Thomas O’Reilly grew up a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs. In fact, he attended his first game at Sanford Stadium as a seventh grader. His father took a picture of him in the stands that day and told his son that he’d one day he’d take his photo on that actual field.
That’s going to happen now — but it will be on the visitor’s sideline.
O’Reilly, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound offensive guard from Marietta’s Pope High School, officially committed to Auburn on Tuesday night. I say officially because O’Reilly committed to the Tigers in his heart months ago.
“I actually had my mind made up a while ago,” said O’Reilly, who was named to the AJC’s Class AAAAA first-team offense as a junior last season. “After I went to their junior day back before national signing day, I told them I wanted to do it right then but I had to talk to my parents first. I knew from the beginning that’s where I wanted to be. I had planned to [commit] Saturday at A-Day but I decided to go ahead and announce it tonight.”
O’Reilly was scheduled as a guest on “The Official Visit,” an all-recruiting radio show on 790 The Zone (WQXI-AM 790). He decided to let the Tiger out of the bag on the air with Scott Janovitz on his 7:30 p.m. show.
O’Reilly said he has had an affection for Auburn and The Plains since he was an eighth grader and took a day trip there with his father, Shaun O’Reilly, who was working in the area.
“We rode around and drove through town and out in the country and got some barbecue,” O’Reilly said. “It was one of those things where I just had a really good feeling about the place.”
O’Reilly plans to enroll early and will play center or guard for Auburn. He is the Tigers’ fourth commitment for 2011.
As for Georgia, O’Reilly never received an offer. But he had plenty of other options. He claims 15 offers, including a notable one from Georgia Tech.
For a long while it looked like the Yellow Jackets might be the big winner in the battle for O’Reilly. They extended O’Reilly his first official offer, hand-delivering his letter to the high school last October.
“Georgia Tech was my first offer, then Auburn came in around January and made an impression right away,” said O’Reilly, who visited The Flats more than any other campus last fall. “I really liked Georgia Tech; it was one of my top choices. I have a great relationship with Coach [Todd] Spencer and Coach [Brian] Bohannon. But I just really loved it over at Auburn.”
O’Reilly said Georgia’s reluctance to offer confuses him. He said he talked to offensive line coach Stacy Searels “hundreds of times,” attended one of the Bulldogs’ camps last summer and made numerous unofficial visits. Still no offer.
But now O’Reilly says he’s fairly certain he would have still chosen Auburn even if UGA had come forth from an offer. And, more than ever, he’s looking forward to playing in Sanford Stadium.
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