Rance Gillespie knew there was a good tight end waiting for him at Valdosta High School. The former Georgia Southern offensive coordinator didn't know how good Jay Rome was, though.
Never mind that Rome is a Scout.com five-star rated, No. 1 ranked tight end prospect for the class of 2011.
"I've really enjoyed getting to know him as a kid—a person. He's a really good kid. He's very mature and has strong Christian-based values," Gillespie said. "He's a great football player and a more special person."
"The thing I knew prior to (Thursday) was he's a good athlete," Gillespie said. "I've seen him playing basketball, but after watching him (Thursday), the boy is a great blocker. He's not afraid to put his face on you. He's a physical kid, very competitive." (Hale McGranahan)
"The thing I knew prior to (Thursday) was he's a good athlete," Gillespie said. "I've seen him playing basketball, but after watching him (Thursday), the boy is a great blocker. He's not afraid to put his face on you. He's a physical kid, very competitive.
"Somebody is going to be getting a very special football player."
Each day a stack of letters, media guides and brochures fill Rome's mail cubby outside of the Valdosta locker room. Plus, coaches from every major program in the country have travelled or will travel to Valdosta this month to watch him practice.
Prior to the CUTigers on location feature with Rome, Southern California, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina had already been by. He was expecting Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Clemson coaches on Friday.
With all the attention, Rome has a couple of folks in his corner who help keep him humble.
"My parents try to keep me pretty grounded," he said.
Sometime around his freshman or sophomore season, Rome received his first offer: Florida State. Since then, he's picked up offers from Clemson, Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame and Michigan—only a few of the 30 or so he's received over the past few years.
As he sorts through the offers, Rome is keeping two things in mind.
He wants to find a school that utilizes the tight ends in a way that suits his favor and go somewhere that he feels comfortable.
"I'm definitely going to be looking at Clemson because I know they had an all-conference tight end," he said. "I know they've got a good tight end this year, so I'm going to see how that works out."
For now, there are five schools that he's considering.
"I'm definitely going to be looking at Clemson because I know they had an all-conference tight end," he said. "I know they've got a good tight end this year, so I'm going to see how that works out." (Hale McGranahan)
The son of former Clemson two-sport standout Stan Rome, who played football and basketball for the Tigers, the younger Rome is considering both sports for the next level. However, there "is still some doubt" as to whether or not he will double up at the college level.
During his junior season on the hardwood, he averaged 25 points and 11 rebounds a game.
"A lot of the schools that have offered me for football said I could play basketball also," Rome said.
The elder Rome has spoken with newly hired Clemson basketball coach Brad Brownell, though the younger Rome has not.
"I was told by the football coach that the next time I come up there, I can't leave until I talk to the basketball coach," Rome said.
Playing at one of the most recognizable high school football programs in the country, he's yet to pick up a state championship ring. And right now, that's the top priority on his list of accomplishments for the fall.
"I haven't won one yet and I've got to have one," Rome said. "I just want to have a good season, catch all of the balls that are thrown my way and get as many yards after the catch that I can."
As a junior, he made 32 catches for over 500 yards and four touchdowns. Next January, he plans to play in the Under Armour All-America Game.
"I picked that mainly because it's in Orlando and my family can come see me play," Rome said.