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Jeff Sentell / SEC Country
5-star Kentucky DE Stephen Herron Jr. is the type of young prospect that can anchor a recruiting class.

Nation’s No. 2 DE Stephen Herron Jr. has off-the-charts character and likes UGA ‘a lot’

Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this 4-star or 5-star like Stephen Herron Jr. might lean plus add some perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.

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Stephen Herron Jr. was wearing a UGA windbreaker the first time I laid eyes on him.

He was smiling. A lot. It seemed like that came naturally as he interacted with other adults and players.

The nation’s No. 2 defensive end prospect for 2019 had just come off a visit to see the Bulldogs in Athens. But he was playing the part of a recruiting reporter.

Really.

Herron Jr. had his camera out. He was recording every rep for his teammate Cameron Garrett at receiver at the Atlanta MVP camp.

“My teammate is out here working at receiver,” Herron said. “We’re trying to get some film together for his tape. We’re going to get him some offers.”

Stephen Herron Jr.
Stephen Herron is rated as the nation’s No. 2 DE for the Class of 2019. (Jeff Sentell / SEC Country)

We’d chat back and forth. Then he’d briefly excuse himself.

Garrett would take off on a rep and the nation’s No. 15 overall prospect would hot-foot off to capture on video.

This does not happen all that often in the recruiting world. The more I learned about Herron, the more his videography seemed exactly like something he would feel led to do.

The more I learned about Herron, the more his videography seemed exactly like something he would do.rates as the nation’s No. 2 defensive end prospect in 2019. His Shamrocks went 15-0 last fall and won a state championship in Kentucky.

The 5-star recruit rates as the nation’s No. 2 defensive end prospect in 2019. His Shamrocks went 15-0 last fall and won a state championship in Kentucky.

He already has the big offers: Alabama. Michigan. Notre Dame. Ohio State. The Power 5 big dog that lands him will need their own shamrock to get his signature on their letter-of-intent.

A rival coach told me that he regarded Herron as a “freakish” athlete. That’s a good thing. The Trinity Christian standout also has a clear opinion about Georgia.

“I like UGA a lot,” Herron Jr. said this week. “It is a great school surrounded by a great staff with great academics.”

Herron is at the 6-foot-4 mark. He’ll tip scales at 235 pounds with some very impressive film. Check it out below. It looks like he’s got heat-seekers in his hips to find the ball.

But his Twitter bio reads “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”

That will probably come to mind first. Not football. This defensive end also sets the edge for what elite recruits can do with their instant fame on and off the field.

The Stephen Herron Jr. profile 

Herron already takes all AP classes. He has a 3.9 grade-point average but laments the fact he does not have a perfect 4.0. There was this theology class. Long story.

He loves football and realizes it is a blessing to be very successful at something he enjoys. The first-team all-state selection aspires to make “the league” like everyone else with five stars by their recruiting profile.

Yet he is also centered on daily progress.

Stephen Herron Jr.
Stephen Herron Jr. plans to make his college decision in the summer prior to his senior season. (Student Sports / Special)

“There are a lot of guys like me,” Herron says. “Those ratings says that there are at least 14 guys better than me. There’s a better defensive out there than me. Supposedly? Notice I said supposedly. So what separates us? What separates me from all these other so-called top prospects like me? A couple inches? A few pounds? Maybe a better 40 time? I think about doing more every day to stand out.”

Herron already distinguishes himself in the classroom. He also aims to better his community.

He nails the center of that target, too.

“I have a little bit of fame and notoriety with all this football stuff,” he said. “So I thought to myself to try to find a way to use it. How can I help people around me with that? I am blessed with these opportunities. How can I share the blessings I have with others?”

He said that. Then excused himself to film another rep. That allowed his interviewer the time to scrape their jaw off the 43-yard line.

That’s a mighty impressive line. But Herron lives it. He runs a non-profit for underprivileged youth in Lousiville. It conducted its first successful toy drive last Christmas.

“When I was younger I began to realize my family was very blessed,” Herron said. “But coming up as an athlete you see other families and other people can’t afford stuff like new cleats and all that. When my parents bought me new cleats I thought to myself that I hated that this world was not like that for everyone. That it wasn’t fair enough where everybody had access to the things that I did. I’m not just talking about cleats. I’m talking about water bills and power bills and the same groceries.”

The work done by SJ’s Kids reflects that. Those efforts have their own Facebook page. Herron’s outreach was profiled by his local media.

“When I got to an age where I could do something about it with my own hands, I wanted to,” Herron said. “I go to a Catholic school where a lot of those kids are privileged. I came from a public school my freshman year. Half those kids aren’t that privileged. I just looked at my life. I’m an only child. We have stuff. I have all these offers. I get whatever I want. But I wanted to be able to give as much as I wanted to that same way.”

The SJ’s Kids Facebook page offers this description: Not-for-profit organization founded in an effort to help the abused, abandoned, neglected and at-risk youth in Kentuckiana through mentoring and sports.

Herron’s freshman non-profit season

The 5-star sought out a couple local businesses at first. That helped his philanthropy take off in its first year. Shelters received a lot of the aid.

Goods were a common donation. But there was some money. That was shared in the form of gift cards. His effort attracted a range of donations: Gently-used Nike “Air Jordans” to brand new Jordans that had just been released. Herron gave away his own stuff.

The Trinity Christian standout used the connections he had from his social networks. His 1,700 Twitter followers helped him collect shipments from Georgia and Maryland.

