Woodbridge H.S. defensive lineman James Gillespie

Woodbridge defensive lineman James Gillespie (second from right) is the No. 15-rated junior football player overall in Virginia by rivals.com. He's pictured with Viking seniors Antoine Sampah (left), who'll play at LSU, and R.J. Adams (right), who'll play at Kentucky, and R.J.'s father, Reuben.

James Gillespie isn’t being swayed by any college football program right now.

Ranked as Virginia’s No. 3 defensive lineman in the class of 2021, the 6-foot-2, 310-pound junior is playing it cool as he sits at home reading texts from college coaches.

The list of colleges that have offered Gillespie are as tall as an Ikea bookcase.

Virginia recently offered him an athletic scholarship. So have Michigan, Penn State, Maryland, Kentucky, Central Florida, West Virginia, Cincinnati, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Wake Forest, Charlotte, UAB, Central Michigan, Liberty and Massachusetts.

“Everything is in consideration. It’s the biggest decision of my life,” Gillespie said. “I’ve got to know what I’m getting into.”

With over 470,000 residents and 12 public high schools, Prince William County is prime recruiting ground for elite college football players.

The Woodbridge Vikings’ program is extremely fertile, producing 16 D1 recruits in the last five years under former coach Gary Wortham. They include current seniors Antoine Sampah, a star linebacker headed to LSU, as well as Kentucky-bound offensive lineman R.J. Adams and defensive lineman Sheku Tonkara, headed to Monmouth.

Five Prince William juniors rank in the state’s Top 45 by rivals.com. Besides Gillespie at No. 15, is Stonewall Jackson defensive tackle Tyleik Williams at No. 7, Patriot safety Jalen Stroman at No. 19, Freedom (Woodbridge) receiver Umari Hatcher at No. 30 and Battlefield lineman Matt Binkowski at No. 40.

Gillespie isn’t fazed by the beeps on his phone from college defensive line coaches and recruiting coordinators. “Some will text you more often than others. One hits me every two days, some every single day,” Gillespie said. “I respond within 30 minutes,” he added.

Due to the coronavirus, the NCAA extended the recruiting dead period through May 31, meaning juniors like Gillespie can’t take official visits until the period is lifted.

“I won’t commit before September. This coronavirus is slowing everything down,” said Gillespie.

Although pleased by Virginia’s offer on April 22, there’s no hint on schools he likes.

“Where I want to play, the school might check all the boxes and be far away or up north,” he said. “I look mainly at how do they play at my position, how many are at my position at the school, who plays my position [being recruited], and how I can develop.” 

His workouts consist of running and using dumbbells at home. He does pushups and squats, and studies defensive line techniques.

“I don’t eat a lot of fast foods. I don’t eat McDonald’s or Taco Bell. I try to eat a lot of carbs, fibers, good stuff, fruits and vegetables,” he said.

As far as his academic future, he says he’s interested in astronomy, but is unsure of what he’ll major in. 

Reach Peter Brewington at pbrewington@fauquier.com

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