EDITOR’S NOTE: This continues a regular feature on DawgNation called “Throwback Thursday.” It offers a chance to revisit the recruiting stories of former UGA greats. The last few installments have been on all-time leading receiver Terrence Edwards, tackling machine Tony Gilbert, 1984 defensive team captain Donald Chumley, undersized linebacker Rennie Curran and tight end Kirk Warner from the Vince Dooley era. This week’s feature catches up with another fan favorite tight end.
Randy McMichael played 11 seasons in the NFL. He caught 426 passes for more than 4,500 yards and scored 24 touchdowns. He even appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Now think about asking this question in front of all those millionaire locker rooms he played in at the highest rung of football: Did anyone here not get recruited at all until the fifth game of your senior year in high school?
McMichael didn’t play football until his senior season at Peach County High School in the heart of central Georgia. He got hurt his junior year and didn’t play.
He had set his mind of making it in basketball. Well, until.
“My football coach told me I was only 6-foot-3 and didn’t have a jump shot,” McMichael said. “He said that basketball dream wasn’t going to take me very far.”
So he picked up football. Former Peach County coach Rodney Walker stuck him at defensive end first. He was an athletic power forward at about 190 pounds and could run the 40 in about 4.7. He had length and ball skills.
Ray Lamb was the high school liaison for UGA at the time. He was tight with Walker. Walker asked for him to come down and take a look at McMichael.
“He said I got this tight end and I want you to help me get him to a Division III school,” McMichael said.
Lamb saw his vast potential.
“He told my coach that I just might be the best player on his team and UGA was already recruiting four other guys on my team,” McMichael said. “He took the tape up to Georgia and showed it to coach Jim Donnan and he called me the next day.”
When Donnan called him up, McMichael though somebody was joking with him. Up until then, he had only received a letter from Middle Tennessee State along with a football and basketball offer from Fort Valley State.
He said his mother gave him an ultimatum after his junior year of high school. He was either going to college or to the military.
“I mean at that point before that call I was thinking about how I could get a scholarship to go to Middle Tennessee and become a Blue Raider,” he said. “That was sounding pretty good to me. When I got that letter from Middle Tennessee, I was like ‘Wow’ and I had a letter and a chance to go to school to play football.”
McMichael went to UGA on an unofficial visit for the Vanderbilt game. He went with three other teammates who wound up playing in the SEC, but he said he was the only one who was pulled to the side to receive an offer from Donnan that day.
When he got back home, Walker asked him how it went.
“He was like ‘What did you say?’ and when I told him I said I didn’t know my high school coach asked me if I was crazy,” McMichael said.
From beginning to end, his SEC recruiting timeline took about three weeks. After his commitment, other SEC schools came after him, but he didn’t take any other visits.
“I didn’t care about getting flattered,” McMichael said. “I only cared about going to college and getting to play football.”
McMichael can’t even say he had a No. 2 school. It was either UGA or play junior college football at Fork Union because he went down to the wire in qualifying during his senior year of high school.
“Nobody knew who I was,” McMichael said. “I came out of nowhere. Nobody knew me. People always pick at me and ask how many stars I had. I just tell them I was a zero-star recruit. I wasn’t even in the media guide my freshman year at Georgia. Nobody knew who I was then..”
He played in 32 games at UGA and caught 90 balls. No plays were bigger than his two catches for 49 yards along a 59-yard game-winning drive in UGA’s 26-24 defeat of Tennessee in 2001.
He rated that as the No. 1 moment of his football career, including all those NFL Sundays.
“That stadium got so loud that day I thought the ground was shaking,” he said. “I remember looking over and seeing the cups of Gatorade falling off the table on our sidelines it was so loud in there.”
He didn’t appear in that media guide. He had zero stars and was lightly recruited. Those are just two more reasons why DawgNation won’t forget him.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.