Photo by Brian Paglia / Locust Grove junior was surprised and excited about getting a scholarship offer from Georgia on Saturday, but said the Bulldogs are going to have to earn his commitment.
LOCUST GROVE — By now word has traveled around Locust Grove High School that Georgia — state school, SEC program, No. 5-ranked team in the country — has come calling for wide receiver Cortez McDowell.
“They all ask me what it was like,” McDowell said. “A lot of them are Georgia fans and are trying to get me to go to Georgia.”
Well, it was surprising and stunning, McDowell said, when Bulldogs coach Mark Richt walked into the team’s defensive meeting room, spoke hurriedly for a bit and then paused to take a deep breath.
In his next one, he offered McDowell a scholarship Saturday.
“I was like at a loss for words at first,” McDowell said, “but after that I told him thank you.”
Georgia’s offer is the fourth for the 6-foot-2, 200-pound safety and wide receiver. Syracuse and North Carolina State offered during spring practice. North Carolina offered two weeks ago.
McDowell has been on a variety of unofficial visits this season — from Kentucky to Georgia Tech (twice) to Florida State — as he gets his introduction to the spotlight of a coveted high school prospect.
Richt’s scholarship offer was the latest exciting turn. Until McDowell’s visit to Georgia this past weekend for the Bulldogs’ game against Ole Miss, he didn’t have strong reasons to believe he was a priority for Georgia.
A Bulldogs defensive coach had visited Locust Grove earlier this season, according to Wildcats coach Clint Satterfield, and McDowell had received several fliers about the program.
“It felt great,” McDowell said. “It was unexpected when I went up there. It kind of caught me by surprise.
Georgia’s attraction to McDowell isn’t surprising considering the breakout season he’s had. In Locust Grove’s most successful season ever, McDowell has been a dynamic playmaker on both sides of the ball.
On offense, he has 29 receptions for 679 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. On defense, McDowell has a team-high 56 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions and 10 pass break-ups.
With those numbers and an offer from Georgia, McDowell expects his recruiting to get more intense.
“A couple of other big schools are probably going to try to get me to come out of state,” McDowell said. “Georgia’s going to have to fight for me to stay in state.”
McDowell said that’s one of the biggest factors when he makes his decision. He’d like to stay “somewhere close for my mom to come to see me play and not have to deal with traffic,” he said.
And while McDowell begins to tred into the recruiting process, there’s still much to do now. Locust Grove is a school-best 6-3 going into the Wildcats’ game Friday against Riverdale in the Region 4-AAAA playoffs.
A rough 35-0 loss at Stockbridge cost Locust Grove the sub-region No. 1 seed, but McDowell said the Wildcats are eager for their opportunity to make the playoffs for the first time in school history.
“All of us are disappointed” about the Stockbridge loss, McDowell said, “but we’re excited to go to the playoffs.”