Georgia Tech coaches and staff were parked in front of a television in the team’s players lounge at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday, as Rome High running back Jamious Griffin made his college announcement live from Sports & Social by SunTrust Park.
Tech coaches felt good but not certain that Griffin would select Tech. Starting with coach Geoff Collins, they had been making it clear that he was a high priority for the 2019 signing class and apparently got a good vibe from him, but nothing is guaranteed in the cutthroat business of recruiting.
Reading tea leaves, his choice of outfit was not encouraging – Griffin was wearing a red-and-black plaid suit – the colors of Louisville, one of his finalists. (Rome’s primary school color is red.) But flanked by his parents, Tyrone and LaBretha, Griffin pulled out from under the table a blue-and-gold Tech hat and placed it upon his head.
Seeing it on the TV screen, Tech’s coaches erupted in cheers, high fives and hugs. Not long after, Collins called Tyrone Griffin on FaceTime, his face filling the screen while assistants whooped it up in the background.
“Huge moment for us on a lot of levels,” Collins said later when he held his signing-day news conference.
And with that, Collins had his first major recruiting coup, landing a four-star prospect who had not been interested in Tech before the hire of Collins and picked the Yellow Jackets over Auburn, Louisville and N.C. State. The Gatorade state player of the year and a first-teamer on USA Today’s All-America team can now be added to the roster. The opportunities to play in a pro-style offense, get on the field early and play with his older brother Quon (a Tech defensive lineman) were too much to pass up, as was the Tech education.
“Honestly, out of all the colleges I had, I had the same chance to play early at all of them,” Griffin said. “The thing that got me was the academic thing after football. Georgia Tech, they’re a top academic school. I felt like, after football, I’d be settled good with the education from Georgia Tech.”
It was Collins who got the ball rolling, driving up I-75 to Rome to see Griffin the day after he was hired at Tech in December.
“A head coach can only see a player one time (off the college campus), so he used his first time to see me when he first got hired, so that was a big impact,” Griffin said.
Tech followed up with more visits, including one from three assistants, including running backs coach Tashard Choice, shortly after midnight of the first day in January that coaches were allowed to visit prospects. Tyrone Griffin compared it with something you’d see in a movie.
“Stuff like that, I never dreamt that it’d happen to my kids or we’d be in a situation like this,” he told the AJC. “They big-timed us. For them to be here at the very (first) moment that they could possibly see him, that was a big statement. It was big.”
While the Jackets added only four signees to the 16 who signed with Tech in December, it was undoubtedly a momentous day for Collins and Tech. Tech added two players who already had committed – Central Gwinnett High linebacker Cornelius Evans (described by Collins as “very rangy”) and wide receiver Nazir Burnett of Harrisburg, Pa. (Collins: “Unbelievable kid and length, size, speed that we value”).
Besides Griffin, defensive end Mike Lockhart of Birmingham, Ala., announced his selection of Tech over North Carolina and Mississippi State. (Collins was unable to comment on him, as Lockhart’s announcement had not been made at the time of his news conference.)
Further, the school announced the transfer of Miami wide receiver and Stockbridge High grad Marquez Ezzard. (Collins: “A dynamic player, electric receiver, a playmaker, high-character guy.”)
But the big prize was Griffin, a signing that Collins said “speaks volumes about how powerful this brand is, how great this institution is.” Athletic director Todd Stansbury hired Collins to replace Paul Johnson in no small part because of his reputation as a recruiter and also his understanding of the importance of branding.
Collins has been active in both areas, making himself visible and introducing himself to Atlanta, Tech fans and recruits as an energetic, fun and passionate coach (who really likes Waffle House). When Collins began recruiting Griffin, LaBretha Griffin said her son was solidly committed to N.C. State.
“But after the (official visit to Tech), he got to thinking,” she said.
That thinking culminated in his decision, about two weeks ago, to switch to Tech.
And it began on a home visit in early December.
“It was nice,” Griffin said. “He came down, talked to me how he’s changing the program. I believed him, so now I believe in him.”
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