ATLANTA | Detric Dukes and Dominick Sanders know a thing or two about winning.
The two defensive standouts ‚Äî and now official members of Georgia‚Äôs 2014 recruiting class ‚Äî represent a graduating class that has won more games than any other in Tucker High School history.
The group went 52-5, notched three 10-0 regular seasons, made it to the Class AAAA state championship twice (winning it all in 2011), reached the semifinals three times, and made the quarterfinals each year.
They join a Georgia team that lost as many games last season as the two lost their entire high school career, but that‚Äôs not important to them.
Dukes, a 6-foot, 232-pound inside linebacker, was originally committed to Louisville before Georgia came into the picture and offered him a scholarship. His goal was to be as close to home as possible, and once the offer to play in-state arrived, he gave his commitment, took no other visits and completely shut down his recruitment.
‚ÄúI wanted my mom to be able to come watch me play,‚Äù Dukes said. ‚ÄúI wanted to play for Georgia, stay in town, and prove to the people that we can do this. We can get this championship.‚Äù
His recruiters ‚Äî Chris Wilson and Kirk Olivadotti ‚Äî both left Georgia‚Äôs staff this offseason to pursue other opportunities. Wilson went to coach the defensive line at Southern Cal, and Olivadotti returned to the NFL as the Washington Redskins‚Äô inside linebackers coach.
Even after their departures, Dukes remained loyal to the program and not just the men who brought him in. Once defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was hired, he made sure the three-star linebacker knew how he felt about him.
‚Äú(Pruitt has) been great,‚Äù said Dukes‚Äô father, Demetrius. ‚ÄúDetric was one of the first kids he came and saw once he got the job and hit the road. He made it a priority to know that he wanted him, and wanted him to stay committed to Georgia.‚Äù
Sanders‚Äô story went to a slightly different tune.
His older brother, Chris, was a member of the Bulldogs‚Äô 2011 ‚ÄúDream Team‚Äù class but saw his career in Athens end abruptly after being dismissed from the team because of his involvement in an alleged theft of a teammate. His journey through the junior college ranks took him out west, and he was able to sign with Baylor in December as a member of its 2014 class.
Playing for Georgia had been a lifelong goal for the brothers, and even though Chris saw his opportunity dry up, Dominick never lost the faith in his own chances. He watched his stock steadily rise his senior year, and committed to Central Florida in mid-January in case things didn‚Äôt work out.
His patience was finally rewarded once Southeastern Conference schools started giving the 6-foot, 190-pound safety a harder look. Georgia made an offer shortly after Central Florida did, and Dominick never looked back.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs always been a dream for us to play for Georgia and be able to get a scholarship,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúI was being patient, worked my butt off all this year, and I‚Äôm glad that this blessing came for me. I feel like good things are fixing to happen and good things come to those who wait.‚Äù
Chris has been an influence throughout the whole recruiting process, and now that Dominick is going to play for his dream school, he gave him some advice.
‚ÄúHe told me to do what I gotta do, keep my head on right, and don‚Äôt worry about what anybody‚Äôs got to say,‚Äù Dominick said.
Tucker coach Bryan Lamar, who helped instill the championship pedigree in the two athletes, sees nothing but success for them at Georgia.
‚ÄúYou can put Detric in just about any system,‚Äù Lamar said. ‚ÄúHe can move really well, got great feet, great hips, he can play outside, he can play inside, he can rush the passer, and he does a good job with studying and staying on top of everything. He‚Äôs extremely emotional in terms of his leadership and his passion.‚Äù
Sanders‚Äô athleticism allows him to play both ways, and wherever he ends up, Lamar is confident he‚Äôll excel.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs going to do great things and he‚Äôs going to find his niche wherever they want him to be,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs going to make plays and he‚Äôs going to work his butt off.‚Äù
This recruiting class for Georgia might not have a trendy nickname, but Sanders believes it‚Äôs a group that could make major headway on campus right away.
‚ÄúI see it being a big impact for Georgia, like, SEC, BCS bowl-type,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúI feel like we can win it. If we put our head into it, we can win it.‚Äù