James Eunice is officially a Georgia Bulldog.
Eunice, a 17-year-old Valdosta native who drowned while duck hunting last month at Ocean Pond in Lake Park, has been posthumously named to the University of Georgia’s football roster by head coach Mark Richt.
During Eunice’s funeral last Saturday, Jay Rome and Malcolm Mitchell, who played football with Eunice at Valdosta High and have signed letters of intent to play for Georgia, came to the podium with a box. A letter that Richt had written to the Eunice family was read to the mourners in attendance.
At the end of the letter, Richt wrote, “Oh yeah, James made the team.”
Then Rome and Mitchell took an official Georgia jersey out of the box. On the jersey were Eunice’s last name and the No. 23 he had worn at Valdosta.
James Eunice had become a member of the Georgia football team.
“It was a good, special thing that Coach Richt did,” Mitchell said. “It showed (that he is) a great person and a good coach. I think it’s great. Now you’ve got three Wildcats on the team.”
“It means a lot to me, because me and James were so close. I feel like me and James were family,” Rome said. “That meant a lot to me.”
Eunice was an honor student at Valdosta High School, and had been accepted to the University of Georgia.
Eunice was a two-sport athlete at Valdosta, playing baseball and football. He had spoken to Richt about walking on to the football team at Georgia.
“He had planned on going to Georgia and walking on. I know he would have made the team. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Rome said.
Sadly, he never got that chance. On Jan. 15, while duck hunting on Ocean Pond, Eunice disappeared. A large search team searched for 17 days, before his body was finally found on Jan. 31.
While Eunice was missing, a “Come home safe James Eunice” Facebook page was created. So far, 8,471 people have joined the group; 8,471 people who wished to show support for Eunice and his family, and 8,471 people who mourned his passing. After his body was found, a large crowd gathered at CrossPointe Church for his funeral last Saturday.
In Richt’s letter, the Bulldogs’ head coach opened up about his own heartbreak in learning of Eunice’s passing, and also offered his prayers for the family. He also shared how he had been contacted by Eunice about his plans to walk on to the Bulldog football squad.
Both Rome and Mitchell said that it meant a lot to them to see Richt, their future college coach, reach out to the Eunice family the way he did.
“I’m going to play for an incredible man,” Rome said. “Coach Richt is just incredible. He’s the best. Just to know that he had that in his heart, just to do that for James and his family, means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot to the family.”
“He cares about (people),” Mitchell said. “I don’t know how well he knew James, but just to do something like that, not really even having a full (knowledge) of who the person is, shows that he cares about people, and just is a caring person.”
The kind of person Mitchell looks forward to playing for in college?
“Yes sir,” he said. “It made me proud to be a Bulldog.”
James Eunice is officially a Georgia Bulldog.
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Win or go home
The Valdosta State softball team faces Armstrong Atlantic University in an elimination game for the 2013 Division II Softball Championship Tournament today at noon.
HOOPER: An early look at the 2013 football season
I haven’t written a column in quite some time, largely because there has been so much going on and we haven’t always had the space, nor have I felt up to it after writing so many other stories.
But today, I am writing this column and taking up the inches in the daily sports section and giving a little love to the upcoming football season.
Blazers fall to Molloy in eight innings
With only one out remaining and trailing by three, the Molloy Lions strung together four hits to plate three runs in the seventh followed by another run in the eighth inning to defeat Valdosta State’s softball team 5-4 in the first round of the 2013 Division II Softball National Championship Tournament on Thursday in Salem, Va.
Albritton, Johnson earn All-America honors
Valdosta State softball players Courtney Albritton and Morgan Johnson gathered multiple All-America honors late Wednesday night.
Golfers take course for Wounded Warriors
Local patrons participated in the Wounded Warrior Project Golf Tournament at Stone Creek Golf Club in Valdosta on Thursday.
Valwood football hosting 4-man scramble golf tourney
Head coach Ashley Henderson and the Valwood football team will be hosting a 4-man scramble golf tournament at Valdosta Country Club Friday, June 14.
VHS football cheerleaders to host Junior Cheer Camp
The Valdosta High School football cheerleaders will be hosting a Junior Cheer Camp June 5 through June 7 at the W.G. Nunn Elementary School gymnasium.
Gillespie, McPherson pleased with spring practices
Valdosta’s Rance Gillespie and Lowndes’ Randy McPherson both think their football teams got better during the recent 10 days of spring practice.
Then again, both coaches know their teams have a ways to go before the start of the football season.
Signing day at VHS
It was signing day galore at Valdosta High School Wednesday.
Six student-athletes signed national letter of intents to compete at the next level, while two VHS athletes both signed academic scholarships to Division I universities.
Powell signs with Shorter
Robert Powell, a member of the basketball team on South Georgia State College’s Waycross Campus, has signed a letter of intent to continue his basketball career at Shorter University in Rome.
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