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Jeff Sentell/DawgNation
Tate Ratledge, the nation's No. 5 OT for the 2020 cycle, chose Georgia on Monday.

Why longtime Tennessee Vols fan Tate Ratledge is now a Georgia Bulldog

ROME, Ga. — Tate Ratledge is a Bulldog. He summed up the two reasons why in quick-as-a-hiccup fashion for DawgNation Monday morning.

“Coach [Sam] Pittman” and “winning” were his two primary answers.

Georgia picked up a commitment from Ratledge on Monday morning from the upper school campus of The Darlington School in Rome in Northwest Georgia. It was streamed live by several media outlets who cover UGA and Georgia high school football.

Ratledge broke it down rather swiftly. That inspires this read to quickly get the DawgNation reader up to speed on the 4-star OT in much the same fashion.

  • Height and weight: 6-6.5 and about 308 pounds
  • Rankings: 4-star OT/Nation’s No. 5 OT/No. 39 overall prospect (247Sports Composite ratings)
  • Enroll early? No. He cannot from Darlington
  • What will he study? Business.
  • When did he decide? A little after G-Day on April 20.
  • When did Sam Pittman know? He said it was about two weeks ago.
  • Who will he recruit next? The first name Ratledge brought up was Joshua Braun. Braun (6-foot-6 and 320 pounds) ranks on that same composite as the nation’s No. 26 OT.
  • Jersey number? Ratledge hopes to wear No. 50 in Athens.
  • Best story from his recruitment journey? Check out his commitment link with the “How to Let ‘Em Down Easy 101” story featuring Pittman
  • Does he play other sports? Yes. He’s a strong discus and shot put thrower for the track team at Darlington.
  • Did his red tuxedo jacket from his junior prom hide any “Power G” clues? The on-the-record answer there was no.
  • How tough is this kid? His “Get to know Tate” story on DawgNation describes the time he ran into a mailbox when he was just a kid. 
  • Cool athlete factoid: He punts for the Darlington Tigers. Yes, the nearly 6-foot-7 bookend SEC offensive tackle punts. His coach, Tommy Atha, reports his net average to be right at 39 yards.

Those are the basics. Keep on reading for the peanut butter and strawberry jelly that was there to be found in the midst of his commitment date story.

It seems only fitting to share a few more intriguing stories from his commitment day in rapid-fire fashion.

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Tate Ratledge chose UGA over Tennessee on Monday morning. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

The UT orange “T” is coming down for Tate Ratledge

When driving across the beautiful Darlington School campus on Monday morning, it was easy to spot his father’s truck. That was the same one with the big orange “Power T” front vanity plate.

It was still on Monday morning. That’s a good way to stay in character for the Ratledge family even though they have been quite comfortable with it for weeks.

Ratledge was born in Tennessee. He grew up a Vol fan. And yet he’s on the way to play for Georgia.

Dean, his father, even sported an orange Tennessee “T” on the back sliding glass of his truck. He paired that with another vanity “T” on his front bumper.

Those two items have now entered the fan gear portal.

That’s a nod to family. This was about his son. Not college football fandom.

“I got a tag and I got a ‘G’ and I’ll make the change today,” Dean Ratledge said on Monday morning. “I will do it today. It is about a 12-inch. I will put it right in the front of my back window and I have got a license plate for the front end, too.”

“It is an exciting day. It was always his decision and this was about him.”

His mother felt pretty much the same way.

“This was and is about Tate,” Mary Stuart Ratledge said. “We’ve lived our dreams. This is about Tate’s dreams here with all of this. We are not doing away with the Tennessee orange now, but we will sure now wear a lot of red and black.”

“Taking the ‘T’ off now, that is really nothing. This is about Tate.”

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Tate Ratledge is a hard guy to catch in a smile. He has his moments. But there are not many when a camera is around. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

What did his Dad think: The Tate Ratledge breakdown

His father is a football coach. His mother teaches A.P. United States History and A.P. History and A.P. European History at nearby Armuchee High School.

“Tate is a good kid,” his father said. “He’s always been a good kid. You want him to go somewhere he can continue to grow as a person and obviously as a football player. But you grow the man first here. Then you worry about a football player.”

‘I feel really comfortable that coach [Kirby] Smart and coach Pittman will be a good mentor to him and be there for him when he needs that kind of help. So I think he made a great decision.”

Alabama used to be a big contender here. But the departure of former line coach Brent Key for a job at Georgia Tech hurt those chances.

“It was probably his leader and then coach Key left,” his father said. “I think that made him dig deeper. Reality hit. It sunk in that this guy coaching there now may not be there for you when you get there. I think he realized that. He started looking at the towns more, the academics more and the overall coaching staff more.”

