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Taking a look back at Nakobe Dean's signing day shows how dramatic these life-changing decisions can be.

5-star flashback: Nakobe Dean story shows how wild early signing day can be

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? The Intel brings that. This entry tells a story of a wild morning for a former 5-star on his decision day. The Nakobe Dean story offers a good example of what every big-time recruit goes through. 

Nakobe Dean has started every game in 2020. He leads all Bulldogs with his 64 tackles. He stacked up 15 tackles against Florida, 14 against Kentucky and 12 versus Mississippi State.

He’s a current team leader with a very bright future. In short, the former high school Butkus Award winner has been exactly as advertised as a former 5-star signee for the Bulldogs.

Dean signed with Georgia in December of 2019 as the nation’s No. 1 ILB prospect in his class.

That last sentence there doesn’t do that moment justice on his early signing day. With the nation’s top recruits in the class of 2021 set to sign today on the first day of the early period, Dean’s story serves as an example to all just how harried a day like today can be.

Dean scored a 27 on his ACT and attained a 4.3 grade-point average. He could have gone to Stanford if hey offered mid-year enrollment.

He is the son of two military parents with decorated service histories in combat theatres. His father is now a physician. His mother earned her master’s degree in social work.

While the family tree might read achiever and calm, cool and collected, his signing day was anything but.

Alabama was his likely choice about 1-2 weeks before his decision. The Crimson Tide was also his expected choice three days before he signed. LSU and Ole Miss were also very much in it down the stretch, too.

But this time it was the Bulldogs who swooped in late and erased a lead the Tide held for so long. The emphasis here was on the word late. DawgNation went through its notes and recorded post-decision interviews from his signing day to share a most unorthodox recruiting story.

How did Dean become a Bulldog? It really was the way a decision like this should be made.

Nakobe Dean-Georgia football
The early signing day story for Nakobe Dean is one to remember today. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation file photo)

Nakobe Dean: An 11th-hour decision on early signing day

Brad Boyette, his head coach at Horn Lake in Mississippi, remembers coming back home from Montgomery after the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game that year. The distance between those two waypoints is about 330 miles.

“I was on the phone with coaches from every school that whole drive back except for about five minutes,” he said back then.

When it finally came down to it, the family home was the epicenter of his decision. Nakobe made the decision in his mother Neketta’s room. His father, Byron, was also in that room. His extended family of aunts and even his godmother waited outside his mother’s bedroom door.

“He made his decision literally right before we came here to the high school,” Neketta Dean said.

He shared his decision with the world at 1:30 PM CST that day. Dean’s mother and father estimated that they came to a final decision approximately 70 to 80 minutes prior to that. That was right before they hopped in the cars and left for his ceremony.

They had done the pros and the cons the night before. Those didn’t work.

“Literally these schools were all so close,” she said. “Very close. But at the end of the day, I would say I want this and I want that but then I said ‘Son it is your decision that your Mom will support’ and that’s what we did.”

For one of his parents, Georgia was tied with LSU. Alabama was tied with Georgia with his other parent. That’s how close it all came down to.

“Georgia was his call,” Neketta Dean said. “It actually came down to Bama, LSU, Georgia and kind of Ole Miss. They were in there, too.”

LSU was the choice as his runner-up school. That’s how quickly things changed for Dean. Georgia and LSU both jumped Alabama late.

Boyette found Dean moments before he stepped up on the stage. That was when the star player and leader of his state championship team finally told him.

“I told him the only question I got was had he prayed about it,” Boyette said.

Dean’s reply: “Coach, more than you know.”

Boyette wanted to know if it was his decision. Was it what he wanted?

“When he told me yes to that, I was good with it,” Boyette said. “Then I asked where it was going to be.”

Dean said Georgia.

“Then I said tell me why,” Boyette said. “What was the factor that swung the decision?”

“He said ‘Coach it went straight back to the very most fundamental thing. It was an education.’ He said ‘The engineering department and the possibility of medical school I think that’s just a little bit stronger at Georgia than it is at Alabama, LSU or Ole Miss’ and that’s what made up his mind. That was good for him and that was great for me.”

Did you know the weekly DawgNation.com “Before the Hedges” program is available as an Apple podcast? Click to check it out and download it. 

