From his hometown newspaper:
It’s official. High school football recruiting has gone HD.
Just examine the case of Lincoln’s Jonathan George.
The game, if followed by a standout college career that leads to the fortune and fame, typically begins during a player’s junior year or the summer before their senior season. That’s when colleges can officially offer scholarships to prep players after having salivated over game film from their sophomore and junior seasons.
But George, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound running back, suffered a severe hamstring injury during spring ball following his sophomore year that prohibited him from a playing at full speed until late in the 2008 season.
That meant there was scarcely any footage of the senior floating around when the Golden Bears’ coaching staff sent their annual shipment of nearly 250 highlight DVDs to colleges across the country before the start of the season.
However, thanks to the myriad wonders of computers, footage of George, arguably the best pound-for-pound athlete in The Star’s seven-county coverage area, was only a mouse click away. The Golden Bears technologically savvy coaching staff was able to market their player’s remarkable talent by creating a Web link that popped open to a video of George. They saw him breaking through defensive lines with his strength – he bench presses upwards of 350 pounds – and using his sub 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash to break away from defensive backs.
George rushed for 1,618 yards on just 124 carries for a ridiculous 13 yards per carry and accumulated 2,224 all-purpose yards this past season as Lincoln went 11-2 and reached the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state playoffs.
Today, he’ll sign a letter-of-intent with the University of Kentucky at a National Signing Day ceremony scheduled for 10 a.m. at the high school. When he does, he’ll become the first Golden Bear to sign with an SEC school since the 1950s and the first to go Division I since Leo Trust in 1978.
Cornerback Tiger Williams and athlete T.J. Hoyt will both sign with JSU at the ceremony.
“Big,” said George, who turned down offers from JSU, Samford and Arkansas State, at a loss for words as he tried to describe the scope of his achievement. “It’s big to be the first person to do it in that long,” he said. “I know there’ll be more behind me. I’ve put in a lot of hard work and it’s starting to pay off. I don’t take it too lightly.”
The Wildcats began contacting him about a month ago. Vanderbilt visited him at school late last week, and he’d also received interest from Auburn and Alabama, which never materialized as the schools saw changes among key recruiting personnel.
What Kentucky coach Rich Brooks saw once he opened the link that arrived in his inbox, thanks to Lincoln assistant Skyler Mansfield, was a rare athlete. George is fast enough to win state championships in the 400-meter run and as part of the 4Ã—100-meter relay team, as well as finish second in the 200 meters in track. Yet he’s also strong enough to win a state title in wrestling in the 171-pound weight division his junior year.
Brooks flew into Talladega two weeks after seeing George on film to meet with George and his family. George took a trip to Lexington Jan. 21-23, which also included a one-on-one meeting position coach Larry Brinson. George said everything was top-notch in the bluegrass state, from the food to the facilities. He made up his mind sometime thereafter.
“He can catch it. He can run it. He can return kicks,” Lincoln coach Keith Howard said. “There’s no telling how strong he’s going to be. He’s a ‘manimal.’ He’s at about 185 but has dropped about 15 pounds to wrestle at 171. Just imagine how strong he’s going to be when he puts on 15-20 pounds of muscle and retains his speed.”
Brooks said George reminds him of Warrick Dunn. And to think, on a talented Golden Bears squad that also features junior D.J. Howard, –projected to be the state’s top running back next season – George almost never saw the light of day at running back.
Howard’s initial plan was to utilize George’s speed as a receiver alongside Hoyt, but D.J. Howard’s struggles with an injury changed that, and he placed George at running back early in the season. Howard said George responded so well and made so many big plays there was no way he could keep him out of the lineup after that.
“I always had hope,” George said. “I know that prayer changes things and that through prayer, God can make a way out of no way. I knew that if I just played hard and gave it my all, something good was going to happen.”