Valdosta – Georgia’s recruiting dreams remained alive Thursday night as the Bulldogs recorded a sweep here in Title Town, landing two of the state’s top six players in the matter of two hours.
Tight end Jay Rome, an AJC Super 11 member and the No. 3 player in the state, committed to the Bulldogs over Alabama Thursday afternoon. Thursday evening, his wide receiver teammate Malcolm Mitchell, the state’s No. 6 player, joined Rome in tabbing the Bulldogs. He also picked the state school over Alabama.
“It’s a good idea,” Mitchell said of UGA’s “Dream Team” concept. “Jay going there and being a friend had a little bit of influence on me but it was based on what I wanted. That’s what it came down to. I had to do what I felt was right.”
Rome, a 5-star prospect from Valdosta High, unveiled his decision in a nationally-televised announcement that aired on the ESPNU show “Recruiting Insider.” In order to do that, Rome drove 80 miles with his family and head coach Rance Gillespie to tape-record the announcement at a Florida Public Television station near the Florida State campus in Tallahassee, Fla.
Mitchell stayed local. He unveiled his decision before a packed house at the bustling Hibachi Grill and Deluxe Buffet on Baytree Road just off I-75. Mitchell’s announcement was carried live on four Valdosta radio stations – 92.1-FM, 96.1-FM, 97.7-FM and 1150-AM.
Rome donned a white UGA cap and told show host Lowell Galindo,“I think I’m going to stay in state and go to Georgia.”
“Georgia’s a great school, they have great football and it’s known as ‘Tight End U,” Rome said. “At the end of the day, I wanted to stay home, stay in-state and get all the in-state love.”
Rome then implored other members of the mythical “Dream Team” to follow him to Athens. Specifically he called out Carver-Columbus running back Isaiah Crowell, the state’s No. 1-ranked player, who is visiting UGA this weekend; and Thomas County Central defensive end Ray Drew, the state’s No. 2 .
Rome managed to get back to Valdosta to attend Mitchell’s ceremony, which extended was extended to more than 50 minutes long by the radio broadcast.
“Now that he’s going to Georgia I’m ecstatic,” Rome said. “No matter where he was going to go I was going to support him. I honestly thought he was going to Alabama. That’s what I came over here thinking. We both made up our own minds independent. It just so happened both our minds happened to be on Georgia.”
Mitchell said he was late in coming to his decision to choose Georgia. “Alabama led the whole way, the whole way,” he said. “I thought at one time that’s where I was going to go.”
Asked what changed, Mitchell said: “It was the last-minute official I took [to UGA],” he said. “I really enjoyed myself up there. I enjoyed myself at Alabama as well. They’re both two great programs, but I had to do what I thought was best for me.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound athlete was originally recruited as a lock-down cornerback. But his prolific production in new coach Rance Gillespie’s more open attack – he had 77 catches for 1,419 yards and 13 TDs – swayed both Alabama and Georgia to offer him as an offensive player. He was given the option to play either side of the ball by both schools.
“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.”
GEORGIA 2011 COMMITMENTS
By Chip Towers, The College Recruiting Blog