Commentary

Signing day a family affair for Mark, Jon Richt

Updated: February 7, 2008, 11:33 AM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

ATHENS, Ga. -- Before Georgia coach Mark Richt could put the finishing touches on one of the country's top five recruiting classes Wednesday morning, he had to ensure Clemson landed one of its prospects.

[+] EnlargeMark Richt
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesGeorgia coach Mark Richt learned how it feels to be the parent of a recruit.

Jon Richt, the Georgia coach's oldest son, signed a national letter of intent with the Tigers on Wednesday morning. Mark attended his son's signing ceremony at Prince Avenue Christian School in Athens, then returned to his office to finalize his own team's recruiting class.

"He signed with the enemy," Mark said. "It was good. I enjoyed it."

Mark did still feel a little uneasy Wednesday morning, especially when his son tried to slip a Clemson hat onto his head.

"He wouldn't do it," Jon said. "He said if the press got ahold of a photo of him wearing a Clemson hat, it could be used against him."

However, Mark also believes he would have been more uneasy if Jon had opted to sign with the Bulldogs. Jon wanted to play for Georgia after his father became the Bulldogs' coach, but Mark wanted to be sure his son realized the consequences of such a decision.

"I think the pressure on a head coach's son is not healthy," Mark said. "That's probably the toughest thing. As much scrutiny as there is now, it's just not healthy. I wanted Jon to go off and be his own man. I wanted him to understand that being the head coach's son was not the easiest thing to be. After I explained everything to him, if he still wanted to come here, we would have worked it out one way or the other."

Jon, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound quarterback, made it easy on his father.

"Originally, I wanted to go to Georgia," Jon said. "I grew up there and wanted to go there. But my dad and I sat down and talked about the benefits. If I did play in a game and played bad, and there was a tight quarterback competition, everyone would say I was only playing because I was the coach's son. I'd get it extra worse because I'm his son."

Father-son combinations aren't unprecedented in college football, but a son playing quarterback for his father is quite rare, according to a survey conducted last season by Colorado officials. According to the survey, only nine such combinations have occurred in college football's modern era.

Colorado's Cody Hawkins started at quarterback for the Buffaloes last season, with Dan Hawkins, his father, watching his every move from the sideline. Western Michigan's Ryan Cubit played quarterback for his father, Bill Cubit, for two seasons. When ESPN college football analyst Jim Donnan coached at Marshall in the 1990s, his son, Todd Donnan, was his starting quarterback for two seasons.

Perhaps the most successful father-son combination was Fresno State's Kevin and Jim Sweeney. Kevin Sweeney became the NCAA Division I-A leading career passer with more than 10,000 yards while starting for his father's team in the mid-1980s.

Mark said he wasn't interested in enduring such a relationship.

"Could you imagine him going through the growing pains [Georgia starter] Matthew Stafford went through?" he said. "Imagine how horrific that would be. It would be terrible."

[+] EnlargeTommy and Bobby Bowden
Icon SMITommy and Bobby Bowden are familiar with the coach-player/father-son relationship.

The younger Richt said he also was recruited by Alabama, Colorado, Florida State and Maryland. The Tigers were an easy choice because Jon was familiar with Tigers coach Tommy Bowden and offensive line coach Brad Scott, both of whom worked with his father at Florida State.

Mark accompanied his son on his official visit to Clemson last fall. When Bowden and Scott made an in-home visit, nearly 30 people were at the home.

"It was like a reunion," Jon said. "It was fun for my dad. He learned what it's like to be a parent. He loved going to Clemson and having to be convinced to send his son there. He enjoyed it a lot."

Oddly enough, Clemson also delivered the only blow to Mark's recruiting class Wednesday. Dwayne Allen, a top-rated tight end from Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville, N.C., reneged on a verbal commitment to the Bulldogs and signed with Clemson. Allen had waivered between the schools in the past two weeks.

Jon wasn't as highly recruited as Clemson's other quarterbacks. He set school records for career completions (181), passing yards (2,468) and touchdowns (26) at Prince Avenue Christian School, which is in the smallest classification in Georgia high school football.

But Mark believes his son eventually will be ready to compete for playing time at Clemson.

"Jon's like a lot of quarterbacks in a system," Mark said. "He's going to have to rely on his teammates to be successful, and they're going to have to rely on him. He's going to need protection and good receivers. I think he has a very strong arm and tremendous leadership qualities. He loves the game. He loves practice. He just enjoys competing. Guys that will compete have a chance."

Bowden said his decision to offer Jon a scholarship wasn't a favor to his father. Bowden said Jon reminds him of current starting Tigers quarterback Cullen Harper.

"He's very impressive, very accurate," Bowden said. "He has a great knowledge of the game, techniques, fundamentals. He has a stronger arm, really, than what I thought. He's just a very solid, stable, talented player."

Bowden, who played wide receiver for his father, Bobby Bowden, at West Virginia, said he doesn't expect his relationship with Mark to be much different than his relationships with parents of other players.

"It'll be another phone call from a parent complaining, I'm sure," Bowden said. "I've just got to know the area code, and when Mark calls, just don't take his call."

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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