The nation’s No. 1 athlete visits a college. The No. 2 athlete in the country catches his eye. They soon stage an impromptu dunk contest. One is dressed to thrill. The other looks ready for a job interview. Camera phones pop out.
The clash is very entertaining. When the dust settles, the two are fast friends. Sound far-fetched? That’s reality.
Richard LeCounte III played the part of the nation’s No. 2 athlete. When the UGA commit got the chance to tell JaCoby Stevens about what it would be like to be a Bulldog, it made a dent.
“I feel a real special time at Georgia is coming up soon,” Stevens said.
LeCounte had a hand in that.
“We were kind of texting after our visit and said ‘Man can you envision the top two athletes in the country going to the same school and playing on the same side of the ball?’ and I was like ‘Man that would be crazy’ and he said how the media would just eat that up. We talked about how good we could make the team if we were both on it. Other recruits would want to play on the same team with the top two athletes in the nation. It would catch everyone’s eyes.”
Stevens drew a parallel to the Seattle Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” with Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas with that story. LeCounte — who arguably got him in the dunk contest — made it clear that UGA needs him.
“I always say Richard LeCounte is probably the best recruiter for Georgia,” Stevens said.
It is a safe assumption that coach Kirby Smart has imagined lining up LeCounte at free safety and Stevens at strong safety for at least three years in the UGA secondary. But the No. 15 player in the nation liked more about UGA than just hanging out with LeCounte.
The Tennessee native said “Georgia really helped itself a lot” over the weekend.
“The way Coach Smart and Coach (Mel) Tucker are really taking charge and showing off the great things at Georgia was a real eye-opener,” Stevens said. “Georgia helped itself tremendously with my visit.”
Stevens grew up a LSU fan, but noted his college choice would be a business approach. He’s not setting any top schools or leader, but felt UGA is “definitely in the running” for one of his official visits. That’s the first layer of why UGA fans should get to know Stevens. He’s a principled and faith-based youth who has already meshed well with LeCounte’s family.
“I read a story why he wears No. 4 to show respect to his grandmother,” Stevens said. “I have a lot of respect for him and he’s one of the top athletes in the country. … His story is really amazing. I don’t think many athletes in the country have a story like that.”
The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder is a different recruit. Despite the hype, he won’t wear a jersey on recruiting trips until that number belongs to him. He looks as his talent as a blessing that allows him to share his faith on an enhanced platform.
What sort of pitch did he hear from UGA?
“UGA offered me as an athlete, but I will likely play safety,” Stevens said. “At least that is what Coach (Kirby) Smart and Coach (Mel) Tucker told me. Coach (Jim) Chaney also wants me on offense so he’s trying to talk Coach Smart into putting in a package for me.”
Stevens can spin the same line others do when he brings up the “family” vibe he felt at UGA, but then articulates exactly why.
“The first thing I realized was how the coaches got along and mingled through the day,” Stevens said. “The offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator were hanging out and cracking jokes like they knew each other for 15 years. That may have been the case, but they really got along and that’s always a good sign. You can also really see the staff really believes in what the head coach is trying to start.”
He also got a sense of how the UGA supporters are getting behind the program with all the facility upgrades on the way, and called it “another really good sign”.
The Oakland High School (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) standout noted other dorm rooms on his campus trips seem the same, but summed up a variety of options and input to selecting roommates at UGA. He also brought up the school’s proximity to Atlanta. He feels it will help his plans to major in business or sports marketing.
Stevens said if he went to UGA that it would be the best of both worlds for academic and athletic options.
“Downtown Athens also really opened my eyes about Georgia, too,” Stephens said. “It looks like you will always have something to do.”
He already plans to return. He’ll have the right gear on for a dunk contest rematch. Bet on that.
Had A Great Time In Athens Today!!! ???? pic.twitter.com/tXFRAeulJ4
— JaCoby Stevens (@jacobystevens7) February 14, 2016
Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.
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.