UPDATED: One of the feel-good stories of this year’s college football recruiting process took more twists Thursday.
Troup High School’s Chris Burnette, one of Georgia’s top recruits, learned he won’t be his school’s valedictorian. But he held out hope he still might speak at graduation, and Georgia began the process to request NCAA permission for Bulldogs coach Mark Richt to attend the LaGrange school’s commencement.
Richt had promised Burnette that if he earned the school’s No. 1 academic honor, he would do his best to show up at the May 23 ceremony to hear the valedictory address.
UGA officials did not know Thursday if Richt would still try to attend the graduation.
But compliance director Eric Baumgartner said earlier in the day that an effort to get NCAA permission had begun. “We are working on a waiver request on behalf of Coach Richt,” he said.
Richt was asked several questions about Burnette at a Georgia booster club meeting in Roswell on Wednesday, and the coach told supporters he intended to apply for the waiver.
Burnette said a classmate was named school valedictorian at the Troup County Board of Education meeting on Thursday.
“I did the best I could,” Burnette said. “It’s hard for me to accept [barely] missing it, but I’m still proud of what I accomplished.”
Burnette said school officials have hinted that he likely will be able to speak at graduation, but he won’t know anything definite until next week.
The 6-foot-3, 286-pound lineman has a 5.12 GPA and has made nothing but straight A’s since kindergarten.
Burnette had initially planned to graduate after his first semester at Troup so he could enroll early at Georgia to get a jumpstart on his college football career. However, Burnette changed his mind and decided to stay in high school this spring to compete for valedictorian honors, with the full support of Georgia’s coaches. Richt said he had never recruited a valedictorian before.
Staff writer Tim Tucker contributed to this article.
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