North Cobb High School’s Darren Waller wasn’t happy about the rumors he was flirting with Georgia while committed to Georgia Tech.
The 6-foot-5, 224-pounder signed a football scholarship with Georgia Tech last February and will compete for playing time at either safety or wide receiver for the Yellow Jackets this season.
Waller now laughs about the awkward situation with the archrivals. After all, there were legitimate reasons to why the rumors started. He was spotted on Georgia’s campus several times. It’s true.
But it wasn’t for the reasons most people thought: Waller said he wasn’t there to for secret meetings with the Bulldogs but to visit his older sister, who attends Georgia.
“There was a little controversy,” Waller said. “We’d go to a basketball game or something like that, and then someone would tell me that they read on a message board somewhere that I was at Georgia on an unofficial visit. It was frustrating then, but it’s funny now when I look back at it.”
Georgia never issued a scholarship offer, but Waller felt like there was enough genuine interest from the Bulldogs that could’ve led to one. “They were calling my coach for film, and asking if I wanted to come up for [an unofficial visit] and talk. But it never got serious because I was always set on Georgia Tech.”
Waller talked to the AJC about recruiting:
You signed with Tech to play safety but you may get a shot at wide receiver; what’s the latest with all of that? They are still talking a little wide receiver. I guess they are making up their minds right now. When I go to watch spring practice, I will go to meeting rooms with both the wide receivers and defensive backs. I really don’t know what they are going to do with me. I guess I will find out when I report this summer. I’ll play either. Whichever one gets me on the field faster, that’s the position I will be happy to play.
If you were in charge of the NCAA, what’s the one rule you would change with recruiting? Because so many guys commit before their senior year, I think colleges should be able to pay for some things when you go on unofficial visits as a junior. Nothing major, but little things like food and maybe some gas money.
What is the funniest thing any college coach said to you during the entire recruiting process? I was on my official visit to Georgia Tech and we went to Atlantic Station and all these luxury restaurants. I mean, it was something big and something fancy for every meal. One of those times, Coach Paul Johnson said “You better enjoy it while you can. It’s going to be best meal you’ll ever have at Georgia Tech” and we all started laughing. I’ve heard the food on campus is good but it won’t obviously be as luxurious as what you get during your official visit.
Any other funny stories about recruiting? Yes, having to do with South Carolina and Steve Spurrier. My mom didn’t want me to go there because she is a diehard fan of the Washington Redskins, and she didn’t like how it things went when [Spurrier] was there. It gave me a bad feeling before I even went to South Carolina. However, I did end up meeting with Coach Spurrier and he was a really nice.
What was the best single experience you had on any of your recruiting trips? It was going to the team banquet at Georgia Tech and seeing how they appreciated the seniors, and how emotional the coaches and players got about the end of the season. Then I got to go out with some of the players to a few parties. That was pretty cool.
What’s the biggest secret you kept during the recruiting process? As soon as Georgia Tech offered me, I pretty much had my mind made up. I would go to other schools and say “Oh, I’m really interested.” At one point, I even told Kentucky they were my No. 1 choice. But I was leaning to Georgia Tech the whole time.
Which school disappointed you the most during recruiting? It wasn’t that bad, but maybe Auburn was my most disappointing situation. During the early part of spring my junior year, Ted Roof, the defensive coordinator, came to the school and said they were really interested in me. I went there on an unofficial visit and to their camp. Then they had a couple of safeties committed and decided they weren’t going to recruit any more. It wasn’t that bad, but it was really disappointing for me at the time.
What school came in second after Tech? I really liked Kentucky. I don’t think they did anything wrong; it was just that I was waiting on Georgia Tech the entire time.
If you could give a junior only one piece of advice about the recruiting process, what would it be? It would be “Don’t wait and hope the college coaches find you. You need to go out and find the coaches instead. You need to get your name out there as quick as you can, even if it means contacting the schools yourself.” If you wait too long, something may not happen. You may not get what you want.
Note: Checking with Waller with clarification of visit to South Carolina’s players lounge.
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog