Mississippi State liked quarterbacks from the state of Georgia so much that it signed two this year.
Nick Fitzgerald of Richmond Hill High School enrolled early at Mississippi State, while Elijah Staley of Wheeler High School will join the team this summer with the rest of the signees.
“Nick Fitzgerald graduated high school early, and is here on campus,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen told the AJC. “He will go through spring ball. Elijah Staley is a leader on one of the top basketball teams in Georgia. He’s a two-sport athlete. When basketball finishes up, he will turn his focus back to football to get ready to get here in the summer.
The 6-foot-6 Staley had a few twists and turns in his recruiting journey. He originally committed to Vanderbilt but backed off because he didn’t feel the Commodores would let him play both football and basketball in college.
Staley, who later pledged to Mississippi State, was dismissed from Wheeler’s football team during his senior season after a disagreement over play-calling. There were instantly rumors that Mississippi State might withdraw the scholarship offer but the Bulldogs remained loyal to Staley throughout the bizarre situation.
“In every situation, there’s all kinds of independent reasons that go on within the team,” Mullen said. “I think it was something between he and his head coach. They both spoke extremely highly of each other afterwards, so I don’t have much of an issue with it. I think that’s a matter that those two handled internally.”
Staley’s senior season of football was a disappointment but he has been killing it on the basketball court. He scored 19 points in Saturday’s semifinals to lead Wheeler to a berth in the Class AAAAAA state championship game. Wheeler (28-5) will play Tift at 8:45 p.m. Saturday at the Macon Coliseum.
Staley and Fitzgerald were two of four Mississippi State signees from Georgia, including Stephenson High School offensive lineman Jordan Harris and Columbia High School linebacker Deshon Cooper.
The Bulldogs have maintained a steady presence in Georgia under Mullen.
“One, our proximity certainly helps,” he said. “For a lot of kids, it’s about a four-hour drive from Georgia to Mississippi State. So I always think that’s a huge aspect that their parents can come see them play. They know if they go to school here, their parents can get in a car and see them play. That makes us an attractive school to those kids.
“A lot of those kids, when they get on campus, they see we that we have the premiere facilities in the SEC. They see the type of family community we have not just within our football program but really on campus. I think that really is intriguing to a lot of young men when they come out here. They get to see what it’s all about.
“They’re going to get a great education, and they’re going into a great campus community and be a part of special family, and have the opportunity to win a championship on the football field in the SEC. All of those things are huge qualities for young men.”
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