Yes, Yulee head coach Robert Ramsay was surprised when he learned that star running back Derrick Henry was going to commit to Georgia at Dawg Night last Friday.
In fact, he even cautioned the rising junior if he was certain about the choice he was about to make public.
As Ramsay explained in a telephone interview Monday with UGASports, his fears had nothing to do with the Bulldog football program, but instead whether or not Henry was sure about his decision.
"I was surprised that he ultimately decided on Georgia Friday night. Our running backs coach called me and said he was getting ready to commit and I said 'Commit to
a radio station? What are you talking about, commit to what?'" Ramsay recalled. "He said commit to Georgia, so I said "Whoa, I need to talk to him."
Apparently, Ramsay wasn't the only one wanting to make sure the player was ready to make the right call.
It turns out Georgia coach Mark Richt along with receivers coach Tony Ball - Henry's main recruiter - wanted to know as well.
"Truthfully, I cautioned him against it, because I didn't want him to get caught up in the moment and everything. I talked to Coach Richt. We had two or three conversations before and after he committed and Coach Ball and they both said the same thing - we didn't want him to commit unless he was absolutely sure this is what he wanted to do, because they didn't want him to commit, then go home and say I really didn't want to do that," Ramsay said. "But one thing Derrick said and it's hard to argue this; it just felt like home up there. He said 'I feel good about Athens, I feel comfortable there.'"
Ramsay said Henry also "really hit it off" with Bryan McClendon, his future position coach with the Bulldogs.
His friendship with fellow commits John Theus, Brice Ramsey and Tramel Terry also played a role.
"Good players want to play with good players. He and Brice know each other and he and John have become friends," the coach said. "The only thing that would make me happier is if John decided to come from Bolles to Yulee for his senior year, which probably won't happen, but he could practice blocking for him for a year."
Although Ramsay was surprised Henry made his decision so soon, he was not surprised that the Bulldogs were his choice.
"I told Coach Ball and Coach Richt that I thought their recruitment of Derrick was unique. I think it struck a chord with Derrick. It was unlike anything he had seen so far. It was not a 'rah, rah, we love you, come play for us' type thing," he said. "They didn't negative recruit. They didn't talk bad about other schools. It was hey, this is what we have to offer, what we see in you, what we think Georgia can do for you and this is what we think you can do for Georgia. I think that way of doing things - it was a little more sincere, I think."
As for Henry, since his commitment, there's been some who have questioned whether or not the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder would remain at running back once he gets to Athens.
For his part, Ramsey believes that he will.
"He ran a 4.39 this morning on the track. I don't see him becoming 6-5, 250 or anything," Ramsay said of Henry, who has already rushed for a combined 5,263 yards and 65 touchdowns heading into his upcoming junior campaign.
"If we need him we'll move him to defensive end, but he usually carries the ball 25 to 30 times, so it's hard to get a ton out of him on defense," Ramsay added. "He'll do some defense if we need him. We've got some kids who go both ways, but he's so important to what we do on offense, we try to rest him."
Ramsay credited Georgia's approach with Henry for getting his star runner to go ahead and say yes to the Bulldogs.
"With Coach Ball, I think it was just the sincerity. He came in, he was very professional. I think with these kids one thing you've got to do with recruiting is explain to them what it's going to be like at that college," Ramsay said. "You've got to be able to show them how they fit in and how they're important to what you're trying to get done. He did a good job of that. He didn't oversell anything; he didn't overwhelm them with stats and everything. He followed the rules; anytime he wanted to talk to Derrick he called me first so I think that's something that he (Henry) respects."
Ramsay joked that news of Henry's decision to go to Athens hasn't been welcome news for everybody in Nassau County, Fla.
During a trip Saturday morning to his local gym, Ramsay laughed "about three dirty looks" from some disappointed Florida fans.
Henry is scheduled to attend "Friday Night Lights" in Gainesville in a couple of days, but Ramsay said that should not be a sign his star player is having any kind of second thoughts.
"We talked about that this morning but at the same time he wants to go and just be low-key there. He doesn't want any attention. He just wants to go compete, work and have some fun," Ramsay said. "As far as Florida is concerned, he feels that the coaches there did a good job recruiting him, but he had already made a decision to go to Georgia before he went up there (to Athens)."
According to Ramsay, Henry has more than just football on his mind.
"He seems pretty content just to shut everything down right now. We talked this morning after workouts, and he talked about how big a year this is for him," Ramsay said. "He wants to qualify and have a great season. He wants to get everything academically taken care of by the fall of 2012 so I think he's ready to put everything else aside. He's content with his decision."
Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]