Chris Hinton shut down his recruitment on the early side.
Unlike the five-star prospects who maximize drama leading up to National Signing Day, Hinton announced his commitment to the Michigan football team a month before beginning his junior year of high school, back in 2017. As a five-star prospect in the 2019 class, the Atlanta, Ga. native gave the Wolverines serious recruiting momentum in the state of Georgia.
In doing so, Hinton spurned the local Bulldogs. But many of his closest friends from Atlanta opted to sign with the state’s SEC power.
And now, four years later, he’s set to square off against those friends when Michigan takes on Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinals on New Year’s Eve.
“I won’t lie, I’m pretty excited for this game,” Hinton said Thursday. “I grew up with a lot of guys, know a lot of guys (on Georgia). Obviously, I was recruited by them pretty hard. It’s the hometown team. I’m excited to play Georgia for sure.”
Given his Atlanta upbringing, Hinton knows the Bulldogs’ roster well. As previously mentioned, he was close with many of Georgia’s 2019 signees, especially wideout Dominick Blaylock. During the recruiting process, Hinton also got to know defensive lineman Travon Walker and linebacker Nolan Smith — the consensus No. 1 prospect in the class. Through the high school season, he faced Bulldog offensive linemen Justin Shaffer and Jamaree Salyer, along with wideout Kearis Jackson.
Even on the hardwood, Hinton was surrounded by players bound for Athens. His high school basketball team played against current Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh.
Few coaches recruit their own state as well as the Bulldogs, and coach Kirby Smart has signed a five-star recruit from the Peach state every year since 2014. To put that in perspective, Hinton was just in middle school when that streak began.
Still, Hinton decided the Wolverines were a better fit. And, despite being around so many Georgia signees, he never wavered.
“I was pretty hard and set in stone on coming to Michigan,” Hinton said. “My boys at UGA still give me grief to this day, but look, we get a chance to compete against them. I didn’t get a lot of grief.”
Hinton faced most of his future Bulldog friends in the Georgia high school playoffs. Now, he’ll get to do the same in the College Football Playoff.
Hinton has kept in touch with most of them over the years, which he touted proudly at Schembechler Hall on Thursday. But when asked if he’s spoken to them since Michigan first found out it would be playing Georgia in the Orange Bowl, Hinton laughed.
“No, no,” Hinton said. “Once I figured out we were playing Georgia, it was (time to) hone in and eliminate the contact with them because (they’re) friends off the field, but on the field, they’re the opponent.”