It’s generally assumed since Stan Rome was a two-sport letterman at Clemson that his son, Jay Rome, is most likely to end up there.
Not so, says the man that should know best, Stan Rome.
“Oh, absolutely not,” said Stan Rome, who was busy cooking hamburgers for his son and Valdosta High buddy Malcolm Mitchell while doing a telephone interview recently. “I don’t want him to go to Clemson just because I went to Clemson. I want him to go wherever he feels like he’s comfortable with the staff and where the fit works for him. The last thing I want is for him to go to Clemson and he gets there and then it’s not ideal for him. I never would forgive myself for something like that.”
Still, nobody would be surprised if Jay Rome ended up following in his dad’s footsteps. After all, the father and son are quite similar.
About 40 years ago, Stanford Rome was the toast of Valdosta. The two-sport star was wowing the Wildcats with his athletic antics in both football and basketball. At 6-foot-5, he dominated the competition on the hardwood. And he was hauling in multiple passes every game as a wide receiver when pass-oriented offenses were still a rarity in the state. As a sophomore in 1971, he caught 72 passes for 1,583 yards and 20 touchdowns, a record that stood for years.
Jay Rome has yet to set any receiver records. But the 6-foot-6, 230-pound rising senior at Valdosta is the top-ranked tight end in Georgia and rated among the top few nationwide. And he, too, is a two-sport star in high school. In fact, he’s competing in basketball this summer with the Smyrna Stars AAU team.
But make no mistake about, it’s Jay Rome’s ability as a football player that is getting recruiters most excited. He has received upward of 30 scholarship offers. He has narrowed it down this summer to a final four of Alabama, Clemson, Florida and Georgia.
“And not necessarily in that order,” Stan Rome said of his oldest son. “At this point I have no idea where he’s going to go. What he’s thinking, your guess is as good as mine.”
What Jay Rome is thinking is that he is not going to be in a hurry to make a decision. At one point he thought he might choose a school before the end of summer. Now he figures he’ll at least take it into the fall and likely beyond that.
He accepted an invitation to play in the Under Armour All-Star Game in Florida in January and said he was considering announcing it then.
“I’m kind of just enjoying it right now,” Jay said of the recruiting process. “I’m just trying to get a feel for everywhere more than I did the first time. The first time I took visits, every school seemed like it was the right place to be. So I’m trying to get back to each place and go into every visit with a level head and try to leave the same way. Hopefully that way I can just get a feel for each school and try to evaluate the things that I really need to look at so I can make the best decision.”
Jay has an ideal sounding board in the form of his father. Stan Rome’s recruitment was something like Valdosta had never seen when coaches swooped down on the South Georgia town to see him in the 1973. Eventually Clemson would win the sweepstakes over the likes of UCLA, N.C. State, Georgia and many others.
“The intensity of recruiting is no different today but things were a whole lot different back at that time,” said Stan, who played for four years in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs. “Now they have a lot of NCAA rules and do’s and don’ts that didn’t exist back in that day. And back then the schools in the South were just integrating African-American students. So it was a situation where no one in my family had ever graduated from college. . . .
“Jay has had the benefit of having two parents that have graduated from college. We know how important academics are and what’s important after football’s over. And Jay’s a much better student than I was. So it’s different, but it’s still recruiting. You still have to make up your mind.”
That, both Stan and Jay admit, is not going to be easy. Dad teases his son about his fickleness.
“Usually the way it’s been working with Jay, whatever the last place we visited is usually what shoots to the top of his list,” said Stan, who recently accompanied his son on trips to Alabama and Florida. “A year and a half ago we visited Clemson and he was ready to commit. Back this past football season, when he went up to Georgia for one of their games, I had to really hold him back from wanting to commit right then and there. He went to Florida and he was really big on them.”
Said Jay: “It’s not as bad now. Early in my recruitment that was the case. But now I’m looking at it differently. I’m trying to get back to each school a second time and maybe even a third time so I can really compare. I mean, it’s recruiting. Every school is going to make their school look like it’s the best school. So after I leave somewhere I’ve got to keep in mind that the next school is going to be the same way. They’re going to do and say everything I want to hear or see. So I’ve just got to try to look past that and pick the place that’s best for me.”
And that, Stan Rome says, will have nothing to do with where he went to school.
“We’ll talk and pray about it, but ultimately it’s going to be his decision,” Dad said. “We’re looking at academics and the academic support that each place gives. We’re looking at the relationships he has with the people that are recruiting him, his position coach and the head coach. So all that’s going to play into it. Hopefully we’ll have some input, my wife and I. But it’s more than just about football.”