Duke commit explains why he turned down UGA

Robert Kraeling, one of the state's top prospects on the offensive line, had always wanted an offer from UGA.

The 6-foot-8, 270-pounder grew up right down the road from UGA, and he attends Prince Avenue Christian with the kids of Mark Richt and new Bulldogs offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Robert Kraeling (247sports)

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Robert Kraeling (247sports)

Even though Kraeling committed to Duke last spring, he was surprised to finally get the call from UGA on Monday.

“Georgia has kind of been keeping an eye on me for a long time,” Kraeling told the AJC. “I’ve known that. I visited them this past winter. And they just didn’t seem interested at the time. They were just kind of peaking around the corner at me. The offer just came randomly at me. I wasn’t really expecting it.”

Kraeling said he spoke with UGA offensive line coach Rob Sale, who is searching for another offensive lineman after the recent de-commitment of Arher's EJ Price, the state's No. 1-rated prospect at that position.

“I tried to be as calm as I could. I was very flattered by it,” Kraeling said. “I thanked Coach Sale. He’s a great coach. But after I committed and all … I’m 110-percent committed to Duke. I don’t plan on changing my mind. But receiving an offer from Georgia, which is an SEC school and has such a good program, it’s an honor.”

Would it have made a difference if UGA had offered before Kraeling had committed to Duke?

“Yes sir, I probably woud’ve thought about things a little differently,” Kraeling said, before pausing for a few seconds.

“But knowing how I have gone through the recruiting process, I probably would have still decided on Duke even if Georgia had offered. Coach (David Cutcliffe) is a great guy. Not just him, but the other coaches, too … Nobody is there to be flashy. They’re real people, and they put in the hard work. There’s no drama. It’s football, academics and how to be a man. Those are all things I want.”

Kraeling committed to Duke over Auburn, Alabama and N.C. State last spring. Most of them have kept recruiting him, despite the Duke pledge. And he expects that to continue until signing day. After all, he’s the state’s No. 34 overall prospect in the composite rankings.

“I was very appreciative of Coach Sale’s offer,” Kraeling said. “All of the Georgia coaching staff … they are great people. They have a great program. They do. They have something special, and I definitely think they are going places. I just told them, out of all the places, Duke fit me the best. It’s just a better feel. It felt like it was me. I’ve kind of grown up in Athens. I want to branch out, make my own name, and be who I want to be.”

Kraeling then explained why Duke has been able to hold off the bigger SEC schools.

“It’s just the fact that a Duke degree can set you up for so many things in the future,” he said. “Football only lasts so long. Even if you make it to the NFL, the average career is only four or five years. When you get out when you’re 27 or 28, what are you going to do with the rest of your life? You still have to get through your thirties, forties and fifties, and the rest of it. What I am going do with that? How am I going to support my family? What kind of person will I be after the football deal? I felt like a Duke education could get me where I want to go.

“It could help me be successful in the real world, while still keeping the same moral values that I have on the inside with how I raised. With Coach Cutcliffe, the stuff he tells me — that’s the same kind of stuff that I’ve grown up hearing. It’s his values and leadership. To me, it’s the men you fight beside. And definitely the team there (at Duke) is something that I want to be part of. It’s what I am looking for.”