How Ragin’ Cajuns football signee Nijel McGriff went from lone FBS offer to wanted recruit

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Nijel McGriff had exactly one FBS offer coming out of high school.

It came from Buffalo.

Instead of joining the Bulls, however, he headed to Northwest Mississippi Community College. Then, last year, multiple offers started pouring in for the defensive lineman from Mandarin High in Jacksonville, Florida.

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From West Virginia. From Maryland. From Memphis. From Arkansas State. From UL Monroe, Western Kentucky, UTSA, Florida Atlantic and from Deion Sanders at Jackson State, too.

There also was one from the Ragin’ Cajuns. The 6-foot-2, 285-pound McGriff accepted it last week and signed with UL.

How did McGriff with just one notable offer in high school wind up with so many in junior college? Part of it, McGriff suggested, was because he was a bit under the radar.

“I wasn’t really good my 11th grade year – (not) until 12th grade,” McGriff told The Daily Advertiser.

West Virginia wasn't for McGriff 

McGriff had 112 total tackles including 17 for loss his senior year at Mandarin who won the Florida Class 8A state championship.

So it wasn’t just because he was overlooked. Rather, academic eligibility played a part too.

“My ninth grade year I went to a school that wasn’t NCAA accredited,” McGriff said.

Although he graduated on schedule, McGriff didn’t have enough high school core course credits to be NCAA eligible.

New Ragin' Cajuns signee Nijel McGriff was a JCGridiron Fall All-American defensive lineman at Northwest Mississippi Community College.

So he went to Northwest Mississippi, which won a Mississippi state championship last season and – because other jucos nationally aren’t playing until the spring as a result of COVID-19 – claimed it as a national title.

JCGridiron named McGriff a first team Fall All-American.

Plenty of FBS programs wanted him then, and for a while he was committed to West Virginia. He later decommitted, however, simply saying, “I didn’t want to go up there.”

The Mountaineers, however, remained in the running until the end.

He felt wanted by the Cajuns

It took a while, though, for McGriff – who still must graduate from Northwest Mississippi before moving to UL – to make his choice. He didn’t put pen to paper during the NCAA’s early signing period in December and didn’t make a move on National Signing Day in early February either

Instead, McGriff waited while hoping more big programs could take a look and offer a deal.

Most couldn’t travel to scout him because of COVID-19 restrictions, but he figured that by the time spring rolled around some should be able to see him practice in person.

That didn’t happen either.

So when the NCAA didn’t lift its recruiting dead period that plan was nixed and McGriff realized he had to soon make up his mind.

McGriff said he ultimately chose the Cajuns over West Virginia and Arkansas State, even though he never personally visited UL’s campus. Instead, McGriff took a virtual tour. That and the fact he felt wanted by the Cajuns convinced him UL was the right choice.

“They’ve been recruiting me for a long time … and I feel like I can go and play,” McGriff said.

The process was dizzying for McGriff, who readily admits he easily becomes impatient. If there is any consolation to the drawn-out journey from Florida to Louisiana with a detour through Mississippi, though, it is this:

“It worked out at the end,” McGriff said.