After quarterbacking North Murray High School to its first trip to the Georgia Class AAA state quarterfinals, Ladd McConkey was already somewhat of a big man on campus.
Then Kirby Smart showed up at his house.
The Georgia head football coach, along with Bulldogs tight end coach Todd Hartley, visited McConkey on Monday night after watching him play basketball that evening. The memorable night ended with Smart offering the 6-foot, 175-pound Times Free Press first-team Best of Preps selection an opportunity to join a 2020 signing class that currently ranks third nationally behind Clemson and Alabama.
"It was unbelievable," McConkey said Tuesday afternoon. "I was sitting with my entire family in our living room, and he was explaining how he wanted high-character guys on their team and someone that they would not have to worry about. That's when he presented me the scholarship offer. It was exciting."
Smart's offer resulted in McConkey spending most of Tuesday floating around the North Murray halls.
"At my school, everyone is a huge Georgia fan," he said. "Everybody's been like, 'You need to go there. You need to go there.' It really has been awesome."
Smart received a huge boost on the 2021 recruiting front Tuesday, receiving a nonbinding pledge from five-star quarterback Brock Vandagriff. The 6-3, 200-pound Vandagriff resides in Bogart, just 15 miles from Georgia's campus, and plays in Athens at Prince Avenue Christian.
Vandagriff, the nation's top 2021 pro-style quarterback and the nation's No. 8 overall recruit according to 247Sports.com, committed to Oklahoma last June but reopened his recruitment on New Year's Day. He revealed his decision via Twitter by stating, "I'm staying home. Go Dawgs."
Smart quickly responded to Vandagriff's announcement on Twitter by exclaiming, "GO DAWGS!!"
McConkey accounted for 3,051 all-purpose yards during his senior season, completing 124 of 209 passes for 1,771 yards and 20 touchdowns, and rushing for 924 yards and 10 scores. He tallied touchdowns on three of his four interception returns and reached the end zone twice on punt returns and once on a kickoff return.
Despite all that productivity, McConkey is not listed on the 247Sports composite rankings that combine the various recruiting services, but he is a three-star prospect according to 247Sports, which rates him the 180th receiver nationally and the 1,252nd overall recruit. He played receiver for the Mountaineers until his senior season.
Army, Bucknell, Coastal Carolina, Furman and Georgia Southern were among the schools that offered McConkey scholarships before Georgia's invitation, and North Murray's deep playoff run resulted in him refraining from signing last month in the early period.
"I only had an opportunity to take one official visit," McConkey said, "so I wanted to see all the opportunities I had and find the best fit for me. Then these new opportunities came up, and it's definitely been a blessing."
McConkey was tempted to commit with Smart in his living room, but he said Smart didn't expect him to make an immediate decision and encouraged him to sit down with his family to let things soak in. There is a lot McConkey is having to think about, because Vanderbilt came calling Tuesday with a scholarship offer, and Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney showed up at North Murray on Tuesday and invited McConkey to visit Knoxville this weekend.
Although North Murray is filled with supporters of the red and black, McConkey said he grew up in a Tennessee household and that his grandfather was a big fan of the Volunteers.
"I thought I had a good idea about all this, but these last couple of days have changed a lot about my recruiting process," McConkey said. "We're trying to figure out a date to make my decision, and it's got to be a place where I feel I can be successful and have a great four years. I don't have a specific date. It will be whenever I feel like it."
National signing day is Wednesday, Feb. 5.
Monday night's visit by Smart and Hartley did not come by surprise, as they let him know last week that they would be coming. Bulldogs receivers coach Cortez Hankton watched McConkey play basketball last Friday night.
What's it like competing on the floor with football coaches watching, especially someone as recognized as Smart?
"It's definitely different having him in the building watching you," McConkey said, "but you've got to play your game and do what you've been doing. You've got to play like he's not there."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.