Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas (5), chatting Friday on the first day of practice with safeties coach Andy McCollum, is one of five scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, unusual depth for the Yellow Jackets. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

For Georgia Tech, Andy McCollum ‘one of the top recruiters around’

About eight years ago, Kevin Creasy got a request for help from a fellow high-school football coach. The coach, a good friend of Creasy’s, wanted help getting the word out about a player he believed was underrecruited. After taking a lot at his game video, Creasy called Georgia Tech assistant coach Andy McCollum.

“I was like, you need to take a look at this kid,” said Creasy, now the coach at Oakland High, a state powerhouse in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

McCollum did as told, and that’s how Tech found Shaquille Mason, the Yellow Jackets’ All-American guard and cornerstone of Tech’s Orange Bowl championship team in 2014. While McCollum will be hard-pressed to sign another player of Mason’s magnitude in this signing class or any other, he has nevertheless continued to use his wealth of relationships and down-home style to recruit notable prospects to Tech. Among the 18 recruits signed by Tech in the early signing period, seven were recruited by McCollum. That doesn’t include Jack DeFoor, a transfer from Ole Miss whom McCollum originally recruited out of Calhoun High.

Among other signees by McCollum over the years: former Jackets P.J. Davis, Chris Griffin, Francis Kallon and Lance and Lawrence Austin. Current team members include KirVonte Benson, Kenny Cooper and Qua Searcy. Besides middle and west Tennessee, McCollum recruits parts of central and South Georgia and the Florida panhandle.

“I think he’s one of the top recruiters around,” Creasy said.

In the past two classes, McCollum has signed five players from Tennessee and 14 altogether. He led the recruitment of three of the more prominent members of the 2018 class – quarterback James Graham from Fitzgerald High, defensive back Jaylon King from La Vergne, Tenn., and linebacker Justice Dingle from Bowling Green, Ky. Tech coaches continue to recruit in hopes to add to the 18-player class on national signing day Feb. 7.

Tech and McCollum owe gratitude to Creasy for Dingle, as well. Dingle played for Creasy for his first two seasons in Murfreesboro before his family moved to Kentucky before the start of his junior year. Creasy made sure to remind McCollum of Dingle and shared his contact information. Tech beat out Kentucky and Louisville for Dingle, rated the No. 4 player in the state of Kentucky by ESPN. For that matter, Tech also signed another of Creasy’s players, safety Kaleb Oliver, in the 2017 class.

“Even though he’s very familiar with other institutions, other coaches, etc., he never said a cross word about anyone,” said Hope Oliver, Kaleb’s mother. “And we didn’t get that with everyone. You heard some people that may say something negative about something, or ‘You might watch out for this,’ he never did, and my husband and I had so much respect for him for that.”

For Creasy, sharing the word on Mason and Dingle was returning kindness extended by McCollum. Creasy first met McCollum when he was an assistant coach at a high school that didn’t produce many big-time prospects. 

“And at the same time, he treated me well,” Creasy said. “There’s a lot to be said about a guy that treats you well when you have nothing to offer them.”

In Tennessee, among coaches he calls on are Jack Pittman at Brentwood Academy, Marty Euverard at Montgomery Bell Academy and Paul Wade at the Ensworth School. Both Pittman and Euverard played for Middle Tennessee when McCollum was an assistant coach there 1981-88. He served as head coach 1999-2005. He met Wade in 1999 after he had become head coach at MTSU.

Neither Pittman nor Euverard had him as their position coach, but he still left an impression, and the relationships continued as both went into coaching.

“He was just one of those coaches that players wanted to be around,” Euverard said. “You want to play for your team, but there’s always some coaches that you want to please, you want to play hard for. He was just that guy.”

Euverard said he won’t push a player to Tech and McCollum, but he’s not shy to let McCollum know about prospects. Further, McCollum relies on Euverard, Pittman and others, like Creasy, for evaluations of other players in the area. Pittman gave his approval on King, a highly rated defensive back from Ensworth (Wade’s school) in Nashville.

A few years ago, Euverard and Wade both made sure McCollum knew about Brandon Adams, a defensive tackle at Brentwood Academy (Pittman’s school) whom McCollum was able to pry away from a commitment to Vanderbilt in the 2016 class.

“I said, ‘We can’t block him,’” Euverard said.

Likewise, Pittman gave Adams his endorsement of McCollum as he considered his choices.

“I said, ‘Look, I trust this guy. He will take care of you,’” Pittman said. “Those were my exact words.”

It isn’t every coach who solicits the opinions of high-school coaches, as McCollum and other Tech coaches do as a practice.

“Some guys think they’ve got it all together,” Wade said.

Further, not every college coach makes the rounds annually, Wade said. Others may stop in only when there’s a recruit to be had. McCollum shows up faithfully every year, Wade said, with hugs, handshakes and jokes for all who pass by.

“Even the lady who works at our front desk,” Wade said. “There’s coaches who come in, she’s not exactly excited to see, but when Andy comes in, she’s always excited to talk with him for a few minutes. He knows no stranger.”

McCollum was back at Oakland this past week to check on prospects for the 2019 class, making the visit with coach Paul Johnson. They were interested in a cornerback named Woody Washington, Creasy said. If Washington wants an opinion of the man who’ll likely be recruiting him, he won’t have to go far.

“You try to treat the players like you would your own kid,” Creasy said. “You want to send them to a place where you know they’re going to be taken care of. You feel secure to send them to coach McCollum.”

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