When Rashad Roundtree goes to Zaxby’s, he sees young children look at him, murmuring his name.
When Roundtree checks his mail and his phone, he might lose count of the messages.
When Roundtree looks at big-time recruiting sites, he sees five stars next to his name.
All this attention has been new for the Lakeside senior – and rare for the Augusta area at this level.
“When it’s about your dreams, why not you?” Roundtree said. “Why not me?”
One of the most sought-after prospects in the country was on his way to being a well-kept secret not even a year ago.
He had no offers then. But since January, Roundtree has rarely had a quiet day. In a Rivals.com story written for Roundtree’s ascension to a five-star recruit, the safety went from not ranked to No. 17 in the nation. He is ranked No. 4 in Georgia. His offers list is so long, just pick a Top 25 contender, and he’ll probably have an offer.
He got an offer from Duke in November, but Roundtree’s hectic recruitment really started with a small, condensed timeline: From Jan. 10 to 15, Roundtree got offers from Georgia, Michigan State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Florida and Ohio State. Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Alabama soon followed.
“I gained 300 followers that day,” he said about Twitter on the day he picked up three offers in a few hours. “People were blowing my line up, just wanting to do interviews and find out about me.”
Everyone was playing catch up.
As a junior, Roundtree had 97 tackles and picked off four passes to help Lakeside go 6-5 and make the state playoffs for the third year in a row.
His former high school head coach, Jarrett Troxler, said he knew he had someone special right away. While on junior varsity, Roundtree found the end zone on returns. Troxler, now Greenbrier’s new coach, moved Roundtree to varsity his freshman year, when he returned kicks. He was All-Region as a sophomore.
Troxler helped Roundtree’s recruitment take off. Troxler knew Georgia assistant coach Mike Bobo back when Troxler was in North Carolina and the Bulldogs recruited Trinton Sturdivant. Troxler sent Bobo film and had no qualms taking the chance. Troxler said reputation in the recruiting world is huge, so he wouldn’t have bothered Bobo unless he truly thought Roundtree could excel at Georgia. In time, Roundtree was at Dawg Night before the 2013 season. He was back this year, working out in front of Georgia coaches.
Though Troxler is no longer Roundtree’s coach, the two keep in touch. Roundtree sent Troxler a text message on Father’s Day.
“He’s an unbelievable young kid,” Troxler said. “Those kids come around sometimes once in a lifetime. I’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who can say something bad about Rashad Roundtree.”
The five star’s newest head coach, Steve Hibbitts, has already seen what Roundtree can do on the field. But Roundtree also helps the area and his own team when it comes to recruiters and recruiting experts. Roundtree’s presence proves there is talent in the area. Also, with very capable seniors such as B.J. Raymond and Stephen Houzah on Lakeside’s roster, it’s easier to get those players the attention they deserve because of all the attention Roundtree gets.
“These guys, when they watch film of Rashad and they see him, or they visit. We can pull these guys and say, ‘Hey, this is B.J., this is such-and-such. Have you seen tape on him?’ ” Hibbitts said.
Roundtree became more well-known as a prospect when, in November, he received an invitation to play in the Elite Junior Classic. He turned heads there with his ability to cover and deliver huge hits, the latter ability coming from his past time as a linebacker. No longer a secret to recruiting analysts, Roundtree soon jumped onto lists and received offers.
But Roundtree remained humble. His support system includes his mother Angela, his father Richard Roundtree, the Richmond County sheriff, and his uncle, Raleigh Roundtree, Josey’s current coach and a former NFL player.
Even when just looking at his family, it’s clear the safety isn’t the first great prospect to come from the Augusta area. He won’t be the last, either. So when Roundtree does come across those who have experienced the pressure of being a famous recruit, he looks for advice.
Just this year, Roundtree talked with former Westside star Sanders Commings, who started at Georgia and is now with the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I told him, ‘You have to do what’s best for you and your family,’ ” Commings said. “Don’t go where everybody else wants you to go. You have to do what feels right for you.”
Roundtree’s status reached a new peak Feb. 17, when he moved up to a five-star. Just days earlier, he was invited to play in the prestigious Under Armour All-America Game.
The football player who loves big hits more than interceptions is now recognized when he goes on visits to Ohio State or when he just wants to grab food.
“I went to Zaxby’s, and saw little kids looking at me,” he said. “I heard my name, but they didn’t come up. But the dad came and introduced them, said they were big fans.”
Roundtree created his Twitter account in part to help the recruiting process. It’s not unusual to see his timeline flooded with well-wishers and football fans urging him to go to their school. That’s the way recruiting works in 2014.
It’s all a flattering experience Roundtree enjoys.
“You always want to be in that spotlight, but I never thought it could be me,” Roundtree said. “But now it’s just, ‘Why not? Why not me?’ ”