THOMASVILLE – Legendary NFL defensive end Michael Strahan, Ray Drew’s self-described “mentor,” couldn’t make it. But Randall Godfrey and David Pollack did. And their presence at the 5-star defensive end’s college announcement here at Thomas County Central High School Friday spoke volumes about the impact and reach this high school football player has had.
Drew chose the University of Georgia over a stack of more than 50 scholarship offers. And that’s one of the reasons Godfrey and Pollack, each former NFL and UGA players, were here. But, they said, it was not the only reason.
“I spoke at a banquet for In The Game Magazine a while back and presented him with an award,” said Godfrey, who hails from nearby Lowndes County. “And the first time he got up and spoke, I was like, “Man, look at this guy!” I was impressed. So we kept in touch after that and I knew I needed to support him regardless of what decision he made. But I’m glad he’s a Georgia guy because this kid has the works. I’m talking about leadership, everything. He’s going to make an impact, not only on the field but off the field.”
Said Pollack: “I just started to get to know him and to speak to him and, my God, I’ve never met a kid like this. I mean, 18 years old, to have your head on this straight, I mean, it’s kind of scary. I was kind of similar to him but I wasn’t as mature. I was growing in my faith and I was learning, but this kid is grounded and he has goals. You listen to his goals and what he wants to do, it’s pretty outstanding. I look forward to working with him anyway I can.”
Drew is a licensed minister who preaches regularly at Paradise Missionary Baptist Church and at various churches across South Georgia. He’s also a consensus 5-star prospect, the No. 1-rated player in America at his position by Rivals.com and the No. 2 player in Georgia per the AJC Fab 50.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end will play outside linebacker at Georgia, the same position as Justin Houston, the all-star junior who just departed for the NFL. Drew’s commitment.
“I actually dreamed about this last night,” Drew said in a one-on-one interview after his announcement. “It actually took place before it actually took place. I was a little nervous but not too much. It’s just a relief, like something really heavy has been lifted up off of me.”
Drew’s commitment continues quite a bit of late recruiting momentum for the Bulldogs particularly in South Georgia. Just last week they plucked tight end Jay Rome, the AJC’s No. 3 players, and athlete Malcolm Mitchell, No. 6, out of Valdosta. On Monday they nabbed No. 9, offensive tackle Xzavier Ward, out of Colquitt County.
So now Georgia has secured the numbers 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 11 and 12 players in the state. And they’re a finalist for No. 1. Running back Isaiah Crowell of Carver-Columbus will announce his decision between Georgia and Alabama on Wednesday, national signing day.
Georgia is also in position to nab some out-of-state talent down the stretch. Jeoffrey Pagan, the No. 4-ranked defensive end in the country, de-committed to Clemson on Thursday and is said the favor the Bulldogs. They’re also in the lead for nose guard John Jenkins of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, the sixth-ranked junior college player in America.
Drew called out to those players to follow him to UGA.
“I just want to say to Jay at the end of his announcement, I heard your call,” Drew said. “And now I’ve given an answer. Isaiah Crowell, we’re waiting on you; Antonio Richardson, we’re waiting on you; John Jenkins, we’re waiting on you; and Jeoffrey Pagan, we’re waiting on you. Come join what we’re putting together, the Dream Team. But remember, a dream is only a dream until you make it reality. So I’m calling you out on this one. I hope you’re not afraid to be thrown into the fire. I hope you’re not afraid to be the ones to make the change.”
Crowell, Pagan, Richardson and Jenkins are all expected to make their announcements on national signing day or later.
Drew is the Bulldogs’ 23rd commitment. By rule, Georgia could sign as many as 28 players in this class and admit as many as 27 for fall semester. Two members of the Class of 2011, wide receiver Chris Conley and quarterback Christian LeMay, have already enrolled in school and count toward the 2010 recruiting class.
Following is a partial transcription of Drew’s announcement as he delivered it:
First I’d like to thanks all the schools that recruited me:
Georgia: I became not only a recruit but a friend to many coaches on the staff.
Auburn: Auburn is a place that makes you feel at home. I personally think in the recruiting process the most overused word is family. At Auburn University, they actually make you feel like you’re in a family. . . . War Eagle!
Louisiana State: I’ve never been or seen a more crazy, exciting fan base. I have never seen a coach quite as unique as coach Miles. I truly appreciate them for everything. Go Tigers, as in G-E-A-U-X.
Clemson: Coach Swinney is putting together something very special in the hills of South Carolina. Clemson is a very unique place in that it has a population of 12,000, a student body of 17,000 but it has an 85,000 seat stadium sitting right in the middle. You do the math. In the words of the great Coach Howard, if you’re not going to give 110 percent, keep your filthy hands off my rock.
Miami: Coach Golden is a very genuine guy. He knows where The U used to be and he plans on bringing back the swagger. . . . And you can’t ask for a better campus Coral Gables. Go ‘Canes.
Thanks to the other schools for recruiting me, and I have nothing but respect for all them.
After many long nights of prayer – and I believe I’ve prayed about this decision more than I’ve prayed for my own well being – after a very close evaluation of each school, I have made a final decision, to attend . . .
It’s the toughest single decision I’ve ever had to make, hands down. I’m going to pick . . .
I’m just glad this whole thing is over, it’s really been very, very stressful [laughter] . . .
Throughout all the War Eagles and all the Go Tigers and throwing up the U of Miami, none compared to the two words that say it all, [throws on Georgia cap], Go Dawgs!
By Chip Towers, The College Recruiting Blog.