Stan Rome uses a cane to help him get around these days. Back surgeries for a degenerative disc after four seasons as an NFL wide receiver have left him on disability.
It hasn‚Äôt diminished what his name still means in Valdosta, the town he still calls home.
‚ÄúYeah, he‚Äôs a legend,‚Äù Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell said. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs no hype around it. What you hear is true. It‚Äôs his city.‚Äù
Stan Rome just laughs.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know about all that,‚Äù he said.
It‚Äôs time for the next generation to do its thing.
Jay Rome, Stan‚Äôs son and Georgia‚Äôs 6-foot-6, 254-pound redshirt sophomore tight end, will play Saturday night against Clemson. It‚Äôs not just any game, of course.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs my alma mater, but I‚Äôm going to be rooting for the Bulldogs this time,‚Äù said Stan Rome, now 57. ‚ÄúAs long as Jay‚Äôs in school and I‚Äôve got a kid at Georgia, I‚Äôll be rooting for the Bulldogs.‚Äù
Stan Rome lettered in football in 1975 for Clemson and played basketball there from 1974-78, where he was named second-team All-ACC in 1977, starting alongside 7-foot-1 Tree Rollins, who went on to star for the Atlanta Hawks.
‚ÄúI always remembered the first time I met him I always thought he was the tallest guy ever,‚Äù Jay said. ‚ÄúThought he was like Shaq because he was 7-foot whatever.‚Äù
Stan Rome, a 6-5 small forward/shooting guard, tied for 12th with Larry Nance in program history in field goals made with 553, is 14th on the school‚Äôs all-time scoring list with 1,365 points and is tied for the school record for steals in a game with seven against Maryland in 1977.
Jay followed Stan at Valdosta High, playing for the storied high school program.
‚ÄúIt could be tough at times, but as I grew, I grew to let that push me and let that motivate me,‚Äù Jay Rome said. ‚ÄúAt first, there were a couple of times where there was always someone [saying], ‚ÄòAre you going to be as good as your dad?‚Äô Or if I make a play, somebody would be like, ‚ÄòOh, that was a good play, but your daddy would have done this or that.‚Äô I learned pretty early and my dad was a great person who helped me get through it to let that motivate me.‚Äù
Stan said Jay handled the added scrutiny ‚Äúextremely well‚Äù using comparisons to fuel him to be as good as he could be and providing extra motivation.
‚ÄúI think the older Jay gets and the better he performs on the field, the more that shadow kind of disappears,‚Äù said Mitchell, also a former Valdosta standout. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs Jay Rome, not Stan Rome‚Äôs son. In high school, I would say he did carry it with him because, like I said, it‚Äôs Stan‚Äôs city.‚Äù
Jay Rome was a pretty big deal himself as a recruit, rated as the No. 4 tight end in the nation by a couple of recruiting services when he picked Georgia over Alabama. Clemson was initially his favorite when he was a freshman and sophomore in high school, Stan said.
Jay said his first Clemson memory was his father telling him about Howard‚Äôs Rock and running down the hill. One time while passing through town, they stopped to check it out.
Jay figures he‚Äôs been to one or two Clemson basketball games and two football games.
Saturday will make three.
Stan Rome, a Parade All-American, said he went to Clemson because it offered him the chance to play both sports.
‚ÄúACC basketball at the time was by far the premiere league in the country,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúI got to play against David Thompson his senior year. It just to me was a better fit for me at the time.‚Äù
He was cut in camp by Cleveland Cavaliers, who drafted him in the fourth round, and he was later an 11th-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs. He played for them from 1979-82 before one season with the USFL‚Äôs Washington Federals.
When his playing days ended, Stan Rome developed an addiction to cocaine and alcohol ‚Äúand other stuff.‚Äù
A drug deal gone bad in Valdosta was the low point.
‚ÄúAt my bottom, I wound up getting shot in the head ‚Äî Oct. 31, 1988,‚Äù Stan Rome said. ‚ÄúThat propelled me into recovery.‚Äù
He became a certified addictions counselor and worked in the field of alcohol and drug rehab, opened a halfway house and worked for treatment centers and psychiatric hospitals.
‚ÄúJust devoted my life to recovery and helping other people,‚Äù Stan Rome said.
Mitchell, the Georgia receiver, broke Stan‚Äôs single season reception record at Valdosta and came close to his single-season yardage record. Stan Rome encouraged Mitchell, who also played cornerback, to focus on his route running and pass catching.
Jay, like his father, played basketball in college, too. He played on the hardwood as a freshman after the football season ended, but chose not to play last season so he could focus fully on football after making 11 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns as a backup to Arthur Lynch.
Jay was slowed this preseason by a sprained left ankle when a teammate fell on it, but said he‚Äôs over that minor setback.
‚ÄúI hope he has a breakout season,‚Äù said Stan Rome, who had his career long reception against Georgia, making two catches for 70 yards in a game in 1975. ‚ÄúIt really depends on how much playing time he gets and how much the offense utilizes the tight end. He‚Äôs a very gifted athlete. He‚Äôs a different athlete than I was. He‚Äôs a little bit bigger than I was.‚Äù
Said Jay: ‚ÄúI can start being me, start making plays, and start showing people that I‚Äôm taking the football thing 100 percent seriously now and I‚Äôm going to be a force to be reckoned with.‚Äù