Sheriff of Augusta speaks on son who UGA covets (UPDATED)

Rashad Roundtree (far right) at UGA camp (AJC)

Rashad Roundtree (far right) at UGA camp (AJC)

  • UPDATE: Rashad Roundtree committed to UGA over Ohio State and Duke on Friday. CLICK HERE

Rashad Roundtree, who is one of the state’s biggest recruiting mysteries, will finally reveal his college decision at 9 a.m. Friday.

Roundtree is rated as a 5-star safety by, and he’s from Lakeside High School near Augusta. His father was elected as Richmond County’s first black sheriff in 2012.

You would think that it’s just about “automatic” for Roundtree to commit to UGA for several reasons: The Bulldogs are absolutely desperate for depth of defensive back, UGA is much closer to home than his other finalists, and staying with the in-state school could benefit his father’s bright political future.

But there’s a lot of uncertainty about Roundtree’s college destination less than 24 hours from the highly-anticipated announcement, depending on what you read. Roundtree has remained tight-lipped throughout the recruiting process, and that’s only enhanced all the speculation.

Roundtree hasn’t named any finalists but it is believed to be a head-to-head battle between UGA and Ohio State, while Duke and Auburn are also in the mix. The Bulldogs are the heavy favorite in the 247sports Crystal Ball predictions, but Roundtree is coming off an impressive visit to Ohio State last weekend.

His father, Sheriff Richard Roundtree, talked to the AJC on Thursday afternoon about his son’s leaders:

“Every school that Rashad has visited, he has brought something back positive. He hasn’t had a bad interaction with any of the schools. He’s really sentimental about Duke because they were the first big-time program to offer him a scholarship, and that means a lot to him. They saw something in him before anybody else did. I know that means a lot.

“Of course, with UGA, it’s the in-state school and has a good tradition. I visited with him there a couple of times, and he liked the atmosphere.

“With Ohio State, he said that there’s a different atmosphere in that portion of the country. And that’s why I wanted him to go out and see other programs – and see how people react and see how people do things. He was really impressed with Ohio State because he said it was just a different ‘feel’ there about the way they approach football.

“But this is just some of the feedback he has given me. He could tell you better himself.”

The elder Roundtree was a football star at Josey High School, and later played in college at South Carolina State. Here’s the rest of the Q&A with the sheriff:

The Augusta area has one of UGA’s strong fan bases. How much does your son hear about the Bulldogs on a daily basis? “Constantly, constantly. It’s interesting because this past year I went to Augusta National to speak to the members about security (for The Masters golf tournament). While I was waiting on Mr. (Billy) Payne to come out, there were members coming up to me who were UGA graduates. They said ‘Hey, how’s your son doing?’ Then Mr. Payne came out, and I wanted to talk to him about security after what happened at the Boston Marathon. I wanted to tell him about some of our security upgrades. The first thing that came out of his mouth was ‘You know I went to UGA, right?’ He told he played football there for Vince Dooley. I thought that was funny. Yes, there are a lot of people in the Augusta area who are UGA graduates and fans.”

There are always rumors surrounding big-time prospects. And one of the rumors about Rashad is that you want him to stay in Georgia to help your political future. But Rashad told the AJC this past summer that you made it very clear that you’d be perfectly fine if he went out of state. What about that? “I told him he has an opportunity to see the world, and a lot of people don’t get that opportunity. That’s why I encouraged him to take visits to places that were other than local. I wanted him to see things. Again, I’m huge on academics. The football comes secondary to me. I definitely was not pressuring him to stay in the state, or close to home. This had to be a decision that he would make on his own. Everybody thought I would (put pressure on him to stay in Georgia), but that’s not true. That’s not a concern for me whatsoever. It’s his decision.”

If your son doesn’t pick UGA on Friday, are you worried about upsetting the voters in your district? “No, absolutely not. People know that he’s my son, and they know that I’m going to root for him to make the best decision, no matter which college it is. Everything else is secondary. Wherever he wants to go and feels the most comfortable, I support him 100 percent. I think some people will be disappointed on Friday but that’s just because they’re looking at it from the perspective of wanting success for their favorite team – and not the success of the individual.”

Has your son already picked a college? Or will it come down to the last minute on Friday? “We pretty much know. We sat down for dinner on Monday, and hashed things out. It’s just like anything else: He’s a 17-year-old kid, and he has anxiety about this decision. He’s scared he might not be doing the right thing. I’m like ‘No matter which school you pick, you’re going to have those reservations because there’s just so much unknown.’ But we sat down and talked about it. Nothing has changed in the last few days. We’re confident with this decision.”

What are the most important factors in Friday’s decision? “I think it will be how he feels with the coaching staff, and then the academic success rate of the university. I’m big on education, and he knows that. I’m very proud of him because he was a very average student his freshman and sophomore years of high school. Then he really started to take his academics seriously the last two years, and he’s a great student-athlete. That’s what I’m most proud of. The biggest thing in his decision was his connection to the coaching staff, and then the overall academics of the university.”

Most 5-stars wait until signing day announce to maximize the attention. Why is your son committing on Friday? “You’re still talking about a 17-year-old kid. He has gotten a lot of attention because of the rankings. It does start to have a toll on someone that age, especially when this area hasn’t had someone in a while who is recruited like this. So he couldn’t go many places without people asking him questions about which college he would select. It kind of takes a toll on a kid at that age. You know how peer pressure is? And then you’ve got the Social Media. You get bombarded every day with people telling you to ‘Go here’ or ‘go there.’ He visited the schools he liked, and he’s ready to put his decision behind him so these questions are no longer there.”

Will he still visit schools after he commits? “No, he doesn’t plan to unless something happens. He has pretty much visited a lot of schools over the summer. All the ones he is really interested, he’s already visited. He’s comfortable now with making a decision and with getting ready for the upcoming season for that program.”

What do you make out of all this recruiting stuff since you were recruited yourself? “I’ve seen recruiting come a long way since I was in college. The process for Rashad has not been overwhelming, but it has been exciting. My brother and I were both recruited out of high school, so we are familiar with the process. It’s just now more high tech with all the Social Media stuff. There’s a lot more interaction between the prospects and the colleges. It’s different.”


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