Handling the pressure of being one of nation's most highly sought-after quarterback prospects can be an overwhelming experience.

Coaches relentlessly trying to sway you to come to their school. National media blowing up your phone and social media accounts for stories every day. Being barraged with people to talk to during your official college visits.

And, let's not forget, there's the trivial part of leading a team of your peers during the actual high school football season.

Heard County High School's Emory Jones handled all of this in stride to not only deliver an explosive individual effort to close his prep career, but also lead the Braves to the best season in school history.

"I knew with it being my senior year, I had to give my all," Jones said. "We really worked hard as a team from the summer all the way through the end. I want to thank my offensive linemen and my skill players for making everything happen."

The 2017 Times-Georgian All-Area Offensive Player of the Year lived up to his billing as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country, passing for 2,270 yards, rushing for an additional 891 and accounting for 29 touchdowns to shatter every quarterback record at Heard County.

Even more important to the four-year starter and five-star prospect was the historic season he and his teammates gave to the Heard County community. Winning a program-record 12 games, the Braves made their first-ever trip to the Class AA state semifinals and came within a touchdown from booking reservations to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the championship game.

Despite coming up just short of their ultimate goal, the future Florida Gator is proud of what his team accomplished.

"It feels good and we worked really hard for it In practice, throughout the year in the weight room and handled all of our stuff in the classroom," Jones said. "If you handle everything off the field, you're going to be good on it."

While the most of the attention was drawn to him, Jones certainly wasn't a one-man show for HC this season, as teammates like Jaden Moreland, Alijah Huzzie, Aaron Beasley and Andrew Leak each displayed their talents as future Division I prospects. Their quarterback described more people getting involved and everything coming together in 2017.

"I feel like last year was more of a rebuilding year and this year coming in, we all clicked immediately and we were on the same page with everything," Jones said. "We worked hard and made a lot of things happen and it showed. We had a great offensive coordinator (Randall Curbow) and head coach (Tim Barron) who made everything look easy for us. It's a blessing having those people helping me out."

Barron has watched his quarterback develop and grow since he took his first snaps as a freshman starter in 2014. He cites the signal-caller's processing of the game as the biggest jump that he made during his senior year.

"You could really see this year that he was very good at pre-snap and really good at reading coverages. He knew what side he was reading and could process it well as the play was developing," Barron said. "He understood when to take chances and when not to. When we had to focus on moving the chains and when it was OK to punt, those are the things he improved on in the past season."

Another aspect that the head coach saw major improvements in from Jones was his command of teammates both on the field and in the locker room.

"He was never really a vocal kid through his junior year, but his leadership took a big turn for the better this year because he was confident in being vocal," Barron said.

"You can't lead teammates if you're not willing to do things like work hard in the weight room, get right in the classroom, go hard at practice. If you don't do any of that, your words go numb. The fact that he did all of those things and had those intangibles, kids wanted to follow him. He could've easily been an arrogant young man, but he was really humble and kids want to play for that guy. He truly made those guys around him better and those guys around him made him better."

Once the 2017 season ended for Jones, the recruiting season was cranked up an extra notch with several elite college football programs trying to pry him from Ohio State, where he had been verbally committed for over a year.

A personal visit from Alabama head coach Nick Saban, visits to Florida and Florida State and a non-stop flurry of phone calls, text messages and DM's on Twitter all created a three-week whirlwind for the Heard QB.

He described how exhausting the entire experience can be for a high-schooler.

"It was hard because you get tired traveling place to place and you just get mentally worn out," Jones said. "It was hectic, but I prayed on it and had to take it all in."

Barron thought his senior leader did a fantastic job of taking on the burden and handling it as well as anyone could in his shoes.

"I thought he was able to compartmentalize that so when stepped on the field, he was able to block out the outside noise," Barron said. "I didn't realize how difficult it is to be a nationally-recruited player like him and the pressure that was put on him. It was tough on him and when you sit down and talk to him on the back end of it, you realize how stressful it really was. Even for me, it got to the point where I just stopped answering the phone because people were always looking for a story or information. I wish that it wasn't that stressful for him, but I'm thankful that he was talented enough to where everybody wanted him."

The process finally came to an end for Jones during Day 1 of the newly-instituted early signing period last Wednesday when he signed his national letter of intent to play for first-year head coach Dan Mullen at the University of Florida. It was a relief for the now former Brave and soon-to-be Gator to finally put pen to paper and he's looking forward to arriving to Gainesville in January.

"First and foremost, I want to thank God for all of this," Jones said during his signing ceremony at SunTrust Park in Atlanta. "I also want to thank the community of Heard County for always coming out, supporting me and sticking with me and all of my family."

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