SNELLVILLE, Ga. — Picture what it would be like for Kirby Smart to give you a job.
He needs you to help out Georgia football. He’s leaning in. Close enough to see his strained vocal chords.
Jacob Oldknow does not have to imagine what that feels like.
When Smart gave Oldknow that message, he didn’t see a walker or cerebral palsy. He saw Oldknow the same way 4-star senior prospect Leonard Warner III regards him: As an important person in his life.
“Coach Smart told me I have a very important job,” Oldknow said. “He said it is my job to get Leonard to come to Georgia. But he said I might as well not come back if I don’t deliver him to Georgia.”
Oldknow thinks he was kidding. Maybe.
That “don’t come back” part might be hard. Oldknow and his family sit in Section 212 at every home game. Oldknow is also within Warner’s “inner circle” and that’s how he met Smart.
“Ever since he’s been interested in Georgia I’ve tried to get him to commit,” Oldknow said.
The Brookwood High senior can recite the Bulldogs who wore No. 35 for Georgia before possibly might. Linebacker Rennie Curran from days gone by. Cornerback Aaron Davis has it now.
“Everyone around school knows me as the Georgia guy,” Oldknow said.
Labels usually come with high school, but Oldknow has changed those which might relate to him. He’s grown from “walker guy” to “manager guy” to “Broncos social media guy.” He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was four months old but lives beyond that.
Oldknow serves as a manager for the Brookwood baseball, basketball and football teams. He even manages the Twitter accounts for the baseball, basketball and football varsity programs.
But he can also deliver a breakdown of Georgia quarterback race. That recent trip with Warner allowed him the chance to see the team’s second scrimmage.
“I don’t think Jacob Eason is there yet,” Oldknow said. “We need to stick with Greyson Lambert as much as I may feel unsure of that. I’ll be okay with Greyson Lambert starting in Game 1.”
That knowledge – and his chat with Smart – could be seen as Warner’s gift to Oldknow. Yet it wound up mattering a great deal to the 4-star linebacker, too.
“This wasn’t about as much about me,” Warner said. “This was about Jacob and his brother and helping him experience things recruits live every day with coaches texting us. It helped me show someone who really loved the team to see the main parts of what Georgia is all about: Like the head coach and the team at practice.”
Oldknow said his visit might have been the best day of his life. Besides a big recent Brookwood win. Warner said he’s made “at least 20” trips to Athens but thinks that day with Oldknow might have been his best one yet.
Warner said his friend basically smiled the entire trip. He also paid attention to how his potential future coaches at Georgia treated him like “an actual person” and they went beyond that.
He said it allowed him to see a different side of their personalities, too.
“When my Dad and I started up with all the recruiting stuff we always hoped to find a way to keep other people involved in it,” Warner said. “It is a great opportunity that sometimes I take for granted, so I want to think about other people that could benefit from all the recruiting attention I get. And then with Jacob being the huge fan he is of Georgia, he was one of the first people who came to my mind.”
When the trip was over, his father asked him something.
“Did that feel weird being out of the limelight and not being the center of attention on a recruiting visit?” Leonard Warner Jr. said.
“No, I loved it,” Warner III replied. “I liked taking that step back and watching all this recruiting stuff from another person’s eyes for once.”
Early wake-up call
Oldknow and Warner go way back. Back to when Warner was a standout basketball player on the middle school team. When the time came for the trip, the Warners planned it out with Oldknow’s family.
Nobody wanted to make him nervous, so nothing was said until a 6 a.m. wake-up call the day of the trip. That’s when the 17-year-old went bonkers.
“I was like ‘Let’s go right now’ because I knew it was a big scrimmage and it was going to be a fun day,” Oldknow said.
The first activity at Georgia was a team meeting.
“Pretty cool,” Oldknow said. “Not every guy gets to go to a Georgia team meeting. Then we went straight to the practice field through the player’s lounge. We got a couple of snacks on our way through.”
He snagged a granola bar and came out double-fisted with Powerade. Oldknow only watched the quarterbacks drills. Like every fan would. He also spoke to a couple of Brookwood alums. Georgia inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann basically never left his side.
“There was a heck of a lot of food,” Oldknow said. “Georgia makes sure there is a lot of Loco’s food to eat for recruits.”
Oldknow got to wear a Georgia jersey. He chose No. 15 to honor Brookwood High.
