MCDONOUGH — With almost a decade and a half worth of football seasons under its belt, Union Grove has seen plenty of its athletes sign National Letters of Intent to play at the collegiate level.
#Not counting current seniors Shawn Davis, Jonathan Slade, Robby Fouch and Ian Schumacher, notable stars from the Wolverines program include D.J. White (Georgia Tech), Derrick Craine (University of Tennessee-Chattanooga) and Caleb Ham (Fordham).
#But don’t forget Patrick Rhew, the Wolverines’ starting long snapper who committed to the Valdosta State Blazers on Thursday.
#“I hadn’t heard from Valdosta State throughout high school (until this fall)” he said. “Out of the blue they came and talked to me. They emailed my dad and they said, ‘Hey, we want you to come to one of our practices so we can talk to you.’ So I went down there and snapped a couple balls at the end of practice.”
#Rhew wasn’t expecting a move south to come out of that meeting. In fact, he had been convinced he’d end up at LaGrange College alongside Slade, who will compete for a spot as a quarterback, because the school was offering Rhew a starting spot on its Division III team. He also fielded an offer from the University of West Georgia.
#But when Valdosta State, a Division II program that has celebrated two National Championships under Head Coach David Dean, came knocking with an opportunity to earn a spot on the team and also get the chance to take snaps as a starter, Rhew couldn’t say no.
#It will not be easy for Rhew to beat out the Blazers’ starting long snapper, but if he does, he’ll earn more scholarship money.
#And there’s the added bonus that he would be seen on a Division II field.
#“In the middle of snapping, the punts coach came up and asked me, ‘how would you feel snapping for us in the first game?’” Rhew recalled. “It’s D-II football, why would I not? It’s terrifying, though, because I’ll be 18 fresh out of high school and the guy across from me will be 22 and old enough to drink.”
#The funny thing about the 6-foot-1 senior’s football career is that he didn’t even start playing at an incredibly young age. He and his stepfather had to convince his “anti-football” mom when he was 8 years old that putting on a football helmet would be good for him. Thankfully, he said, she eventually agreed.
#Rhew started off as linebacker and expected to remain in that position, even while he began taking snaps in middle school. However, when he noticed how much bigger other players were becoming as he entered ninth grade, he didn’t have much of a choice than to stick with a specialized position.
#Doing so, though, has put him in some interesting situations. As a sophomore starting at the varsity level for the first time, he went to the University of Georgia a few times to work out with then-Bulldogs snapper Ty Frix.
#“He taught me more in those four or five sessions than I have learned in my whole life,” said Rhew, who started for the Wolverines for three seasons. “Two of the (UGA) coaches were riding by on a golf cart as I was snapping and asked me what grade I was in. The look on their face (was priceless).”
#Between getting attention from top-tier coaches and playing lacrosse with the Henry County Wolverines club team, Rhew hasn’t lost sight of his academics. He has a 3.8 grade point average and has been dual-enrolled at Clayton State all year.
#He’s well-rounded in all senses of the term, the type of player all coaches covet. He’s also grounded enough that he doesn’t expect a professional career handed to him.
#A shot at the NFL would just be another perk added to an already-fulfilling football career.
#“I feel privileged just to say I’m playing football in college,” Rhew said. “As a freshman or sophomore I was hoping to play. As a junior or senior, I was kind of expecting to. But I think with the NFL I’ll be hoping. Just making it to NCAA D-II — that’s a goal that I never would have set myself up to achieve about five years ago. If I had the chance to play in the NFL, I would take it. But I’m not setting my goals that high because I don’t want to experience disappointment in not being drafted.”