T.K. Chimedza has always gone against the grain.
Growing up in Georgia, Chimedza was an Oregon Ducks fan.
His mother, Gertie, said she had to specially order Ducks jerseys from Oregon since he was 6 years old.
“He just wanted to be a Ducks fan,” Gertie said. “But I think it was all because of the uniforms. They have the Nike uniforms. The neon green. It was tough. Everybody would have the red (Georgia Bulldogs) on, but he’s always been that kid. ... He marches to the beat of his own drum.”
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So when Wednesday’s early signing period took place inside IMG Academy’s field house, it made perfect sense that Chimedza kept his commitment to Georgia Tech rather than giving into the advances of other college football suitors, including rival Georgia.
“A lot of people don’t see it as a top-tier program,” said Chimedza, who is joining a program about 30 miles from his home. “It’s not really the program you go to, it’s what you do at the program. So I’m excited to go there and leave my mark there ... and show people that Georgia Tech is actually a good program.”
Chimedza was one of 13 IMG players who signed in person during Wednesday’s ceremony.
Five others were not attendance. Offensive lineman Daniel Faalele (Minnesota) was sick, while Curtis Dunlap (Minnesota), Greg Newsome (Northwestern), Xavier Thomas (Clemson) and Ayodele Adeoye were scheduled to sign off campus. In Adeoye’s case, it was unknown if the Texas commit was signing with the Longhorns or flipping to Illinois or Oklahoma.
IMG also honored a few preferred walk-ons during Wednesday’s ceremony.
For some players such as Rutgers signee Jalen Jordan and Syracuse signee Andre Cisco, the time at IMG generated college football offers. Prior to coming to the Bradenton private sports academy, they didn’t have an offer.
Players such as Chimedza had interest and offers, but credited IMG for improving his game.
“This really took me to a whole other level to where I’m confident going into college knowing that I have a skill set,” Chimedza said. “I’ve learned things from the defensive line coach and the defense. I’m more educated as far as IQ with defense.”
Chimedza injured his left wrist in IMG’s final game this season, had an MRI and was given a cast that he said will come off in 3-4 weeks when he arrives on the Atlanta campus.
“It wasn’t even painful,” Chimedza said.
Chimedza said Georgia Tech’s straight-forward approach with him was something that sold him. Of course, the educational component is something that is impressive.
“You have all these Fortune 500 companies around Georgia Tech,” Gertie said.
During the two years that Chimedza played at IMG, his family made four 7-hour trips for home games and attended road games that weren’t too far from Georgia.
“He has made us so proud, because he has earned it. He really has,” Gertie said.
Chimedza said Wednesday’s signing was a weight off his shoulders.
It had that effect on running back T.J. Pledger, who signed with Oklahoma despite other programs trying to steer him away.
“It’s finally over and it’s a really good feeling,” Pledger said. “... It was definitely hard. There were times when I was thinking about other teams. At the end of day, I had to go back to that feeling I felt when I had originally committed.”
Other IMG players to sign inside the field house Wednesday were Houston Griffith (Notre Dame), Kingston Harris (Tennessee), Brian Hightower (Miami), Mike Jones Jr. (Clemson), Artur Sitkowski (Rutgers), Reuben Unije (Illinois), Taron Vincent (Ohio State) and Stephon Wynn Jr. (Alabama).