Christian Conley could tell you all the recruiting attention he is getting is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. But then he wouldn’t be telling the truth.
The truth is he didn’t grow up a Bulldog or a Jacket or a Vol or a Gator. He didn’t have posters of football heroes taped to his bedroom walls. He didn’t even play the game for the longest time.
So the fact that he is definitely going to play major college football, that is something Conley is still trying to wrap his mind around.
“It was sort of unforeseen,” North Paulding’s star receiver said of his burgeoning football career. “I didn’t play football until my freshmen year and then I didn’t really know about football. I didn’t know anything about recruiting. I didn’t even watch college football. So I didn’t really expect any of this to happen and when it did it sort of took me by surprise.”
He didn’t expect to be sitting in the office of Georgia coach Mark Richt’s having a one-on-one conversation about life, as he was this past weekend. And he definitely didn’t expected to be in Tuscaloosa hearing Alabama coach Nick Saban tell him all the reasons he thinks Conley ought to come play for the defending national champion Crimson Tide, as he did two weeks ago.
Those are two of the nine official scholarship offers Conley has hauled in to date. The others are Clemson, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Stanford, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. And there are likely many more to come as Conley’s measurables and highlight video get circulated throughout college football.
It’s all happening fast for this 6-foot-3, 185-pound wideout. Recruiting interest picked up throughout last season when Conley hauled in 81 passes for 848 yards and six touchdowns for North Paulding. It increased after the New Year after when he ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash and had an MVP performance at a Scout.com combine. It doesn’t hurt that he is an “A” student who will graduate early from high school and enroll in college in January.
“Georgia and Vanderbilt were on him last summer, before his junior year, so those guys were on him early,” North Paulding coach Heath Webb said. “A lot of the others have come on him here recently. I think he’s kind of a hidden commodity I guess you could say. Georgia and Vanderbilt got in there and they saw what he had to offer. It just took him getting his name out there a little bit more for everybody else to catch on.”
The Bulldogs were actually first to offer after they got Conley on campus last summer.
“That was the first camp I’d ever been to,” Conley said. “I went to their senior prospect camp last summer. I ran the drills and did the one-on-ones and stuff and that’s where I got my offer.”
For that reason and others, Conley really likes the Bulldogs. He has visited the UGA campus four times, including last two junior days.
“They’re not necessarily a favorite,” Conley said. “I’m still looking at schools. But the values that they have at that school are definitely something to consider and look at. I definitely take those into account, the way they conduct themselves and things.”
But Conley plans to be very deliberate and meticulous about the selection process and vows to keep an open mind to all possibilities.
“I’m trying to get a good feel and sense for these schools and their priorities and seeing if they match up with mine,” Conley said. “I’m trying to get a good sense of that before this summer. I guess my criteria will be a school that puts faith first where I can grow as a person and grow in my faith in Christ. The school I go to will have to have a sense of family along with my family and coaches with character.
“I want to know what programs the school has and whether I would be interested in those. After that I want to see how do they play, what’s their playing style, how do they prepare you for other teams and for the next level.”
Georgia Tech, Conley said, rates very high in all those categories.
“I plan to meet with Georgia Tech’s coaches and see what their plans are for their offense,” he said. “Right now that’s pretty much all I have.”
The hope, Conley said, is that he’ll have it all figured out by the end of summer.
“Hopefully I will commit before the season so I can focus on my school work and being the best player for North Paulding that I can be,” he said. “I don’t want that distraction.”