From Staples Stadium in Franklin to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, Emory Jones has decided to spend his collegiate years in 'The Swamp.'
The five-star dual-threat quarterback from Heard County High School sent shockwaves through the college football world on Wednesday by signing his national letter of intent to play at the University of Florida, officially flipping from Ohio State where he had been verbally committed for over a year.
His signing came on Day 1 of the newly-instituted December signing period, where prospective college football prospects have a 72-hour window to sign early with their college of choice.
Jones' decision to become a Gator culminates a whirlwind two-week period where elite programs such as Alabama, Florida State and Florida all made late pushes for the Heard County quarterback.
After receiving a personal visit from Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban earlier in the month, the in-demand prospect and his mother, Trina Jones, spent this past weekend in the Sunshine State, where they visited UF on Saturday before trekking up to Tallahassee on Sunday to meet first-year FSU head coach Willie Taggart on their campus.
Jones described the hectic recruiting process during his announcement from Sun Trust Park in Atlanta.
"I went around and just tried to find the best fit for me and the best offense for me," Jones said. "The last couple of days I went to Florida and Florida State. I was so tired, but I had to take in all of the information and figure out what was best for me."
And, finally, less than 24 hours before the big day, the elite gun-slinger made up his mind that he would sign with the Gators and new head coach Dan Mullen.
"I made my decision (Tuesday) night. After talking to my my mom and my quarterbacks coach, I knew this would be the right decision," Jones said. "First and foremost, I want to thank God for all of this. 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."
A critical factor playing into the quarterback's choice was the familiarity with Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson. Spending the past nine seasons at Mississippi State, Mullen was the first head coach of a major program to offer Jones a scholarship.
Now everything has come full circle as they will be at last united in Gainesville.
"I've always known coach Mullen and coach Johnson, so I feel like God put this opportunity in front of me to take," Jones said.
Spending his career developing quarterbacks like Alex Smith, Chris Leak, Tim Tebow and Dak Prescott, the Gator head coach believes Jones has the skills to be in the same breath as those greats.
"The most important thing is that he's a winner," Mullen said. "He has some of that 'It' quality that you want in your quarterback. I even told him that the most important thing that I saw from him was how ferociously he played defense. You can see that he can spin it and that he can run, but it's those other qualities that are the most important when you're going to be the leader of a program."
Jones certainly showed those very "It" qualities this season upon guiding the Braves to their first-ever appearance in the Class AA state semifinals. He delivered a superb senior campaign, where he threw for 2,270 yards and 16 touchdowns and ran for 891 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. All of this capping a legendary prep career as a four-year starter where he shattered every passing record in Heard County program history.
On hand for all of it was veteran HC head coach Tim Barron, who lauded the signal-caller for his work ethic and poise as a leader.
"Everyone who can sign on to play quarterback in the SEC or ACC is special. What's been special about Emory is watching him grow, progress and take the time to put in the work away from us," Barron said. "Seeing him grow mentally over the past four years has been special. We always knew that he was a special athlete who can throw a pretty ball. But those intangibles are what separate a good quarterback from a great quarterback, and to see that part of his game develop and mature has been fantastic."
Graduating from Heard County this semester, Jones will enroll at UF in January just in time for the start of spring classes. Participating in spring practice, he will compete with the likes of fellow quarterbacks Luke Del Rio and Feleipe Franks for the starting job in 2018.