Robert Nkemdiche is a lot of things, including most notably the nation’s’ No. 1 college football prospect.
He’s also a 17-year-old kid who has done an enormous job of handling the pressures of being in recruiting’s biggest spotlight.
Nkemdiche created a stir (some positive, mostly negative) when he told the AJC it was a “done deal” with his commitment to Clemson if the Tigers offered one of his high school teammates, safety Ryan Carter, a D1 prospect with football scholarship offers from Ole Miss and Southern Miss, among others.
Nkemdiche has never made it a secret that he wanted to play with his two best friends, DB David Kamara (who is committed to Clemson) and Ryan Carter. They’ve all been best friends since middle school, and had a lot of success together on the football field. They’re like brothers. They’re like family.
In our past conversations, Robert has often talked about how blessed he feels to be in his current situation. He’s also expressed a desire to help out his teammates in any way to get them some of the same opportunities. Robert has pointed out Grayson teammates that he felt deserved more attention, and also makes an effort to talk about them to college scouts.
In fact, Nkemdiche’s initial trip to Clemson, when he began to fall in love with the place, happened when he tagged along with buddy David Kamara on Kamara’s unofficial visit.
That was the context behind Nkemdiche’s “done deal” comment – to help another friend get a good look. He wasn’t using it as a power play. He did not indicate he’s entitled. He’s not holding Clemson “hostage” for another scholarship. It wasn’t about any of alleged wrongful intentions discussed this weekend across the Internet and on message boards.
It’s unfortunate because I know he’s nothing like that.
When you think about No. 1 guys, Robert has handled his pressure-cooker with a lot of maturity and thoughtfulness.
At one point, Robert toyed with the idea of committing earlier in the spring but decided to wait for several reasons, including these: So he could visit some of his favorite schools again, but also so college scouts would stop by Grayson to notice and evaluate his teammates during spring practice.
When Nkemdiche finally did commit, he didn’t schedule a national TV press conference. He didn’t sit in front of a table of baseball caps. He didn’t send out a press release. That’s just not Robert’s style.
The nation’s No. 1 prospect committed at a Clemson summer camp in front of his coach and a few teammates. It was low key but worked just fine for Robert because he was with many of his inner circle. Then he let a few reporters know about it and had only a few comments, preferring to avoid an avalanche of attention upon himself – which, of course, is unavoidable when you’re No. 1.
This summer, when other top prospects paraded around the camp/combine circuit, Nkemdiche has kept a low profile at Grayson High School, working out and training with his teammates. Yes, it’s true his coach preferred for Nkemdiche to hang around because he was injured at a camp last year. But Robert never really lobbied him on the issue because his focus is the No. 1 ranking – not as a prospect, but with Grayson’s football team, the reigning state champions.
Robert Nkemdiche’s is the best prospect out of high school that I’ve seen out of Georgia in 20+ years. There will be many stories written about him for years to come. He shouldn’t be judged on anything you’ve read anywhere this week.
UPDATED: On Sunday, Nkemdiche said his Clemson’s commitment would not be affected by what happened between Ryan Carter and the Tigers, according to NYT’s Adam Himmelsbach.
“Of course I would want to play with him,” Nkemdiche said of Carter. “But if it doesn’t work out, I’ll still go to Clemson.”
Nkemdiche said he never demanded that Clemson’s coaches pursue Carter; he said Carter joining him at Clemson would simply make a good situation better.
“I didn’t give Coach Swinney an ultimatum about anything,” Nkemdiche said. “I hope he doesn’t feel obligated to offer anybody a scholarship because of my commitment.”
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– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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