Malcolm Mitchell insists he and Valdosta teammate Jay Rome are good friends; always have been, always will be. But one is left to wonder what’s going on when they decide to announce on the same day but at different times 80 miles apart.
Mitchell is going to make his college decision public at 7 p.m. Thursday night at a local restaurant in Valdosta. Rome, meanwhile, has agreed to make his announcement live on ESPNU’s “Recruiting Insider” show an hour-and-a-half earlier. The problem is that is going to require Rome to drive to a TV station in Tallahassee, Fla., where the world wide leader can establish a satellite link.
None of which to say that ESPNU thinks more of Rome, a five-star tight end, than it does Mitchell, a four-star wide receiver/defensive back. The network, which got up close and personal with both players during the Under Armour All-America Game festivities in Florida earlier this year, extended an invitation to Mitchell to join Rome for the on-air announcement.
“I’m just not that big on the TV thing,” said Mitchell, who is the No. 6 player on the AJC Fab 50 list. “I just wanted to do it [in Valdosta] so everybody that watched me in high school can be there.”
Both players, of course, have narrowed their choices to Georgia and Alabama. So the fact that they’d be making their announcements at different venues has folks thinking they’re headed in different directions with their decisions. In general, Rome is thought to be a heavy Georgia lean and Mitchell a Bama lean.
Not necessarily, Mitchell said. “Nah, it doesn’t mean anything.”
Said Rome: “I have no idea where he’s going to go.”
My communication with Rome has been brief and primarily via text lately. But I was able to have an extended conversation with Mitchell this week, the first time since we were in Orlando for the Under Armour practices the first week of January.
I asked him about his relationship with Rome. Are they as close as it would seem from a distance? “We hang out,” he said. “We’re good friends.”
Both players took official visits to Alabama this past weekend. But they traveled separately and went on different days. Mitchell was there Friday-Sunday while Rome was there Saturday-Monday.
“It was fun,” Mitchell said of the trip. “They know how to show you a good time.”
I asked Mitchell what was the most enjoyable part of the visit. “Probably riding four-wheelers at Coach Saban’s house. That was a lot of fun.”
Of the recruiting aspect of the visit, Mitchell said the Crimson Tide “gave me some more to think about.”
He said Bama, which initially was recruiting him purely as a cornerback, was coming more Georgia’s way and telling him he could play both sides of the ball.
“They’re saying whatever I want to do,” Mitchell said. “They’re giving me the option as well.”
In fact, in need of help at wide receiver, the Bulldogs are telling Mitchell he could have a full-time shot on offense. Mitchell blossomed as an offensive threat under first-year coach Rance Gillespie this past season. A more open offensive attack gave Mitchell the chance to catch 77 passes for 1,419 yards and 13 TDs.
“I think Coach Gillespie coming to Valdosta helped expose every aspect of my athletic abilities,” Mitchell said. “Him getting the ball in my hands showed everybody what I was capable of doing. I had offers before that, but I think it put in everybody’s mind what kind of player I can be.”
According to Gillespie, the sky’s the limit for Mitchell.
“Jay Rome is a fantastic football player. He’ll probably play in the NFL one day,” Gillespie said. “But Malcolm Mitchell is the best athlete I’ve ever coached.”
When I spoke to Mitchell on Monday night, he insisted he still had not made up his mind. So asked him what would he do to arrive at a decision.
“I’m just going to spend some time thinking about it and praying about it,”he said. “I’ll talk to my mom and we’ll decide what’s the best thing for me.”
Whatever that is, it won’t necessarily be the same as his buddy Jay.