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Jeff Sentell/DawgNation
Jonathan Jefferson grew up a Georgia fan. The Bulldogs were his first offer as a freshmen. But his recruitment still had a plot twist.

Jonathan Jefferson: Georgia football commit blessed to see father’s recovery from COVID-19

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry shares a good early senior year update of 2021 DL commitment Jonathan Jefferson of Douglas County High School in Douglasville. 

Jonathan Jefferson was able to provide an example of what we have all lived through the last seven months now. His commitment story from back in late March is an example of how COVID-19 has touched the lives of someone we all know by now.

That will include the members of the 2021 Georgia recruiting class.

Jefferson committed back in March while his father, Richard, was going through a tough fight with the virus that has caused the global pandemic. His father is a former professional heavyweight boxer who once fought Wladimir Klitschko for the WBO title.

BoxRec.com lists his professional record at 28-4-1. He had 21 knockouts. The origin of Jefferson’s commitment was made with his father’s condition in mind.

“The night before I committed I was thinking where I should go and I woke up that morning and God sent me a sign,” Jonathan Jefferson said. “Because my Dad, unfortunately, got hit with COVID. So he was in the hospital. Georgia was my No. 1 [school] so I was like I might as well commit now so I can still tell him. But gladly he beat it so yeah, it was good.”

This was a tough case. His father needed a lengthy stay in the ICU.

Jonathan Jefferson-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Georgia DL commit Jonathan Jefferson said his father had a true scare with COVID-19 earlier this year. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

“It was a bad case,” Jefferson said. “He was on a ventilator. The last stretch, too. But he beat it. He lost a lot of weight, too. About 50 or 60 pounds. He was in there for almost a month, too.”

It was an alarming situation for Jefferson in the early stages of the pandemic.

“At first I thought it wasn’t real,” he said. “I thought it was something government. Like a publicity stunt and all but when he really got hit with it, it was serious.”

The power of prayer made a difference.

“He is great now,” Jefferson said. “He was working out with me over the summer trying to get back in shape. So he is great now.”

Jefferson said he bowed his head every night asking for healing for his father. That’s even though he was raised largely by his mother. His father had still been a valued presence in his life.

“I was real happy,” he said. “Really I was scared because early in his life he had a kidney transplant. So when he got hit with COVID I was like I don’t even know if he is going to make it. I prayed each and every night and God answered my prayers and that he made it out safe.”

Jefferson added that he made the commitment because he wanted his father to know where he was going to go to college to play football. Just in case. That should show his true level of concern.

“I had to make him know,” he said. “He’d been there for me since I was young, too. I had to make him happy.”

He wasn’t even able to tell him until he’d been out of the hospital for approximately one week.

Jonathan Jefferson-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Jonathan Jefferson was the fourth member of the 2021 Georgia recruiting class back in March. He grew up a Georgia fan. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

RELATED: The 5 things to know about Jonathan Jefferson’s commitment to Georgia 

Jonathan Jefferson: What led to his commitment to Georgia

Jefferson is a remarkable size athlete. The 6-foot-3.5, 285-pounder has put on 30 pounds since he was playing basketball last winter. He actually grew up believing he was going to make his mark in basketball.

But he just kept growing and kept changing his projected recruiting evaluation every year.

That didn’t stop him from playing point guard for the Douglas County basketball team. He was actually quite adept at that, too. He was the one charged with bringing the ball up in the jaws of a full-court press.

That level of athleticism will allow Douglas County to still play him at tight end and receiver this fall. Not just his future position as an interior defensive lineman. Jefferson practices with the receiver and tight end groups among his Tigers.

That wide range of skills caused Georgia to pause for a period of time in his evaluation. When he was offered in his freshman year, the thought might be he could be a defensive end or an outside linebacker.

But he kept growing. He’d eventually evolve into being a fine prospect for defensive line coach Tray Scott’s room.

He grew up a Georgia fan. The Bulldogs were even his first offer. But this wasn’t as tidy of a recruitment story as those two facts seem to indicate.

“Freshman year when I got the offer I was like ‘Yeah I am going to Georgia’ but then I didn’t really hear from them for my sophomore year,” Jefferson said. “I didn’t really know about them. I was exploring other options.”

Jefferson did miss a good section of his high school career with an injury.

“But then they came real hard,” he said. “They were saying like they didn’t know what I was going to be when I was putting my size on. That’s why they weren’t really recruiting me that hard. But coach [Tray] Scott let me know everything and it was straight.”

He wasn’t the specimen he is now.

“They didn’t know if I was going to be an outside linebacker,” Jefferson said. “I was real skinny in my freshman year. They didn’t know I was going to put on weight. So when I put on weight, they didn’t know if I was going to be a defensive end or a defensive tackle.”

Jefferson plans to enroll early at Georgia in January of 2021.

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

Jonathan Jefferson-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Jonathan Jefferson will play defensive tackle and tight end and defensive tackle for the Douglas County High School team. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Jonathan Jefferson: What do the Bulldogs see here? 

He’s rated as the nation’s No. 13 strong-side DE prospect on the 247Sports Composite ratings for 2021. That puts him as the nation’s No. 144 overall prospect, but there’s a lot more to know than just that. I wouldn’t look for Jefferson to line up a lot at defensive end for Georgia in the SEC.

Douglas County coach Johnny White is one of the shrewdest evaluators of talent in the state. He coached NFL great and SEC legend Eric Berry when he was at Creekside.

“Somebody that big isn’t supposed to be able to well so well,” White says. “I’ve never had a kid 285 pounds that can do what he does.”

So when he says that Jefferson moves better than any big man he’s ever seen, that’s impressive. It goes back to those point guard skills he still retains.

“Basketball has helped me a lot on the field,” Jonathan Jefferson said. “With my footwork and my movement.”

It has changed the way that White and his staff teach Jefferson.

“I’m a D-line guy,” White said. “I’m so used to down, down, draw the double and take it down. But now I am telling him down, down and just spin. His hips are so good and he’s so athletic he can spin around a down block.”

Scott and Jefferson want to see him at a sculpted 280-285 pounds when he reports to UGA. Scott sees him as a guy who can set the edge or play the “3” or the “5” technique.

“Really all through the line,” Jefferson said. “He compares me to [senior defensive end] Malik Herring. He compares me to him a lot.”

Jonathan Jefferson-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Jefferson said that Georgia line coach Tray Scott compares him to senior preseason ALL-SEC DE pick Malik Herring on the team. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

What’s the goal here? He’s aiming for 20 sacks this year. That’s the short-term motivation. In the long-term, he wants to take care of his family. He hopes to make an immediate impact at UGA while studying accounting.

“Looking to be a star really so I can get in and play so I can make it to the big leagues really,” he said. “That’s my main goal. My mom. Being a single Mom, she’s always pushing me every day to be great. I know if she can do what she needs to do, I can do what I need to do to make that happen.”

Scott was a major reason for his commitment to UGA. He cited a “real strong connection” between the two.

“He connects with you like he’s my partner,” Jefferson said. “I can talk to him about anything. It is not all about football with him like that. I really appreciate that.”

There are no other schools working for the flip here.

“I’m locked in,” he said. “I don’t talk to nobody else right now. I’m Georgia all the way.”

Jonathan Jefferson-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Jonathan Jefferson actually played point guard for Douglas County this past winter. He was a pretty darn good one at that. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

SENTELL’S INTEL

(the recent reads on DawgNation.com)

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