LOGANVILLE, Ga. — The bright red dress worn by the mother of the country’s No. 1 college football prospect should have offered a clue as to where her son would land.
Before a near-packed house in his school’s auditorium and what was no doubt a large viewing audience on ESPNU, Grayson High School defensive end Robert Nkemdiche ended months of speculation Wednesday morning by announcing his intention to play at Ole Miss, eschewing offers from both LSU and Florida.
Just before sharing his decision, the bow-tied Nkemdiche – who last summer committed to Clemson and later changed his mind — removed his green Grayson letter jacket to reveal red Ole Miss suspenders and then immediately placed a red Ole Miss cap on his head.
“It just felt right,” said Nkemdiche of his decision. “The program is on the rise; it really is. There were a couple of things here and there that put (Ole Miss) over the edge.”
LSU fans had great hopes the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Nkemdiche would join the Tigers, especially after a visit to Baton Rouge this past weekend, but in the end, family won out.
Nkemdiche’s older brother, Denzel, is a junior linebacker at Ole Miss.
“The family aspect was big — it had to be, because that’s my parents,” said Nkemdiche, who added he’d made his decision “two or three weeks ago.”
Nkemdiche’s mother, Beverly, who during the fall was very vocal about her desire that her two sons play together, said she held out hope to the end her youngest would go to Ole Miss.
“My wish was that my sons would play together,” she said. “But up until last night, I wasn’t sure if it was LSU or Ole Miss. But Robert came to me and said, ‘You got your wish, Mom.’ When he said that, I jumped. He liked LSU, and he went there last week and, honestly, I was nervous about that, but I told him, ‘Whatever you want, I will support you. It doesn’t have to be my wish.’”
Although it’s of little consequence now, it appears as if LSU came in a very close second to Ole Miss.
“LSU pushed it, man,” Nkemdiche said. “It’s a great coaching staff, and they’ve got a lot of good things in stock. It was hard to turn them down, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do sometimes.
“Coach (Les) Miles has a great staff and history, and it’s a really good school. But Ole Miss is building a great class. There will be a lot of good guys coming in with me, and we’re going to do something special.”
“If it wasn’t Ole Miss, it would have been LSU,” added Beverly Nkemdiche.
After more than a year of being the No. 1 recruit in the country, Mkemdiche — who led Grayson to a Class AAAAA state championship in 2011 — said he now looks forward to getting his college career started.
“For a while I’ve been the top guy, and now I get to start all over, to start grinding again,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m ready to go to the next stage and do what I have to do.”