Editor's note: During the countdown to national signing day on Feb. 1, DawgNation will talk with a former Georgia football player each day about his memories of the recruiting process.
Today's former Bulldog is Matt Stinchcomb, an All-America offensive lineman who came to the Bulldogs in 1995 from Parkview High School in nearby Lilburn, Ga., He was recognized for excellence both on and off the field: In 1998, Stinchcomb became Georgia's first and only winner of the Draddy Trophy, which the National Football Foundation presents to the college player with the best combination of academics, community service and on-field performance.
Following a seven-year NFL career with the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Stinchcomb went into the insurance business in Atlanta -- and he moonlights as a college football analyst.
Here are the highlights from DawgNation beat writer David Ching's conversation with Stinchcomb:
DC: Looking back, what was the recruiting process like for you?
MS: It was like the ultimate fan experience because I grew up a Georgia fan. The first visits, the first couple years when I was in high school, I got to piggyback on a kicker at my high school that was going up there, Brett Conway, who ended up going to Penn State. I got to go with him on a couple of his visits when I was a freshman or a sophomore. You don't ever think about ever actually getting to play college ball, so to me, I just thought this was like getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the team that you're already a huge fan of. So the early part of the recruiting process was like "Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory."
DC: So, I guess it was pretty early in the recruiting process that you decided Georgia was your school?
MS: It wasn't so much that I was interested in them. It was much more: Were they willing to offer? I'm not very good at playing hard to get. I was an easy date to be sure. ... Getting letters and phone calls and invitations to see games, it's tough to juggle. Eventually my mindset was, "If I know where I'm going, I'm ready to get off this Ferris wheel."
DC: It seems like that process has changed unbelievably since then, with the way a lot of the kids now are inundated with attention.
MS: A lot of these kids, their mom's still packing their lunch. It's one of those things where it's so early that we're asking kids -- you're a kid when you graduate from high school, I don't care if you can vote or not -- and the idea that a 15- or 16-year-old can as a sophomore in high school make a commitment as to where he's going to spend the next four years, maybe the most important four years of his life to that point, is goofy. It seems illogical to me, but in this climate we're in now, it's a necessity.
DC: Is there an interesting story from recruiting that you can tell that was a really memorable experience?
MS: I was a Georgia guy from the get-go, but at the same time, these other schools -- and I didn't say I was already committed because I hadn't -- but every unofficial visit I took to other schools, it just so happened they were playing Georgia that week. I was amazed that over the years none of these guys ever picked up on that fact. I can't think of one unofficial visit I took that didn't involve Georgia in the game. It was a little surprising that they never put 2 and 2 together.
As far as the process, what was awesome my senior year was I got to see Georgia play in The Swamp -- and unfortunately lose. I got to see Georgia tie a then-undefeated Auburn football team under Terry Bowden that hadn't lost in two seasons, and Terrell Davis goes off after he's finally healthy and we tie. In the entire recruiting process, that stands out in my head as a great one to have witnessed.
DC: How did your college experience compare to what you expected as a prospect?
MS: I'll say it started with a pretty major disappointment. We got to the dorm rooms and it's amazing what they'll tell you when you're getting recruited. The answer's almost always "Yes" until you sign that scholarship. I'm a little bit more than 6-foot-6, so when you're touring around the dorms, I can remember either me or Mom or somebody asking about, "Can we get a bigger bed for Matt when he gets up here for school?" and the coach was like, "Oh, yeah, we take care of these guys. Of course we've got some tall players and we take care of them." Meanwhile months later after you've signed your letter of intent and fall rolls around and I go to move into the dorm, I can remember telling the guy who was over housing at the time, "There's been some kind of mistake. This is the wrong bed." And he said, "Brother, all the beds are this length. This is your room." I'll say that was probably my only disappointment. I can genuinely say it was a great 3 ½ years that I was there. If I was smart, I'd have stretched it to four. But it was some of the best friendships, best experiences. I keep in touch with almost everybody -- trainers, equipment managers -- from those years. Coaches. Nothing was disappointing after that. Even in 5-6 and 6-5 years, it was maybe one of the best decisions I've ever made.