RECRUITING: D.J. Donley Has Three Favorites

Any time that D.J. Donley feels the need for some inspiration, all he has to do is look into the stands. Once he sees his brother, William, he feels an adrenaline rush and there is plenty of motivation to make a big play. William suffers from early onset osteoporosis so he never was allowed to football so any time DJ. puts on that Charlton (GA) County uniform, he's playing for his brother, too.

(See D.J. Donley profile)

"You could say he's my chief motivation," said Donley, a 6-4, 200-pound wide receiver/safety who has been timed at 4.6 in the 40-yard dash. "He's there to support me in anything I do and just him being there gives me plenty of motivation. He never could play so I play for him."

William has inspired his younger brother to excel in three sports (football, basketball, track) for the Folkston school that has produced plenty of big time college football players. The Bailey brothers, Champ and Boss, made All-America at Georgia. Henry McMillan was a fine defensive tackle for the Florida Gators back in the Steve Spurrier years and Donley's high school teammate, Justin Williams, will be part of Florida's incoming freshman class in June.

Donley has helped Charlton County win two straight state championships in both football and track and the goal is to make it a double three-peat next year.

"That's how I want to leave here," said Donley, who caught 54 passes for 835 yards and five touchdowns for Charlton County's 2005 state championship football team. "I want to go out with three straight state championships in two sports. I don't think that's been done too many times."

He recorded 52 tackles and one interception on defense as a junior. He averaged double figures on Charlton County's basketball team that made it into the state playoffs and he finished fifth in the 800 meters (2:05) and ran a leg on the gold medal 4X400 relay team for the state title track team. He was the regional champ in the high jump with a leap of 6-6 but he just couldn't get it going at the state meet in that event.

"I just had a bad jumping day," he said. "I only cleared 6-2 and that was disappointing since I had done 6-6, which is my personal best, to win the regional."

He's being recruited by some of the top football programs in the south. He's got offers from Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Tennessee among others. He says that Florida, Georgia Tech and South Carolina are the three that are recruiting him the hardest and those are the three that he considers his favorites.

FLORIDA: "Coach Greg Mattison is recruiting me. He's a great guy and he's a very enthusiastic coach. They're recruiting me as an athlete and that's good. If I grow some I might want to play defense but if I stay on offense, I like the way they throw the ball around. Really, I don't care if I play offense or defense. I just want to be on the field somewhere."

GEORGIA TECH: "Coach Giff Smith is recruiting me. He's a real down to earth guy. He keeps it real with you and that's what I like about him. They're recruiting me mostly for offense but they've told me that if I keep growing, there's a possibility that I'd be moved over to defense."

SOUTH CAROLINA: "Coach (Steve) Spurrier Jr. and Coach (Jon) Hunt are both recruiting me, but mostly it's Coach Spurrier Jr. They want me as a big wide receiver. I like talking about offense with Coach Spurrier Jr. They do so much stuff in their passing game there."

He's got only one camp date set and that's for Georgia Tech on June 10. He might make it for a day up to Georgia and there's a chance he'll go to Florida or South Carolina, but he doesn't want to spend too many days away from Folkston.

"My sister Natasha is going away to college at Georgia Southern," he said. "She and I are real close and this is probably the last summer I'll ever have to spend some real time with her. That's important to me."

He's given plenty of thought to where he might play at the next level. He sees his height and leaping ability as a real plus if he stays at wide receiver. He likes the idea of playing safety because he's already developed quite a reputation for knocking people into next week but he's been told that outside linebacker might be in the cards.

"A couple of coaches have told me that I might gain the weight and play outside linebacker," he said. "If I did, I wouldn't mind it but I look in the mirror and think that's a lot of weight. Where am I going to put it? Right now, I just can't see myself being that big but I guess it could happen."

His development as a wide receiver has been helped by a cousin that plays football for Carson-Newman, a Division II powerhouse in football.

"He comes home every summer and he works with me," Donley said. "He's really helped me learn to run good routes and to read what the secondary is doing so that I can make adjustments and get open."

When the ball is in the air, he blocks out everything but getting to the football. He's determined that nothing or nobody is going to stop him from getting to and catching the ball if it's heading in his direction.

"The first thing my coach ever taught me here at my school is that when the ball is in the air, it's my job to go get it," he said. "You have to have the attitude that the ball belongs to you and that if you get your hands on it, you catch it."

If he learned one thing from Williams, who is part of Florida's outstanding group of freshmen wide receivers that will be reporting in July, it is to get yards after the catch. Williams excelled in getting into the end zone but he also made a name for himself by turning what should have been two yard gains into big plays.

"Last year I looked up to Justin because he was always making plays even when there wasn't anything there," Donley said. "He always said don't let anyone stop you from getting into the end zone. My goal this year is on every catch I make to do everything in my power to get into the end zone. I have a goal to break a minimum of one tackle on every catch I make. The pressure is going to be on me to step it up as a playmaker now that Justin is gone. I believe I can handle it."

As a safety, he believes that it is important to establish yourself as a big hitter.

"If you make someone pay for coming into your territory then they'll be thinking about you and not about catching the ball next time," he said. "You have to have the mindset that you're going to make people think twice about catching the ball. You have to make them think about where you're coming from and not about where the ball is coming from."

In Folkston, where the high school athletes are local heroes, Donley sees himself as just another teenager with dreams and goals for the future, not as anything special. He's enjoyed plenty of success but he tries to keep it all in proper perspective.

"I try to be the same D.J. all the time," he said. "I try to remember don't get too hyped up about what you've done and treat people the same all the time. I always try to stay humble and remember that it's a blessing to be able to play sports and be good at them."

Sports won't last forever, though. Like all high school football stars, there is a part of him that dreams of playing someday in the NFL, but he knows that he has to prepare for a life beyond the football field. That's why he spends every spare moment learning everything he can about computers.

He plans to major in computer science or some computer-related field once he gets to college. He's got a 3.4 in the classroom and he got a 950 on the math-verbal sections the first time he took the SAT.

"I'm fascinated by computers," he said. "I like the fact that I can get on a computer and do just about anything I want to. I want to learn everything I can about computers. This summer, when I'm not working out for football, eating or sleeping, you'll find me on the computer trying to learn something new about them."

Right now, though, the future is the 2006 high school football season. Earning that third straight state title is important to him. He believes that the experience of being a winner is an intangible quality that is going to make him better as a college football player.

"When you've been a part of championship teams you know that when things go against you, you have it in you to dig deep and rally your team," he said. "You know about all the hard work it takes to be a champion and you don't want to do anything to let your teammates down. I think that when the recruiters look at me, they see someone who has the qualities of a champion. I think that's a plus."


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