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Family, coaches show support for recruit

Published Sep. 26, 2005

After arrest, offensive tackle Jason Respert's prospects are unclear.

Family and friends on Tuesday proclaimed the innocence of Jason Respert, who was considered to be the state's top football prospect before Florida authorities charged him with attempted sexual battery and burglary.

"Jason did not do what he has been charged with doing. He is innocent so much so that we are publicly declaring his willingness to take a polygraph test and/or a psychological test," his mother, June Respert, said at a news conference outside their home. "We want everyone to know that Jason has nothing to hide."

Prior to his arrest Saturday, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound offensive tackle from Warner Robins' Northside High School had been offered scholarships at Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

But with today's signing day deadline looming, Florida and Georgia lost interest and Tennessee wasn't saying.

Respert, 18, was on an official NCAA visit to Florida when he was charged with breaking into the Gainesville apartment of an 18-year-old student and fondling her while she slept. The charges against him are felonies.

Newspapers have reported that Florida no longer is interested in Respert, but officials at the school declined to comment. Georgia's interest waned Monday.

"At this point we have discontinued the recruitment of Jason Respert," Georgia sports information director Claude Felton said.

His prospects at Tennessee were unclear.

"By the NCAA rule, you can say you are either recruiting him or you are not recruiting him. You are not supposed to elaborate," Tennessee sports information director Bud Ford said. "Our comment is he is a recruiting prospect who made an official visit."

Dawn Sharpe, a family friend, said schools remain interested.

Respert, who reportedly was leaning toward Georgia or Tennessee before the arrest, didn't comment.

Northside High coach Conrad Nix said that as important as football is to Respert, the family's first priority is clearing his name.

"I don't know that you will ever fully appreciate how much he means to the coaching staff, the faculty and the students," Nix said. "We publicly stand behind him in this ordeal."