Valdosta Daily Times

February 11, 2011

James Eunice: a Georgia Bulldog

Christian Malone
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — 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.”