ELBERTON, Ga. — Mecole Hardman, Jr. went behind a banner during his National Signing Day ceremony on Wednesday morning. That was the last thing he did as an uncommitted college prospect. Well, at least publicly. He’d actually let his choice know about two months ago.
The nation’s No. 1 athlete did a quick wardrobe change and someone in the Elbert County High School gym hit the music. Hardman then returned from behind the banner sporting a UGA No. 4 jersey and matching gloves.
The packed house, as expected, went wild after that.
When he did, he got National Signing Day for 2016 off to a rousing start for UGA. The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder becomes the third five-star prospect of this year’s signing class for UGA.
He also joins Isaac Nauta as the second prospect rated No. 1 in the nation at their respective position to choose to play for Kirby Smart’s program. Hardman will immediately become one of the fastest players in the SEC once he arrives at UGA. He’s expected to start out at cornerback and also return kicks and eventually work his way toward playing receiver.
How close was the decision? Closer that UGA fans would have liked to have seen it.
Hardman told DawgNation that if the race for his recruitment would have been a 40-yard dash, then both Alabama and Ohio State would have been only two yards behind UGA. He said his relationship with former UGA defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was unmatched by any other college coach who was recruiting him.
Pruitt is now the defensive coordinator at Alabama.
The wardrobe change wasn’t the only highlight of Hardman’s ceremony. A family friend made six small cakes that were on display on Wednesday. Hardman and his family then stuck a small flag in each one which represented each of his finalists. But there wasn’t a UGA cake on the table.
Hardman made his decision in front of at least a dozen media members and the entire student body of Elbert County High School. When it was over, it was back to normal. His next move after that ceremony will be to return to class.
He also had a literature exam scheduled for Wednesday morning.
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) February 3, 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.