Devonte Wyatt’s sprint to college football

DECATUR - The most important day in Towers DL Devonte Wyatt’s athletic career so far happened while he was wearing a onesie.

In the spring of his junior year, Wyatt prepped to throw shot put for the Titans at a track and field event at Heritage in Conyers. He knew that the 100-meter race was on the schedule, but that he had to get something done first before being allowed to run the 100. 

“Coach said if I won the shot put I could run the 100. I used to practice with the team, but I had never run it during a meet," Wyatt said. "So I thought I could do it.”

After winning the shot put, Wyatt’s coach gave him the green light. But he needed a wardrobe change. 

“That’s when I slipped on the onesie,” he said of Towers’ sprinter uniforms. “Everything changed after that.”

That came true, both visually and in terms of college football recruiting attention. 

Wyatt had to hurry. The start of the 100-meter race was about five minutes after the shot put concluded. He approached the line like very few of his competitors. Sure he had on the onesie, but he was the only competitor well over 250 pounds and without track shoes. 

Wyatt had only the pair of black Nike Air Force Ones, heavy and typically worn for basketball, he wore to the event. 

Still, Wyatt ran faster than his foes. 

“I ran something like an 11.6,” he said with a smile. “That’s when I started getting a lot of attention from college coaches.”

The first college coaches to contact him were from Georgia - his dream school. 

“Coach (Kirby) Smart and Coach (Tracy) Rocker talked with me before I had any offers,” Wyatt said. “UGA came first, but they didn’t offer first. UGA promised me if I got my grades up - they were telling me that my grades came first - they would get me an offer.”

The Bulldogs’ patience was South Carolina’s opportunity. USC coach Will Muschamp and former UGA assistant and current USC co-offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon swooped in and offered Wyatt. They wanted him to visit Columbia. When he did the Gamecocks encouraged him to commit. 

“Coach Muschamp told me that he wanted me to commit before I left,” Wyatt said. “I had fun, so I did.”

He quickly heard from the contingent in Athens. 

“UGA was a little disappointed. They really wanted me,” Wyatt said. “They told me that they needed me. They kept calling me. Kirby called me and said, ‘Come on now Big W. You can’t give in to the pressure and commit like that.’”

Smart and Company promised to continue to recruit Wyatt, and eventually that work paid off. In early August, Wyatt flipped from Carolina to Georgia.  

“Kirby is real about things,” Wyatt said. “Everything he says he’s going to to. He's trying to teach me to be a man.”

“Everyone has been trying to get Kirby. Now we have Kirby here,” said Brian Montgomery, who was Wyatt’s head coach in high school. “UGA has always been Devonte’s dream school. I think that if UGA had offered first the UGA-South Carolina thing might not have happened.”

But it did, and it didn’t stop that summer. As Signing Day approached rumblings about Wyatt leaving UGA late in favor of Florida or South Carolina buzzed in recruiting reports and on social media. 

“Really, that was a lot of me thinking,” Wyatt said. “We went through everything and put down what I liked and I didn't like about UGA, South Carolina and Florida.”

The Gators entered late and forced their way into what had become a three-way fight for the four-star prospect. 

“There might have been too much made of that,” Montgomery said of the build up to Signing Day. “For Devonte to be in that situation is a blessing. Carolina has a great staff that really cares about the kids. And then Florida - they really have done a good job with everything. They are ahead of the curve about academics. It was tough.”

But in the end Smart and UGA won out. 

“The anticipation of Kirby coming over to UGA,” Montgomery added. “And that being his dream school. “Kirby being under Saban - he’s picked up a lot over those years.”

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Wyatt added.

A self-described “happy person,” Wyatt’s playful personality is typically on display. He says that he enjoys watching Sponge Bob and admits that he’s goofy. He didn’t put up much of a fight when his prom date made him wear a “very blue” tux to the dance.

“I didn’t fight that,” he said with a smile. “But I’m going to let you know… that color was hard to find.”

Wyatt also said he likes watching football - any kind of football - “just in case we might play them. That’s why I watched Michigan State the other day… just in case we play them. I watched Notre Dame because we are about to play them. I always think about the good in the future - like winning the SEC Championship.”

But Wyatt isn’t always as happy-go-lucky as he describes. During an August scrimmage, he was very physical on the sideline with Meadowcreek defenders after a late hit on Towers’ quarterback. Perhaps that showed the side of him Smart and company are eager to bring out over the next few falls. 

“See, in football, I’m something different - I am very passionate about my teams and players and winning,” Wyatt said. “I’ve changed my whole mind. I’m ready to eat. I am ready to get it. Ain’t no Sponge Bob then.”

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