RJ Godfrey coming home to play for Georgia Bulldogs

Clemson's RJ Godfrey (10) celebrates during action against New Mexico in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at FedExForum on Friday, March 22, 2024, in Memphis, Tennessee. (Justin Ford/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Clemson's RJ Godfrey (10) celebrates during action against New Mexico in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at FedExForum on Friday, March 22, 2024, in Memphis, Tennessee. (Justin Ford/Getty Images/TNS)

ATHENS – It took a couple of years, but the son of former Georgia football great Randall Godfrey finally is coming home.

The sport of choice for 6-foot-8, 228-pound RJ Godfrey is basketball, for obvious reasons. He played the last two seasons at Clemson. On Tuesday, Godfrey announced he is transferring to UGA to play for the Bulldogs and third-year coach Mike White.

About this, his dad is pretty happy.

“Enjoying it,” said the eldest Godfrey, who starred at linebacker for Georgia in the 1990s before embarking on an 12-year NFL career. “One thing I stressed with our kids is to create their own legacy, go out and do big things. I didn’t try to persuade (RJ) to do anything or sway him toward my alma mater. But it’s always great to have interest from Georgia, period. I was just thankful for that.”

It was the Bulldogs’ second crack at RJ. An all-state forward at North Gwinnett High, he averaged 16 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists as a senior. Trouble was, he was recruited by former Georgia coach Tom Crean, who soon was to be fired. RJ chose Clemson over the Bulldogs, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Texas Tech.

One of the main reasons RJ chose the Tigers was his relationship with Clemson assistant Antonio Reynolds-Dean. Reynolds-Dean joined the Bulldogs’ staff as White’s associate head coach in 2022.

“In the back of his mind, I know this is something (RJ) always wanted to do,” Randall Godfrey said of his son coming to Georgia. “All three of my boys grew up going to UGA camps, spring football games and all kinds of other things. So, they’ve been on campus quite a bit and they’re very familiar with everything.”

In 2021, they were back on campus to see Randall receive the “Arch Award,” a recognition of success in business for former UGA athletes. Randall Godfrey and his family own funeral homes in Valdosta and the surrounding areas.

Former Georgia star linebacker Randall Godfrey with his family. Left to right: RJ Godfrey, Grant Godfrey (red shirt), Kendal Godfrey (blue shirt), Rhonda Godfrey, Billy Godfrey and Randall Godfrey on May 14, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Randall Godfrey)

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RJ, 21, is the second of Randall and Rhonda Godfrey’s four children. He excelled at football early on, showing a propensity for defensive end. But a couple of concussions as a ninth grader was followed by an ankle injury when he tried to come back the next year, and that chased him from the game. So did non-stop growth spurts.

“My wife’s side of the family is tall,” the 6-foot-3 Godfrey said with a laugh. “But RJ still loves football. He called me from Clemson one day and asked me if he should go out (for football). He says, ‘you think I should, Dad?’ Then he went to a spring practice and saw how hard those guys were hitting and decided, ‘nah, I better not.’”

RJ is pretty good at roundball, too. A 3-star prospect out of high school, Godfrey showed steady progress in his two seasons with the Tigers. After playing nine minutes a game as a freshman, he was a regular off the bench as Clemson made a run to the Elite Eight last season. He played all 36 games, averaging 6.1 points and 3.4 rebounds. He notched career highs of 19 points and 10 rebounds during the season.

“Clemson took advantage of his strength and played him down low because he’s got that football mentality in him and plays very physical,” Randall said. “But his game will be expanded at Georgia and I’m just excited he’ll get a chance to play up under coach White and that wonderful staff at UGA. They did a nice job recruiting him and I’m glad he gets to be back in his home state.”

The Godfreys have produced at least one football player out of their four children. Grant Godfrey is a rising sophomore linebacker at Kentucky. He was a 4-star prospect with multiple Division I offers from all over the country coming out of North Gwinnett. Georgia, however, did not offer a scholarship. Kirby Smart was one of Godfrey’s teammates at Georgia as a freshman in 1995.

The Godfreys explored the idea of reuniting RJ and Grant at Kentucky. They are a barely a year apart in age and are very close as brothers. However, they said new Wildcats’ basketball coach Mark Pope lacked the urgency in recruiting they were getting from Georgia and other schools.

The Bulldogs need players and are desperately seeking not only size and athleticism in the frontcourt, but good passers and ball-handlers as well. RJ fits that bill, averaging 4.0 assists his senior year in high school when he often played point guard.

With senior Frank Anselem-Ibe’s decision Tuesday to enter the transfer portal, the Bulldogs have lost 10 members of last year’s team. Seven of those have entered the portal: Jabri Abdur-Rahim (Providence), Jalen DeLoach (Loyola Chicago), Justin Hill (Wichita State), M.A. Moncrieffe (Seattle) Mari Jordan (TBD), RJ Melendez (TBD) and Anselem-Ibe.

Godfrey is the Bulldogs’ fourth incoming transfer. He joins guards Dakota Laffew and De’Shayne Montgomery from Mount St. Mary’s (Md.) and forward Justin Abson from App State. Along with freshman signee Asa Newell and commitment Somto Cyril, that gives White 10 players so far for the 2024-25 roster. The NCAA scholarship limit is 13.

The Godfreys are an athletic family. Their oldest son, 30-year-old Billy, ran track at Baylor. Their 16-year-old, Kendal, also runs track.

“They just followed the formula,” Randall Godfrey said with a chuckle. “They’re all good kids. We’ve been very blessed.”

Godfrey, 51, settled in the Atlanta area after retiring from football in 2007. Drafted in the second round by the Dallas Cowboys, he played for five teams over 12 seasons. He recorded 841 tackles, 19 forced fumbles and second-team All-Pro honors in 2000. Godfrey ranks eighth all-time at Georgia with 365 tackles in his career (1992-95).