THOMASVILLE -- The lengthy pursuit of one of the nation's top prep defenders ended Friday with Ray Drew clenched in the recruiting teeth of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Slightly more than 12 minutes into a suspenseful news conference at Thomas County Central, Drew announced he was committing to the Bulldogs. He opted for UGA over his other finalists -- Auburn, Clemson, LSU and Miami.
A 6-foot-5 defensive lineman who received more than 50 scholarship offers, Drew graciously thanked his Central coaches, teammates and school officials for their support before finally announcing his choice.
He offered no hints of his destination upon entering a large conference room shortly after 10 a.m. Clad in jeans and a plain white shirt, the five-star recruit didn't reveal it until he donned a red Bulldogs cap, igniting cheers of approval from a large gathering of family members, friends and statewide media members.
"Throughout all the 'War Eagles,' 'Go Tigers' and 'The U' of Miami, none compared to the two words that say it all -- Go Dawgs," said Drew, who will ink a national letter of intent Wednesday during National Signing Day across the country.
In part, Drew opted for Georgia because of its communications program. He is a longtime student in Central's award-winning broadcast media class.
Drew also appreciates Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt's devout Christian beliefs. Drew is an ordained minister whom broadcast media teacher Randy Young humorously dubbed the "Pastor of Disaster."
Georgia intends to use Drew at outside linebacker in its 3-4 scheme. The Bulldogs have an opening there because Justin Houston is headed to the NFL Draft.
"While it is the 3-4, the majority of the time it's a 4-3 look where the outside linebacker plays on the end with his hand on the ground and gets after the quarterback," said Drew, who become the fourth blue-chip recruit to choose the Bulldogs in the last two weeks, joining Valdosta's Jay Rome and Malcolm Mitchell, as well as Colquitt County's Xzavier Ward. "That's the way it is 60-70 percent of the time."
In recent days, Drew tried to throw fans off his college trail with mischievous Facebook postings. He said he preferred the 4-3, but that, however, was not the case.
Former Georgia and NFL players Randall Godfrey (Dallas Cowboys, Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks, San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins) and David Pollack (Cincinnati Bengals) are confident Drew will succeed at his new position.
"He's going to make an impact on and off the field" said Godfrey, a former Lowndes linebacker. "I'm looking forward to him having a great career."
Pollack, a member of Richt's first recruiting class a decade ago, believes Drew will enjoy his time at Georgia. Drew is the first Central player to ever sign with an SEC team.
"It's amazing having a (coach) who cares more about where you go when you die than your development as a football player," Pollack said of Richt. "He is an amazing individual; Ray's an amazing individual, and I think he's going to do great things."
Drew, who said Friday that he actually settled on Georgia 2-3 weeks ago, opened the news conference by expressing gratitude to all the schools that made his final list. He also admitted he is glad the year-long recruiting process is over.
"I feel very blessed to have this opportunity and to have gone through this process," he said. "Along the way, I have met and built relationships with many different people."
Georgia will pick up at least two more recruits from Southwest Georgia on Wednesday when Lee County's Sanford Seay and Mitchell County's Justin Scott-Wesley are both expected to sign with the Bulldogs.