2011
12:12 pm

a true class act he is what uga needs as head coach he is great for the program and the man they need to lead this program. i hope uga kick tail this year.


February 11th, 2011
12:54 pm

59bulldawg cmon man this is not the blog site for that. coah richt is a great man a winner and a champion in character. people amaze me you want to throw this man under the bus because of 2 bad years. 2 years where we started 2 quarterbacks who had never started a sec game. this year learning an entirely new defensive scheme without the defensive personnel to make it work. you are quick to criticize the guy that brought respect back to athens. remember ray goff and jim donnan! all of this after 2 years. coach richt i give you a standing oviation for what you done for that fam and for the valdosta community. and please sir continue having world championship class and character……… go dawgs


February 11th, 2011
1:03 pm

uga you cant get a better man. Tha fact is he really cares for people its no recruitment game or media stunt coach richt loves people


February 11th, 2011
1:25 pm

falconfever74 . . . I think my comments were gracious enough. Don’t be blinded by the “good man” argument. I agree that he is! He’s exceptional! It just takes more than that to be a good coach! I’m not saying win at any cost . . . but it is a vital component of the job. Otherwise we should abolish football and start a boys home. And BTW the problems extend back beyond the last two years.


February 11th, 2011
1:31 pm

Also . . . forgive me if I have made the wrong inference . . . but sir if you have had Falcon fever since 1974 you are an incredibly patient man . . . much more patient than I.


February 11th, 2011
1:42 pm

Class act! Puts our little rivalry in perspective, doesn’t it. My condolences to the Eunice family.

Johnny Too Good

February 11th, 2011
2:13 pm

showing morality and values are the reason Richt has my support


February 11th, 2011
3:04 pm

I know half of us are UGA, and Tech fans, but football is just a fun game. And, the rivalry is just old fashioned hate. But, I have to applaud Mark Richt for going the extra mile and being a honorable man. My condolences go out to the Eunice family.

Tom in ATL

February 11th, 2011
3:11 pm

Just so you know -
This Tuesday night – Mark Richt, Chappy, and DeAngelo Tyson drove from Athens to Statesboro (About 3.5 hours one way) – spent several hours as the Guest Speakers for the Joseph Home for Boys – which is where DeAngelo grew up. The event raised enough money to get that Home out of debt and pay off their mortgage. Richt was engaging and so humble – talked about his faith and convictions – held a Q & A for the nearly 400 people in attendance – signed autographs and took pictures – then hopped in his car and drove back to Athens. 7 plus hours roundtrip to support a bunch of people he doesn’t even know. He did this a few days after finishing up recruiting – when most people would be taking a much needed vacation and break.

Go ahead and bash the man if it makes you feel smarter or superior. Mark RIcht is what is right about College Athletics – and I am so glad he is the Coach of UGA.


February 11th, 2011
3:11 pm

Heartfelt condolences to the Eunice family… I cannot imagine the heartbreak & pain this family is feeling & will feel forever.. I have children 13 – 23 & I have to say, this made me say extra prayers over them.. CMR is a class Christian man & I have to believe this is just a par for the course thing for him, but touching none the less!!


February 11th, 2011
3:31 pm


You perfectly articulated my thoughts. CMR is a great man – period. But he is also THE football coach of THE Univ of Georgia. As a fellow alum, I expect to win, every time my team steps on the field – period.

And that’s all there is to it.


February 11th, 2011
3:32 pm


Very well put. CMR is a very fine man and I would be proud to have him as my child’s youth leader or Sunday School teacher. However he’s getting them millions to coach football, not teach Sunday School.

It does not surprise me in the least that CMR acted the way he did in regards to James Eunice. That is the man of character he has always shown himself to be. Kudo’s Richt.


February 11th, 2011
3:32 pm

First? What?

Dawg in Alabama

February 11th, 2011
3:34 pm

He’s the only coach I ever want. Condolences to the Eunice family.

Raleigh Dawg

February 11th, 2011
3:45 pm

Stewart Mandel wrote an article on saying that CMR was able to recruit the best talent in Georgia because the recruits did not either believe that he was on the “hot seat” or did not care. I think it’s more than that. A lot of these recruits recognize that CMR is a father figure who will have their backs through their college careers as long as they make the effort to stay out of trouble and their parents entrust their kids to him. They would rather have him for 1 year as their coach than have a “winner” somewhere else be their coach but not their mentor for 4 years. If my son was ever good enough to play D-1 football, I would send him to a coach like CMR rather than Urban Meyer or Nick Saban. Just saying.