RJ Godfrey is settling into Georgia basketball after leaving Clemson


Growing up, RJ Godfrey made many trips to the University of Georgia campus from his home in Suwanee.

The son of former Georgia and NFL linebacker Randall Godfrey attended Mark Richt and Kirby Smart’s football camps and said he attended about 25 games at Sanford Stadium, but his path to a college scholarship came from what he did on the basketball court .

The Clemson transfer will fit in well this season as a junior at Stegeman Coliseum for the Georgia basketball team, but those previous visits to Athens don’t mean he’s not like every other newcomer at UGA trying to figure out how to get back to his student house or a bite to eat.

“I got lost this morning trying to eat breakfast,” Godfrey said in a recent interview.

He was looking for a McDonald’s for a workout.

“This place is six times bigger than Clemson,” Godfrey said. “Everything is right at Clemson. Everything around Athens is so spread out…I would think I would be familiar with the campus since I’ve been here since I was 6. Since I’m alone here, I can’t even navigate without Apple Maps.”

Godfrey moved to campus two weeks ago, but has already been driving into town to train with strength and conditioning coach Collin Crane and take photos in the practice gym.

It’s about an hour or less drive from his home to UGA, an easy drive for Randall and Rhonda Godfrey to see RJ, the second of four children.

Randall Godfrey played 12 seasons in the NFL for five teams after starring for the Bulldogs from 1992 to 1995, the last two with Kirby Smart as a teammate. The Dallas Cowboys second-round pick ranks eighth among the Bulldogs in career tackles with 365 and was SEC Defensive Freshman of the Year.

“You walk into my house and it’s mostly decorated with Bulldogs,” Randall Godfrey said. “That’s kind of what they grew up with. They know how much I love the Bulldogs and they have become Bulldog fans.”

RJ Godfrey saw himself as a kid who played for Georgia as a football player.

However, the edge rusher retired from football after suffering multiple concussions in high school. He was set to play again as a junior in high school, but broke his ankle and didn’t want to hurt his basketball offers.

He remembers watching Yante Maten play in Stegeman and taking an official visit as a basketball recruit during high school, which gave the Bulldogs and then-coach Tom Crean a hard look.

“It didn’t make sense at the time and I chose Clemson,” Godfrey said.

“I’m glad it worked out this time,” said his father, owner of Godfrey Funeral Home in his hometown of Valdosta.

The 6-foot-4, 228-pound Godfrey came off the bench for a Clemson team that reached the Elite Eight last year as a backup to returning starters Ian Schieffelin and P.J. Hall.

“I was behind a lot of great players at Clemson,” Godfrey said. “I am a real team player and invest in my team. I just think I really had to put myself first on this. Just from the conversations I had after the season, I didn’t think my game would grow the way I wanted to at Clemson.

Hall left for the NBA, but the Tigers added 6-11 Cincinnati transfer Viktor Lakhin and 7-1 Duke transfer Christian Reeves.

“I don’t know if you want to call it business,” Randall Godfrey said, “but he had to make the right decision for his future.

Not only was Georgia in its home state, but the Bulldogs also had a connection on their staff with associate head coach Antonio Reynolds Dean, who recruited Godfrey out of North Gwinnett High when he was a Clemson assistant.

“Same love, same interest, but I think times two in the portal,” said RJ Godfrey. “We have a great opportunity to take my game to another level, make a leap and I really trust and believe in him.”

Godfrey, who says his physicality on both ends is what he does best, could play power forward or center for Georgia.

“I’ve proven that I can guard those bigger, taller guys,” Godfrey said.

He averaged 6.1 points and 3.4 rebounds in 15.5 minutes per game last season while shooting 59.4 percent and was second on the Tigers with 22 blocks.

Godfrey is one of five transfers coach Mike White added this season.

Everyone but Vanderbilt transfer Tyrin Lawrence is outside the top 130 in the 247Sports transfer portal rankings, but White singled out Godfrey when asked about those rankings.

“One in particular, in my opinion, is really, really underrated and I haven’t even read these rankings, especially the transfer stuff over the last month, but RJ Godfrey comes to mind as a guy who is behind a really, really good team some really good offensive players,” White said. “I think he could be from an outsider looking at our class, maybe a bit of a sleeper.”

Godfrey and Clemson played Alabama twice last season. He scored 12 in the Elite Eight loss to the Crimson Tide and 11 in a win at Alabama.

“He’ll be better for them,” Alabama coach Nate Oats told the Athens Banner-Herald about Godfrey’s arrival in Georgia. “He’s a very good player, but he was in a spot where he had two returning top scorers in the ACC on his team, so he’s going to do more for Georgia than Clemson. You can kind of see what he’s done, but I think he’ll be a lot better for Georgia.”

RJ Godfrey joins a Georgia program that reached the NIT semifinals but hasn’t appeared in the NCAA tournament since 2015.

“I don’t just want to make it there, I want to make a deep run like last year and have that feeling,” he said.

This time it will take place at the same school where his father made his name.

“It’s really cool to take that Godfrey name here in Georgia,” said RJ Godfrey, “and continue a legacy.”