Why ex-Florida commit decided Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns best 'business decision' for him

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

When George Jackson began visiting college football programs, he stood 6-foot-3, weighed about 310 pounds and was in eighth grade.

Now, four years later, the three-star offensive tackle has grown up but slimmed down to 317 pounds from the 350 he once carried. He also carries with him a new perspective after a roller-coaster recruitment that saw him decommit from Florida, receive not one but three offers from Florida State and watch as interest from Auburn came and went with a coaching change. 

It all led him to Friday, when pledged to sign with the Ragin’ Cajuns on National Signing Day on Wednesday.

The process "gave me a jump on life,” Jackson told The Daily Advertiser. “I know college football is all about business, and that’s just how it is.”

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Florida delivered first SEC offer

In April 2017, before entering Stephenson High, Jackson made unofficial recruiting visits to Georgia and Georgia State, two schools not far from his hometown of Stone Mountain, near Atlanta.

His first scholarship offer came in 2018 from Rutgers.

“It was crazy,” Jackson said, “because I (was) a freshman in high school. I started getting attention when I started camping a lot in middle school, and it just bled over to high school.”

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One day in October 2018, he reported offers from Florida and Florida State, which Jackson called his “childhood dream school.”

Jackson was offered by three FSU coaching staffs — Jimbo Fisher’s, Willie Taggart’s and Mike Norvell’s. But a month-and-a-half after Florida offered, and after two visits to Gainesville as a sophomore, he committed to the Gators.

Jackson figured the Gators could deliver on his dreams of chasing national championships and an NFL career.

“That was my first SEC offer,” he said, “and there (weren’t) that many kids that had that.

“I went down to Florida and the stadium was just big. The atmosphere was crazy.”

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Wanting to be wanted

The Gators stayed close to Jackson for almost two years, a period in which he left Stephenson after his sophomore season for IMG Academy in Florida, only to get injured and return to Stephenson for his senior season.

Ragin Cajuns commit George Jackson

The start of his junior year at IMG was delayed by surgery, Jackson said, to repair a torn labrum and fractured shoulder.

“I felt the relationship (with Florida) slowly drifting away, maybe around … August or September of 2020,” he said. “I went from talking to (offensive line coach John Hevesy) almost every day to almost once a week to almost every three weeks.”

In October, starting to understand how recruiting really is all about business decisions, Jackson decommitted.

“I don’t want to go somewhere where, you know, I’m not wanted,” he said.

Florida State was still in the picture. Auburn, too, although its interest waned after Gus Malzahn was fired in December. Georgia Tech and Arkansas State were possibilities. So was UL, but in December, coach Billy Napier emerged as a candidate to fill vacancies at South Carolina and Auburn.

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All about being 'genuine'

Rather than pick his school during the NCAA’s early signing period, and even though he graduated in December, Jackson wanted to wait until February.

Another business decision.

He’d seen all the Florida State turnover in recent years. He saw Auburn hire Bryan Harsin and Shane Beamer replace Will Muschamp at South Carolina. He saw Blake Anderson leave Arkansas State for Utah State. And he wasn’t sure what Napier would do.

“I didn’t want to make the wrong decision,” Jackson said, “just because I saw so many coaching staffs leave.”

He waited for everything to settle, then chose the Cajuns after Tennessee hired Central Florida coach Josh Heupel to replace fired Jeremy Pruitt, making him confident Napier wouldn’t be leaving UL this cycle.

“Everybody has good facilities. Everybody says they’re gonna change the program,” Jackson said. “I mean, every school is gonna say the exact same thing – and that’s just the truth.

“I want to go somewhere where it’s actually genuine, and I feel like the Louisiana-Lafayette coaches are the most genuine coaches I’ve ever met out of all the coaching staffs — and that’s from all across the nation, all across the schools that ever recruited me.”

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