The top high school football recruit in Chatham County is Northwood sophomore Gus Ritchey.
A defensive end and tight end for the Chargers, Ritchey caught 32 passes for 490 and five touchdowns on offense and totaled 61 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and two forced fumbles this past fall. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound athlete has racked up 19 Division-I scholarship offers so far, including ones from some of the top programs in the country in Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Washington and Penn State.
Ritchey — who was recently named a four-star recruit by Rivals — visited Notre Dame’s campus on Wednesday this week and has unofficial visits lined up with N.C. State, ECU, Duke and Virginia Tech over the next several weeks. But before he hit the recruiting trail, he spoke with the News + Record about his college prospects, his experience playing with Northwood’s boys basketball team and much more.
Here’s what he had to say.
What have these past few months been like for you, recruiting-wise? How ready are you for the start of the season?
GUS RITCHEY: The recruiting process has been great. I’m finally contacting coaches. The in-state schools have done an amazing job, and so have the schools out of state. Schools I’ve visited so far have been phenomenal. But I’m so ready for the season to start. We have a new coach — Coach [Mitch] Johnson. I know we’re moving down to 2A, but I don’t think that really matters at all. I think we’re going to be so successful this year. The team looks great. Carson Fortunes is coming back, our quarterback. I’m really excited to see how the season goes. I think it’s going to be a really good one.
What do you look for when you’re on a college campus for a visit?
Basically, what I look out for, is — I want to feel like a part of them, like family. I just feel like when I go on these trips and visit all these schools, there are a bunch of schools, so everybody is going to be different and the culture is all going to be different. Everything is completely different depending where you are, so what I’m trying to look for is building a relationship with the coaching staff and the players and seeing the little things like the weight room or the stadium. “Does this fit me? Can I see myself playing at this school?” That’s basically what I look out for. But the main thing is making relationships with the coaching staff and the players.
You play on both sides of the ball, both tight end and defensive end. Are most of these schools recruiting you at both positions? Or is it one or the other?
A lot of them are going both. Notre Dame, I’ll be there (Wednesday), they’re doing both. I’m talking to more of the defensive side, but they’ve told me they either see me as a tight end or defensive end. They don’t know yet. That’s what a lot of schools say. They say, “When you get in our program, we’ll see how you fit, and if we think you fit better at one position, that’s fine.” I completely agree with them. I play both sides of the ball really well and I think it just depends where I go and what they see me as. I’m really looking forward to my Notre Dame visit. I actually grew up in Indiana, so we were Notre Dame fans for a long time. This is a really, really exciting visit coming up.
You competed as a member of the boys basketball team this past season. While the year didn’t end the way you wanted it to, what was it like going on that run to the state championship with your teammates? How does playing basketball help you on the football field?
I think it was a really amazing experience this whole year, going up against some of the top teams in the country and the state. Of course, we came up short, but that happens. But I think we’ll keep our heads up, and I think we’re going to win it all next year. It was a really successful season and it was a really fun year.
I think when I play basketball, I’ve always realized my athleticism jumps up dramatically. I went from dunking one hand and playing two months of basketball, to now I can do a 360 windmill. It’s crazy how it works. Your footwork gets better. You’re going against guys like Drake [Powell] every day and guys with mindsets like that — it helps a lot. I know I’m not the best basketball player, but building relationships with other people, having fun and improving your athleticism, basketball has been really important to my life.
What are some things you’re working on over the offseason to improve your individual game?
Personally, I’m definitely trying to get my weight and strength up. I’m trying to get a lot bigger, because even though I’ll be fine weight-wise at tight end, for defensive end I need to put on a couple more pounds. I think overall, I just need to keep working on basic things like footwork, hand-eye coordination, getting off the ball on defense, little things like that. Those are the things I’m hoping to improve, and I’m going to be playing in a lot of 7-on-7 tournaments coming up, so I can’t wait for it.
Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.
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