“It really came down to the fact he is more comfortable at Georgia than anywhere else. The whole environment.”

He also emphasized the Pittman effect here.

“He took a great interest in Tate,” Ratledge said. “I don’t know if he even once talked to him about football for two years.”

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It was said on Monday that Sam Pittman didn’t even talk about football with Tate Ratledge for two years during the recruiting process. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Sam Pittman, Prince and ‘Purple Rain’ for Tate Ratledge 

Check out this tweet.

There is a story here. Of course.

It all made perfect sense. Especially when one knows that Darlington and all of its Tigers wear purple on Friday nights.

“He called me and said ‘Wouldn’t it be live if I got me a purple blazer’ and put it on for it and I said it would be and then he texted me the other day and said ‘I am going to put ‘Purple Rain’ in the background,” Ratledge said. “And I said that was awesome.”

His father saw a lot of that.

“He develops a relationship and makes the kid feel very special,” Dean Ratledge said. “Which they all try to do. All of these guys can sell ice to an eskimo. But coach Pittman just really really comes off as being a real guy that is really concerned and will really mentor and care for your kid.”

When his father asked him if he wanted to take an official to Georgia to just be sure, there was this reply.

“Hey said ‘Dad I’ve been to both places over 20 times’ and ‘there is no need in going again because I know where I want to go’ and so he made a pretty good point. I just then said let’s do it.”

 

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Ratledge shows off that Pittman video for about the 10th time on Monday morning. That was one of those times where an easy smile could be found on his face. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

 The good stuff on Tate Ratledge from Mom

“I know that every parent says they have a good boy with their sons but he has a good heart,” his mother Mary Stuart Ratledge said on Monday. “That’s why I know as a Mom I didn’t want him to make a decision like this so early because I know his word is what it is.”

“I know this will be it. He has a good heart and his word will be his word with this.”

His mother shed some light on what she feeds this dude to get him so big. There’s a secret sauce to it.

This secret sauce tastes a lot like peanut butter and strawberry jelly. Like 80 percent peanut butter.

“His favorite thing is getting to eat one of peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches,” she said. “To say it is a sandwich is kind of a lie. Because it is peanut butter more than bread. There is peanut butter everywhere. It is disgusting. I’m like ‘Son, that is so gross’ but he goes through jars of it. Peanut butter and eggs. Lots of protein.”

He will still play ball outside with the neighborhood kids. A neighbor, who is in the first grade, can come to the door and take Tate outside to play.

“He plays football in the neighborhood still with the neighborhood kids and he has to play on his knees,” his mother said. “So otherwise it is not fair.”

Mary Stuart Ratledge said they go through the “big big” jar of peanut butter every two weeks. He will eat at least one per day. That doubles in the summertime.

The newest UGA commitment will go through two gallons of milk every two days. Ratledge just turned 18 years old.

“We keep Mayfield milk in business,” she said.

And Smucker’s jelly. And the Jif peanut butter folks.

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Ratledge did find time to ham it up with his father on Monday, too. Maybe they were talking about peanut butter sandwiches. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

 Cade Brock: The best friend’s view on Tate Ratledge 

Cade Brock has probably spent as many nights lately at Tate’s house as he has his own. He’s not the biggest defensive tackle in the world, but he more than makes up for it.

They came from public school to Darlington. That’s after growing up on the same travel baseball teams.

Brock was recently offered the chance to be a preferred walk-on at Georgia. Ratledge believes he will take it unless he gets a full ride to another school that turns out to be a good fit.

Brock offered up his own scouting assessment of Ratledge for DawgNation. He said it would be a waste of time to speed rush him on a big play in a big game.

“He’s a fighter,” Brock said. “He likes to play and he’s hardcore. He likes to go and I think that Georgia is going to get with Tate. He’s a warrior more than anything else.”

“It is so weird for me to see all of this happening for Tate. Because to me, he is still just Tate and he will always be just Tate.”

Ratledge got a little emotional up at the podium on Monday. He said much as other athletes do, that is was the culmination of a dream to get the chance to go play major college football like this.

Brock was happy for his buddy.

“It was good to be able to see all of finally coming together for him,” Brock said. “It is something he deserves and it is something that he and I have talked about and dreamed about for a long time. Since we were little. We never really thought it would happen. That’s why he was getting emotional because it was all finally coming together for him.”

Ratledge didn’t even start playing football until he was in the seventh grade.

“The first time I ever saw him play football I knew,” Brock said. “You could tell. Even though all of us had already been playing a lot longer than he had. He wasn’t an average kid.”

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Cade Brock (left) and Tate Ratledge are the best of friends and teammates at Darlington School. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
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