“My first season with Brookwood football was 2015,” he said. “That’s the way I paid respect to that first season and them allowing me to be a part of all this.”
Oldknow remembers his first UGA game in 2004, when he was 4 years old. It was a 45-16 win against LSU.
“The handicapped seats were down in the end zone at that time,” he said. “I remember Reggie Brown stretching out for a big touchdown catch. I was just a little kid, but I haven’t forgotten when I reached down to slap him on his helmet when he made that catch.”
Brookwood coach Philip Jones, a former Bronco himself, guides the players in his program with a “FAMILY” acronym.
Forget. About. Me. I. Love. You. The bond between Oldknow and Warner exemplifies that.
“Happiness in life is not measured by awards or individual acclaim,” Jones said. “We try to teach the guys as they grow up to be men that real success is measured by the mark you leave on other people.”
Jones calls to attention a photo of a Pick-6 the Brookwood defense made in the opener against North Gwinnett. He traces a finger to Oldknow on the sideline.
“Look at Jacob here,” Jones said. “Check that out. His feet are off the ground. He’s fired up buddy during that play.”
Oldknow has been the Twitter handle for Brookwood baseball for four years, and basketball for three years. This is his second season doing the same for Broncos football.
“Jacob was one of my first recruits to the program when I got here,” Jones said. “We get him to come out for the team’s social media coordination.”
His digital specialty is difficult in reality. Or it was diagnosed to be.
“It is cerebral palsy,” Oldknow said. “It is very mild cerebral palsy. It basically means your brain has a spot on it that doesn’t send messages down to your legs to walk very well. So you have to go to therapy to retrain your body a little bit.”
When he said that, it brought to mind that picture of his feet leaving the ground after that key interception.
“The Brookwood football spot on his brain is bigger than any issue he has with cerebral palsy,” Jones said.
That picture reflects more than just another big play.
“I was hyped up,” Oldknow said. “North Gwinnett had come back on us and we were about to lose and then we got the pick. Then I relaxed a bit. We hadn’t won a (Georgia) Dome game in six years so that was huge for us.”
His sense of “us” is special, but what he says next shows the Georgia spot on his brain is pretty big, too.
If Warner chooses Georgia
Oldknow worries about his own grades, but also let Warner know he’s nervous about his friend choosing to play for Georgia Tech. He’s the talker among the pair. Warner tries to get his words in, but that is no small chore.
“He likes Tech but I always say he’d have no help around him,” Oldknow said. “He wouldn’t like it there. If he wants to win a national championship, then he will go to Georgia.”
He made other less-subtle digs at the Jackets, but that will suffice. His head coach went to South Carolina. They’ve made a bet that if the Gamecocks beat Georgia this year, he has to wear a Carolina shirt to school.
When Jones brings that up, he is quick to reply.
“Coach you know South Carolina has no talent now,” Oldknow said. “You know that.”
So what happens if he does what Smart asked him to?
“If Leonard wises up and chooses Georgia then I’ll be in Section 212 like I always am, but I’ll be wearing a No. 35 jersey,” he said. “For sure. Aaron Davis will hopefully have graduated by then when he’s playing a lot.”
Oldknow also offers up the following scouting report on his friend.
“He is in my mind the next Lorenzo Carter,” Oldknow said. “If Lorenzo leaves for the NFL or takes another year because he’s a junior Leonard can learn behind him. Leonard doesn’t like being behind people, but he can learn from him for a year. It would be Lorenzo’s job first, but I know he can learn from him how to be great. Because Lorenzo is going to be great this year for Georgia.”
This stuff is all high school cool to him. His friend is being recruited to play for the same helmet Reggie Brown wore that he slapped about that big touchdown catch.
And he pulls no punches with the job Smart gave him.
“He will have help with him at Georgia,” Oldknow said. “That’s how I will recruit him. He also doesn’t want to play in a weak conference like the Big 10. The SEC is the toughest conference in the nation. Why doesn’t he want to play against the best every week? I don’t have anything bad to say about Stanford. They liked every one of our Brookwood tweets at the Dome this year, but they are not Georgia. Who else is? But if he goes to Tech anyway I’ll still love him and support him. But I’m working really hard to get him to Georgia.”
The ultimate dream is for him to be a UGA student manager, alongside the new No. 35 at linebacker.
“That would be the icing on the cake with all of this,” he said. “How great would that be?”
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.