Kurai and Gertrude Chimedza thought that their son’s college choice was a no-brainer, but they kept their opinion to themselves. T.K., one of the state of Georgia’s top prospects at defensive tackle, would have to make the decision on his own.
While powerhouses Georgia, Florida State and Oregon made scholarship offers, Chimedza went with Georgia Tech.
“I told him he made a wise choice,” Kurai Chimedza said. “Hopefully that’s not the last wise choice he makes, but that was a wise one.”
From a football perspective, Chimedza’s commitment to Tech – he is expected to make his decision official when the early signing period begins Wednesday – was not the standard. He had choices that, from the perspective of facilities, NFL track record and opportunity to win championships, were superior to Tech.
“It’s definitely seen as unorthodox,” Chimedza told the AJC.
However, Chimedza’s willingness to embrace the unconventional looks like a huge get for the Yellow Jackets. Chimedza, who will graduate next week from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., is a three-star prospect (247 Sports composite) at a position where the supply of skilled practitioners is typically low and the competition fierce. Chimedza said that coaches from Georgia, Florida State, Oregon, Tennessee and Syracuse continued to recruit him after he made his commitment to Tech this past summer, hoping he might bend on his decision.
At 6-foot-1 and 296 pounds, he could be ready to play next season.
“I would not be surprised at all to see him playing a lot of downs as a true freshman next year at Tech,” said Kevin Wright, Chimedza’s coach at IMG.
At IMG, Chimedza played on a defensive line with players headed to Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State.
“He’s on a par with those other guys,” Wright said of Chimedza.
Chimedza’s decision to attend Tech was founded on relationships with defensive coordinator Ted Roof, coach Paul Johnson and defensive line coach Mike Pelton and secured on the school’s academic prowess. (Tech ranks 34th in the U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings, ahead of Georgia at 54th, Florida State at 81st and Oregon at 103rd.)
Where other schools’ coaches boasted about the number of former players in the NFL, Chimedza said, Tech coaches highlighted summer internships that players were obtaining and the six-figure salaries that former players were drawing.
“It felt like more than football,” he said. “I’m not just going to a university for football.”
That’s precisely the message that Tech coaches push in an effort to differentiate the school from competitors. In Chimedza, Tech had an elite prospect ready to listen. Chimedza acknowledged that as the recruiting process kicked in, it was easy to see the choice through a football-only lens.
“But it’s more than that,” he said. “Once you get mature about it, it’s more than that.”
The NFL talk did not sway him.
“Ultimately, schools don’t get you to the NFL,” he said. “You get yourself to the NFL.”
Chimedza’s parents know something about the value of an education. Both grew up in Zimbabwe – they attended the same boarding school – and then independent of each other came to the U.S. for college, where they reconnected and eventually married. It was why Gertrude and Kurai were so enthusiastic in their support for T.K. (it stands for Takudzwa Kurai, which means “We’ve been blessed” and “Grow in Christ” in Shona, a language spoken in Zimbabwe) to accept a scholarship to attend IMG after a year and a half at Dacula High. It is a private boarding school that offers high-level training in a number of sports, including football, baseball, golf, tennis and soccer. Once they understood that the schooling was legitimate, they were on board.
“We knew what it did for us,” said Takudzwa, who holds a job in the IT field. “As a result, we knew to do the same thing for T.K.”
Chimedza called it the best decision he had made thus far in his life.
“Just the things I’ve learned, even outside of football – learning how to fend for myself, not relying on my parents at an early age,” he said. “It’s just going to make college 10 times easier just dealing with things on my own.”
Chimedza will enroll in January, giving him the opportunity to take part in spring practice before his freshman season. Tech will take receipt of a player who is quick off the ball, plays with leverage and uses his hands well, according to Wright, his coach at IMG, not to mention someone who can perform in the classroom.
“I think he’s a big-time defensive lineman that also is a really good student that will thrive at Georgia Tech,” Wright said.