JEFFERSON - At least one burden has been removed from the broad shoulders of Thomas County Central defensive end Ray Drew.
He's already passed both the SAT and ACT and qualified to enter basically whatever college he plans to attend.
"I took the SAT for the first time and on my math and my verbal I made an 830; on the writing I made a 1205," Drew said from last week's state track meet in Jefferson. "On the ACT, according to NCAA rules you have to make a 17 and I made that my first try, although I plan on going back and taking it again."
The question now, which college will the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder - regarded as one of the state's top prospects - ultimately decide to attend?
"I'm up to 23 offers as of right now, but I lose count," Drew said. "Basically, I'm just seeing what everyone has to offer. I'm taking everything into account. I've been to a number of campuses, so I'm weighing all the pros and the cons, see how each stacks up against one another."
Nine of the 12 schools in the SEC are knocking on Drew's door, including Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, LSU and Florida, while ACC member Florida State hopes Tallahassee's proximity to Thomasville will work in the Seminoles' favor.
Georgia Tech is also hot and heavy after Drew, along with national powers Ohio State, Notre Dame and Southern Cal.
So where does he stand? Although Drew has not publically released a top five, he talked about Georgia and Florida State, suggesting one of the two schools still has some recruiting work to do.
"I will say one of those two is in my top five, but not both of them. The other is possibly in the top seven," Drew said prior to the current May evaluation period. "I am telling people that I have formulated basically a top five and top seven, but I am not coming forward with who they are. It is more fun and it keeps it more exciting that way."
Drew's stance hasn't changed.
He reiterated last Saturday, a day after outlining the criteria he'll be looking for before making his eventual college choice.
"I'm looking at it from a non-prospect point of view, as if I'm not being recruited by the football team. I'm asking myself, if I was not being recruited by the football team, would I feel comfortable going there? That's the first thing," Drew said. "The second thing is the school's graduation success. I'll be looking at the graduation success of the athlete and how my degree would match up against, say, somebody from Vanderbilt, because I want to be able to compete off the field when I'm trying to get a job."
That's not all.
"I'm pretty big on player-coach relationship. I want to know what their morals are and what they stand for but I'm also big on fan support and tradition," Drew said. "Those are key factors there, too."
Drew said sifting through all what the different schools are telling him can sometimes be a chore.
That includes his take on Georgia's "Dream Team" pitch Bulldog coaches are making to recruits.
"Basically, they're saying if (Georgia) gets the best players out of the state of Georgia, it can put together a championship team," Drew said. "I look at it as a good thing. I see they have their views set and they know who they want, but then again, everyone has their little thing they say to try and bring somebody to the program so I have to look at it from both ways."
Drew said he and his family like what they heard from Georgia head coach Mark Richt.
"The first time I saw with Coach Richt I believed it was a very good meeting. My parents really like him, as well as myself," Drew said. "I like what he stands for, his morals and the fact he's a good Christian man. His program is run off of good things. A lot of coaches just go out for good players, but Coach Richt and his staff go beyond that. They also look for players with good character, players who are in good standing with their school and that kind of thing. I like that."
With good reason:
Although he's still a high school junior, Drew has been an ordained minister for the last five years.
He said the decision to become a minister came to him in a dream.
"I've been having dreams ever since I was young, and after one dream I told my mom you need to tell my auntie to take cousin CJ to the doctor because he has a real bad ear infection," Drew recalled. "Later on that day, my mom calls and said that CJ was taken to the doctor and he did have a real bad ear infection, so sometimes I have those types of dreams that come true. It scares me sometimes."
Later, Drew met with his Godfather who is also a minister. The two talked about what had just happened.
"My Godfather also interprets dreams," Drew said. "He called me in and told me I'm ready. There were other little things they saw with me growing up. He just felt my time had come."
Not surprisingly, many recruiters are using Drew's deep religious convictions to try and entice him to their school.
"There are a lot of schools out there who believe they can help me grow spiritually, how I will be a good fit there," Drew said. "I've had one school tell me they were going to put me to work as soon as I got there."
Drew does hope to use football as a platform to reach young adults.
"Football, track, all these different sports I do is just a platform for me to reach out," Drew said. "Say you take a random person off the street, have him and Bobby Bowden give the exact same sermon, delivered the exact same way. Most people would tune into Coach Bowden because of his platform and what he's done, what he's accomplished and because he's so well-known. I'd like to use my platform the same way so I believe this is just a way for me to reach out to more people."
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