NC State pulled off one of the state’s biggest recruiting upsets this year by beating out UGA and Clemson for DE Kenderius Whitehead.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder from ML King High School had UGA as his early frontrunner but backed off on the Bulldogs because they wanted him as outside linebacker and he preferred remaining at defensive end in college. Whitehead talked about recruiting with the AJC:
What was the most creative thing a school or coach did to get your attention? “It was when Mark Richt sang me Happy Birthday, because I went down there on my official visit to Georgia on my 19th birthday [on Dec. 9]. They had something for recruits over at Coach Richt’s house. He, his staff and everybody sang me Happy Birthday. They had me cake and everything. I was surprised and shocked.” .
You took official visits to UGA, Clemson, NC State and North Carolina. What was the funniest thing that happened on a recruiting trip? “I remember I played [Clemson coach] Dabo Swinney in a game of pool. I beat him in pool, and that was pretty funny. I got lucky on that one. He scratched on the eight ball. He took it pretty well, with good sportsmanship and all.”
You were a longtime “lean” to UGA. What happened there? “Really I grew up in Georgia and in Athens, Ga. I don’t want to backtrack and go back home because I’m a momma’s boy. I want to go out there in the world and see something new … you know, venture off and get away from home for a little bit. Not too far away from home but far enough away from home. I didn’t want to go back home to Athens. There could’ve been a lot of distractions, being in my hometown with my family and everything. I decided to go somewhere else, play somewhere else and see something new … I got to go become a man on my own.”
How did UGA take the news when you informed them you weren’t coming there? “They were pretty upset. But, I mean … hey, it’s life. You can’t have it all.”
What is the funniest thing any coach said to you during the recruiting process? “The funniest thing that said is that they can get me to the league, to the NFL. That was pretty funny. It was a number of coaches that said that. It was funny because nobody can get me to the NFL but me and God.”
Which college coach liked your mother’s cook the best during an in-home visit? “The coaches never really came to my house. They went to see my mom at her job at the funeral home. They had a conference meeting at her job.”
Which school disappointed you the most during recruiting? “No school really disappointed me but I think I disappointed some schools because I was coming there.”
What school came in second for you? “Clemson. I really liked Clemson but I really went with my heart with N.C. State. I felt like it was a great fit for me and a great opportunity for me to play. Also, the school was great, too.” What could Clemson have done a little better? “Nothing really, to be honest. I prayed about the situation, and I asked God to show me what was best for me. And He did.”
What was the biggest recruiting rumor about you that wasn’t true? “They were saying I was going to flip on signing day to Clemson. That wasn’t true at all. I was 100 percent with my decision.”
Which non-NC State coach was the nicest? “Coach Swinney. He was a nice dude but my heart was at NC State.” Which one was not the nicest? “All the coaches were nice. They are going to say and do anything to get you there. Of course, they are going to be nice to you. It’s all a game.”
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– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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