He estimated the charity served around 150-to-200 kids. Herron said he’d wanted to do something like that since he was 9 years old.

“I had multiple kids come to me and cry,” Herron said. “I didn’t need anything like that because I only needed to make one child happy. Then it was all worth it.”

Herron had found an old pair of his own shoes in his garage. Those went to a 9-year-old kid. That might have meant the best Christmas of that young man’s life.

“I gave him a pair of Jordan IVs and I had only worn them like a few times,” Herron said. “My foot grew out of them. They were like new and he was ecstatic I gave them to him. We had a bunch of clothes for him that people had donated. … But the main thing to me is how the young man said thank you. He said ‘thank you’ and really meant it. He knew the words and the right way to express how thankful he was. It touched me.”

He served as the middleman for a lot of that giving.

Stephen Herron Jr.
Stephen Herron Jr. rates as the nation’s No. 15 overall prospect in the Class of 2019. He has an impressive off-the-field story. (Jeff Sentell / DawgNation.com)

“The way we explained it was don’t give away something you would use to go out and cut the grass in,” he said. “Give something you would want to be seen in at a good event. Nothing with holes. But something that wasn’t no more than worn twice and was still in great condition.”

Those good might have eventually wound up on Ebay. Herron found a better place than that.

“I want to serve a lot more kids next year,” Herron said. “We served the Open Door Youth Foundation last year. We also served area youth services.”

There was no staff. Just a 5-star recruit and his mother.

“This summer I’m planning a football camp for kids,” Herron said. “Just a little something like a football camp. We will make it free. It has to be free.”

If Herron is blessed to make the NFL one day, his aim will be much higher. SJ’s Kids will get a PlayStation4 and an Xbox One in their stocking.

“I didn’t do any of this to get known,” Herron said. “I don’t know how many college coaches know about this. But I just saw a need and a way to help and tried to go about putting something together to share things that folks don’t think they need anymore with people that still could really use it.”

He pairs that with a keen sense of perspective. There was an opportunity to partner with another business. SJ’s Kids would have gotten 15 percent of all receipts over a specific period.

Herron declined when he learned the business also worked with Planned Parenthood. He realized the potential conflict with his upstart.

“I didn’t think it was right for SJ’s Kids to be associated with something like that,” Herron said. “That seemed too controversial. I appreciated the offer, but some people do agree with that and some people do not agree with that. We didn’t need to be connected to something like that which carries so many polarizing opinions.”

Herron’s thoughts on Georgia

What are the chances he strongly considers UGA?

“When I visited Georgia it was really important,” Herron said. “It meant a lot. I’ve always heard of that southern hospitality but never really experienced it like I did at Georgia. Coach (Tray) Scott said he’d been at Georgia for about a month and he’d just made a job change and he couldn’t turn it down. He had to take the job at Georgia.”

Scott had already been recruiting him.

“Coach Scott sees me as one of his top dudes and he’s seen high-level football now in the ACC and the SEC,” Herron said. “He’s seen the best talent in the nation. I like coach Scott a lot. I really like coach Kirby Smart a lot.”

Smart said he’d fit into Georgia’s defense in the same capacity which former SEC stalwart Bud Dupree shined at Kentucky.

“I’d be the guy that adapts to both defenses when they go from a 3-4 to a 4-3,” Herron said. “I have the versatility to play out in both schemes. I’m a defensive end, but when I have to play outside I can get out there. Coach Smart loves that about me. I will be playing outside linebacker a lot more as a junior this season. He’ll be able to see that out of me.”

His skills allow him to set the edge at defensive end on the strong side, but he can also play that “Jack” defender on the weak side. He was able to guard an Ole Miss commit from the Class of 2018 in space last season.

The nation’s No. 2 sophomore DE was called on to shadow an SEC-bound slot receiver and held his own.

“I enjoyed all the free time I got to spend with coach Smart and coach Scott,” Herron said. “I heard about and saw all the plans for the future. Georgia is a great place, but it is a going to be a lot better-than-it-is place in just a few years.”

Herron already liked Georgia, but he said the visit increased the program’s chances considerably.

Stephen Herron Jr. has his eyes on his own future 

Herron thinks of everything he does as his resume. Even with all this attention. He uses this time to distinguish himself from his peers in the class. He’s aware he must initiate all this contact with schools now. His phone calls and unofficial visits currently power his recruiting process.

It’s on him. Until September. That’s when college coaches can reach out to Class of 2019 prospects on their own.

When he reaches out, he hopes they return the favor this fall. When they see his film, it is a no-brainer. It doesn’t alter his mindset.

He wants to make his commitment before his senior season next fall.

“I want to really build a strong relationship with my next coach,” Herron said. “He’s going to tell me honestly where I need to get better. How much weight to gain or how much to lose? How much stronger with my lifts? I plan to probably commit the summer before my senior season.”

Tennessee was one of the schools which stood out. Every time the Vols reached out, that made him think about life on Rocky Top. The recent shakeup on the coaching staff has affected that relationship.

He also feels that way about Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan.

“When I talk to or see a coach and they say my name ‘Stephen’ with that true emotion in their voice it gets me excited,” he said. “When they tell me they look forward to getting a call from me, that makes my day. It lets me know everything I’m doing right now to better myself and my future is working.”

He aspires to major in business administration and pre-Law. Herron also spent his spring break doing exactly what the founder of SJ’s Kids would do.