- Associated Press - Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ray Drew knew he needed to get a little nastier on the football field, even if that attitude conflicted with an even greater passion.

In the opening game of his senior season at Thomas County Central, the defensive end came up with a way to make it all work together.

“I got a few pretty good hits in the game,” Drew said. “In prior years, I was holding back a little bit. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. Now when I hit ‘em, I pick ‘em up, say ‘God bless you,’ then tell ‘em I’ll be back.”

If Drew doesn’t sound like your typical high school football player, he’s not. Forget about his imposing size _ a little over 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds _ and focus on what he does away from the field.

Drew is a licensed minister and regularly preaches at churches and other religious functions around his south Georgia town of Thomasville.

“I got the calling of the Lord,” Drew said. “He told me that what he wanted me to do. I had to give myself to him.”

Drew is one of the nation’s top prospects, a player who has all the tools to be a fearsome pass rusher even as he fills out a frame that still has plenty of room to grow. He’s on The Associated Press South Region 25 list of top recruits.

During a recruiting pitch from Florida, coach Urban Meyer threw out the comparison to former Gators star Brandon Spikes. Georgia sent along a DVD of Dallas sack king DeMarcus Ware in that role of standup end in the 3-4 scheme, clearly implying that Drew could fill that role if he signed with the Bulldogs. Their new defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham, was a Cowboys’ assistant last year.

Drew hasn’t decided on where he’ll be attending school next season. He’s drawn interest from every school in the Southeastern Conference, all but two in the Atlantic Coast Conference, plus Southern Cal, UCLA, Notre Dame and Nebraska.

He knows it’s getting down to crunch time and he’s at least got to start narrowing his list.

“They’re all seeing the potential he can have,” said Bill Shaver, the coach at Thomas County Central. “The college game is much more geared to the passing game than we are in south Georgia. We’re still a run-oriented area. The pass rush is what he does best. That’s the way most people envision him: putting pressure on the passer.”

Drew envisions himself filling a dual role no matter where he ends up. He’ll continue to be the Minister of Defense.

“I may say something that may help someone along the way,” he said. “I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Everything you talked about today is what I’m dealing with. I didn’t know how to deal with it, but you taught me how to deal with it.’ I just let the Lord use me.”

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