Liberty County’s Richard LeCounte talks UGA, Liberty and life
Liberty County’s Richard LeCounte has every reason to be confident. He has committed to UGA, is ranked as the 24th best recruit in the nation and is No. 1 at the safety position, according to the recruiting website 247Sports.
The multi-talented athlete helped lead the Panthers’ basketball team to its first state title in school history last season. LeCounte, Auburn commit Davion Mitchell and Will Richardson return this season to try to repeat.
But LeCounte, who refers to himself as a hometown kind of guy, is grounded. His teammates are family. His friends are family. He’s quick-witted and his thoughts are deep. Whether he is scoring a touchdown or leading a fast break, it’s safe to say he has already thought three steps ahead of the opposition.
But back to football.
LeCounte had a game to remember in his opener Friday against Bradwell Institute. He scored four touchdowns, one on a punt return, one on a kickoff return, both 75 yards. He also caught two touchdown passes.
“I don’t know why they’re still kicking to him,” said Liberty coach Kurt Warner. “Maybe they know something we don’t know.”
And maybe they should just try to keep the ball out of LeCounte’s hands. That might prevent him from turning football fields and basketball gyms all over the state into his own personal playgrounds.
He took some time Monday by telephone to answer questions in a wide-ranging Q&A.
Q: What led you to commit to Georgia?
A: Being a big Kirby Smart fan. I was in ninth grade when he was recruiting me for Alabama. He was a defensive coach at Alabama, and that’s what I’m trying to specialize in. I wanted to be a big part of his defensive backfield. Being from Georgia, I’m a hometown kid and wanted to represent my hometown at Georgia.
Q: Is it going to be hard to say goodbye to competitive basketball?
A: I’ve been playing basketball longer than I’ve been playing football. It’s not that bad, but I feel I’ll be able to manage. I’ll be good without it.
Q: Does Liberty have what it takes to be a force in AAA this season?
A: You see big teams like Pace Academy and Greater Atlanta Christian, you know, teams like that, the powerhouses. I feel we should be able to compete with them at any level.
Q: You have talked about a mental approach to playing sports. Explain?
A: All sports are basically a mental sport. Me being able to think better than others has given me an advantage over others. You win the games more by thinking than what you do in the trenches, really. And that’s a big thing for me.
Q: You are on a deserted island. Three songs?
A: P. Diddy, “Finna Get Loose.” I love that song. Kid Rock, “Born Free.” I will listen to that forever. And Outkast, “ATLiens.” That’s a good one.
Q: If you could spend a day with any athlete, alive or dead, who would it be?
A: I kind of already had that experience one time with Cam Newton. I stayed with him for a week before we went to IMG 7-on-7 nationals. I was picking his brain a lot, and that was a big experience for me. So I’d have to pick Cam Newton.
Q: Since becoming a nationally ranked recruit, what have been some highlights off the field?
A: Aw man, meeting great guys. Having conversations with them, talking everyday. Like for instance Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb and guys who came before me. That connection is special. It’s something I never imagined I’d be doing.
Q: Is it hard to stay in the moment when you know you have so much waiting for you at the next level?
A: I’ve enjoyed my time as a youth, being in high school, and I’m going to savor every moment of this. Keeping everything, you know … staying level-headed. This right here. Then I look to Athens. Sometimes when I lay down in bed at night, you know, I kind of think about the future. But I’m pretty set on this time and being.