It’s not every day that students are encouraged to cheer and make noise in a library.
But when a fellow student is presented as one of the top high school football players in the nation, some concessions can be made.
A pep rally, complete with cheerleaders and a pep band, accompanied Friday morning’s ceremony in Darlington’s McCallie-Kennedy Library honoring senior offensive lineman Tate Ratledge as a 2020 All-American.
The presentation was part of the All-American Bowl’s Road to the Dome tour and also included Ratledge receiving his honorary jersey as he will join other top senior football players at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, on Jan. 4, 2020. The game will be televised live on NBC at 1 p.m.
“It feels amazing with all of the hard work I put in. Just to be recognized and getting to go play in a great game with a bunch of great competition, that’s a big goal too,” Ratledge said.
Coming in at 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, Ratledge is rated as a four-star recruit and is verbally committed to Georgia. He is one of 14 Georgia athletes selected to play in the annual East vs. West matchup.
Rusty Mansell, recruiting analyst for 247 Sports and a member of the All-American Bowl selection committee, said while there are plenty of high school linemen across the country with Ratledge’s build, it’s his competitiveness and attitude that set him apart.
“He went anywhere across the country in the offseason to compete because he knew the knock of coming from a single A school and he went out and competed against the best,” Mansell said. “Knowing his make-up, he loves football more than recruiting. And I’m finding, in this industry, that is a very good trait to say that he is going to be successful at the next level.”
Darlington head football coach Tommy Atha spoke to the crowd of students and faculty and highlighted Ratledge’s humbleness and dedication to his team.
“I don’t brag on this guy a lot. I don’t have to. The things he does speaks for themselves. But I am going to brag on him a little bit today,” Atha said. “The biggest thing that I want to say is that Tate is a big-time team player. Tate is very humble. Tate puts his teammates before himself.”
Atha said Ratledge was initially invited to be a part of a group of All-American invitees who were celebrated at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Wednesday evening, but that would have meant Ratledge would have missed the team’s practice in order to attend.
“Tate wasn’t going to miss a practice. He wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to be with his teammates because it was that important to him,” Atha said. “And most importantly, he wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to have this presentation right here at Darlington School in front of the people that he knows and loves.”
Ratledge thanked his coaches, teammates and family while speaking to the crowd. He said later that while the recognition is appreciated his main goal is focusing on completing this season and not looking too far ahead.
Darlington locked up the Region 6-A/A No. 1 seed with their victory over Bowdon on Friday night. The Tigers travel to North Cobb Christian on Friday and will play for the region championship on Nov. 8.