Justice Dingle picked Georgia Tech for many of the reasons that football prospects often do.
He liked the coaching staff, particularly his area recruiter Andy McCollum and coach Paul Johnson. Coaches valued him highly and made clear their plan for him as a Yellow Jackets linebacker. He has family in the Atlanta area and in neighboring South Carolina. The strength of a Tech degree was appealing.
“We’ve always stressed to (Justice and his younger brother, Jordan) that football is a tool that you’ve been blessed with the ability to play, but academics is what’s going to take you where you need to be for the rest of your life,” said Justice Dingle Sr., Justice’s father.
Justice Jr. had an additional reason that isn’t frequently cited. Justice Sr. was a mechanical engineering major at South Carolina State and is a plant manager for a brake manufacturer in Glasgow, Ky.
“That’s what kind of led me to GT, with him being an engineer,” Justice Dingle said of his father. “I kind of wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
At the outset of his time at Tech, what the future holds for Dingle is unknowable, although there’s a distinct possibility that he’ll play as a freshman. But he’s someone with a football body, oodles of talent and a basket of enviable traits. The chances for Dingle’s success on all counts at Tech seem high.
“The kid is really athletic, moves very well and his attention to detail is very, very good,” said Tyreon Clark, an assistant coach at Bowling Green High and also Dingle’s track coach. “My hope is that he becomes a valuable asset to the Georgia Tech team and eventually earns his way to the NFL draft one day.”
Clark saw a different side of Dingle than most this past spring as the coach was starting a youth flag-football league in Bowling Green focused on serving lower-income children in the city of about 67,000. Dingle was a volunteer coach.
“It was ‘Yes, sir/No, sir’,” Clark said. “Very respectful kid. But more important, the kids grasped the things that he was teaching. He made it fun. When you think of high-school kids, Justice didn’t act like a high-school kid. He acted like a young man.”
Last month, Justice, Jordan and their mother, Tonya, relaxed in their spacious two-story home, awaiting the return of Justice Sr. The Dingles live in a quiet subdivision situated among rolling hills and farmland. Justice shared with a visitor about his efforts to balance school and sports (besides football and track, he also played power forward for Bowling Green’s basketball team). He was trying to remember the name of an after-school academic-support program, and Jordan, a rising sophomore and himself a budding football star, couldn’t help.
“He doesn’t have to do it because he makes straight A’s,” Dingle said.
This is what Tech is getting – someone who needles his younger brother by calling him a 4.0 student.
The two brothers are close, particularly after the family moved to Bowling Green from the south side of Nashville, Tenn., two years ago just before the start of Justice’s junior year. The reason explains a little bit about who the Dingles are. Justice Sr. had been making the commute to a manufacturing plant in Glasgow – about 90 minutes one way – for several years in order to keep the family in Murfreesboro.
The decision to uproot was made to save some wear and tear on Dad, and for the boys to be able to spend more time with him.
“I was upset because I was going to miss my friends, but then again, I wanted to do what was best for the family,” Justice said. “I didn’t mind because I don’t have too much trouble making friends.”
(The move also explains why Tech went into Kentucky to recruit, which it rarely does. The head coach at Dingle’s old high school is a friend of McCollum’s and made sure he knew of Dingle’s whereabouts.)
The Dingles are a close bunch. Justice Sr. and Tonya were high-school sweethearts in Manning, S.C., and will have been married 21 years in July.
“We were always told, you put God first and you can achieve anything and everything,” said Tonya, a special-education teacher at Bowling Green High. “Just a lot of encouragement from family.”
They have raised Justice and Jordan with similar spiritual and moral guidance. They offer thanks before they eat. They attend Olive Branch Baptist Church in Nashville, making the hour-or-so drive every Sunday. (They also like going to the movies and riding four-wheelers. The two Justices also explore the roads around Bowling Green on the elder’s motorcycles.)
What does that mean for his football exploits? Dingle’s head coach at Bowling Green explained.
“His parents, they’re just awesome people,” said Kevin Wallace, now at Saint Xavier High in Louisville, Ky. “I’ve been in this business for 34 years. When you run across families that do things the right way, it shows up every day in how their sons respond to coaching and how they respond to being a leader in the football program, and Justice was top of the line when it comes to both of those things.”
Dingle is not bad at the football part. He played on the varsity as a freshman at Oakland High in Murfreesboro, where he was teammates with Tech redshirt freshman safety Kaleb Oliver.
After moving, Dingle helped lead Bowling Green to the Class 5A state championship as a junior. He was named all-state as both a junior and senior. He had a slew of power-conference offers and chose Tech over Purdue, Tennessee and Virginia.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, he is Tech’s heaviest linebacker but still ran the 100-meter dash in 12.21 seconds as a junior.
“For his size, that’s moving,” Clark said.
Wallace said that Dingle was “among the best that I’ve had,” no small praise considering that he coached five state championship teams at Bowling Green. He was rated the No. 25 inside linebacker prospect in his class and the No. 4 player in the state of Kentucky (247 Sports composite).
Dingle is a candidate to play either inside or outside linebacker for defensive coordinator Nate Woody.
“He’s a guy that has a motor, that can run and do things,” Johnson said in December after Dingle signed his letter of intent. “He’s 245 (pounds) and he’s fighting (to keep weight off), so he’s got a chance to get big. He could be your big linebacker inside, or he maybe grow up into something else. But he can run.”
Woody’s 3-4 defense could be an ideal fit, giving him the chance to rush the passer either from the inside or outside and use his size/speed combination.
And the thing with Dingle is, his size and speed are but a small part of the package.
The fourth in a series of profiles of members of Tech’s incoming freshman class.
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