Last year around this time, many college football fans didn’t know how to spell Robert Nkemdiche’s name, much less pronounce it (kim-DEECH-ee).
In the year since, he said he’s had his Twitter account hacked, received hate mail after he backed out of a commitment to sign with Clemson, got to meet Shaquille O’Neal on a recent recruiting trip to Louisiana State, and has had his every move scrutinized for meaning.
Nkemdiche, an American Family Insurance ALL-USA defensive end from Grayson (Loganville, Ga.), is considered the consensus No. 1 recruit and early Wednesday morning announced he plans to sign with Mississippi.
“When there is a consensus top guy, it’s always a little bit bigger,” said 247Sports.com recruiting analyst JC Shurburtt. “In Nkemdiche’s case, he’s in Atlanta and outside of Birmingham, I’m not sure there’s another city that follows college football recruiting as much.”
Though Nkemdiche did as much as he can to avoid a circus-like atmosphere around his recruiting, at times it was unavoidable.
His mother, Beverly, is a state congresswoman in Nigeria. After Nkemdiche committed to Clemson in June, his mother criticized Clemson for not keeping her in the loop. She said she preferred that Nkemdiche would play at the same school as his brother, Denzel, who’s a linebacker at Ole Miss.
Nkemdiche’s father, Sunday, is an Atlanta physician, but Nkemdiche stays with Grayson assistant Lenny Gregory so he can attend Grayson.
An anonymous complaint was sent to the Mississippi State Legislature’s Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review because of the concern that Nkemdiche’s father might be offered a job with the University of Mississppi Medical Center.
The reason for all the fuss is Nkemdiche is 6-5 and 260 pounds, yet mobile enough to play running back at Grayson. His commitment to the Rebels is helping a team that hasn’t won a Southeastern Conference title since 1963 to a potential top five recruiting class.
When Nkemdiche took a visit to Louisiana State last weekend, he sent palpitations across Mississippi when he tweeted the Tigers were pushing him in his recruitment and the decision “was getting hard now!”
But ultimately, he stayed with Ole Miss, a decision that was cemented when he made numerous unofficial visits to see his brother play football in Oxford.
Scout.com Mississippi recruiting analyst Yancy Porter said he believes Ole Miss’s 30-27 loss to Texas A&M on Oct. 6 was a crucial turning point in Nkemdiche's recruitment.
“Ole Miss lost that game in a tragic way,” Porter said. “After the game, Robert saw how badly Denzel was hurting about the loss and how close Ole Miss was to being an elite team. They needed one guy to get any kind of pass rush and he was the missing piece of the puzzle to their biggest need.”
Porter said it became clear that Nkemdiche was headed to Ole Miss when he began working behind the scenes to pull in other recruits, including All-USA wide receiver Laquon Treadwell of Crete-Monee (Crete, Ill.) and All-USA offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil of Columbia (Lake City, Fla.).
“They’ve had good recruiting classes in recent years, but he help take it to another level,” Porter said. “This was a perfect storm between (Ole Miss coach Hugh) Freeze and his recruiting style, his young staff and Nkemdiche.”