Nakobe Dean-UGA recruiting-Georgia recruiting-Georgia football
Nakobe Dean’s decision was one the crystal balls really had no idea where he was going to go. He didn’t even know right up until he made his decision. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

What goes through a parent’s mind sitting at the podium?

Dean found an old school UGA shirt for his decision. The design was probably cutting edge back around the last time Georgia won a national championship.

He actually found it as a local Athens CVS on his official visit. He needed it because he had run out of clothes to wear. The Under Armour All-American made his decision live in front of an ESPN national audience that day in Horn Lakes.

As he did, his mother had a few things on her mind.

“It was time to let him go,” she said. “It is time for the next level and as a parent, you just want the best decision to be made while he’s up there.”

He was very chill.

“He was too relaxed up there,” his godmother Flora Broadnax said. “When I asked him about it, he was so relaxed because I think in his heart he knew. I asked him to take every statistic and every football thought out of the equation and just to go from his heart. If he did that, who was it going to be? If he went off what he felt in his heart, who was it going to be?”

“His answer was Georgia.”

Georgia football-UGA-Nakobe Dean
Georgia sophomore ILB Nakobe Dean was a semifinalist for the collegiate Butkus Award this year. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Early Signing Day: Setting the table on another big day

For the Bulldogs, there are a couple of timelines to pay attention to. The first of those would be the major undeclared decisions that Kirby Smart’s program is in the running for.

THE UGA TARGET CEREMONY TIMES

  •  3-star WR Jimmy Horn, Jr., 11:30 AM (FAU, Georgia, Jackson State, Oklahoma and South Florida)
  • 4-star RB Donovan Edwards, 1:30 PM  (Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Notre Dame)
  • 4-star LB Xavian Sorey Jr., 1:45 PM  (Alabama, Florida, Georgia)
  • 5-star DT Maason Smith, 4:30 PM EST (Georgia or LSU) 
  • 5-star DE Korey Foreman (Arizona State, Clemson, Georgia or USC; Will not reveal until Jan. 2)
  • 4-star OLB Elijah Jeudy (Georgia or Texas A&M; Will not reveal until Jan. 2.)

There is also the roll call of times when Georgia’s 20 commitments will hold their signing ceremonies. With all of these, there is a strong possibility that the recruits will send their letters-of-intent early and UGA could either announce or wait until their public signing ceremonies have taken place.

I’d wager on more of the former taking place there.

CURRENT UGA COMMIT CEREMONY TIMES

(all times EST)

  • 4-star OL Micah Morris, 8 AM
  • 4-star OLB Chaz Chambliss, 9:15 AM
  • 3-star WR Jackson Meeks, 10 AM
  • 4-star CB Nyland Green, 10 AM
  • 3-star WR Avontae Mitchell, 11 AM
  • 5-star QB Brock Vandagriff, 12:30 PM
  • 4-star RB Lovasea’ Carroll, 1 PM
  • 4-star DB David Daniel, 1 PM
  • 4-star CB Kamari Lassiter, 1 PM
  • 5-star OT Amarius Mims, 3:15 PM
  • 5-star LB Smael Mondon Jr., 3:30 PM
  • 4-star OL Dylan Fairchild, 4 PM
  • 3-star OL Jared Wilson, 4 PM
  • 4-star ILB Jamon Dumas-Johnson, 5 PM
  • 3-star CB Javon Bullard, 6 PM
  • 4-star TE Brock Bowers, 6 PM
  • 4-star DT Jonathan Jefferson, 6 PM
  • 4-star DT Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins, TBD
  • 3-star DT Marlin Dean, TBD
  • 4-star CB De’Jahn Warren TBD

Here’s a quick snapshot of how the class as a whole currently stacks up.

QUICK-HIT INFO ON THE UGA CLASS

  • All-Americans committed: 10
  • Current commits: 20
  • Current 247Sports Team Composite ranking: No. 3
  • Chances to go higher than No. 3: Slim
  • In-state commits: 10
  • Out-of-state commits: 10
  • Offensive commits: 9
  • Defensive commits: 11
  • Potential max number of 5-star commits: 4
  • Expected signing class number: 23-24
  • Top 150 commitments: 10
  • Top 100 commitments: 7
  • Top 50 commitments: 3
  • 5-star commits: 3
  • 4-star commitments: 12
  • 3-star commitments: 5

SENTELL’S INTEL

(the recent reads on DawgNation.com)

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