Before the season, Woodland senior linebacker Emmanuel Jones didn’t have any college offers. But as Jones embarked on a devastating campaign that saw him rack up stats and highlights in equal measure, scholarship offers started to roll in commensurate to the destruction he was leaving on the field.
“[Recruitment] started to pick up about the middle or end of the football season,” Jones said. “It sort of came out of left field. ... I didn’t think it was going to take off like it did.”
Jones ended his recruiting process Wednesday on National Signing Day, committing to Colorado State in a ceremony at Woodland’s media center by pulling out a green and gold CSU Rams hat and fitting it on his head.
Jones chose Colorado State over a posse of local schools, as Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Mercer and Kennesaw State were all in the running.
“I have trouble telling people no, but my heart felt like this was the best decision,” Jones said. “It just felt like a second home.”
Jones was a bright light on an 0-10 Woodland team this year. Head coach Tony Plott moved him from defensive end to linebacker early in the season to free him up to make more plays, and it’s safe to say Jones responded.
He racked up 157 tackles, 16 for loss, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, and scored two defensive touchdowns.
At the end of the season, he was named the Daily Tribune News Defensive Player of the Year, all-state by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and co-Defensive Player of the Year in Region 7-AAAAA, one of the toughest regions in the state, splitting that award with Georgia commit and state champ Adam Anderson of Rome.
“Once he moved to linebacker, he really started to flourish and blossom in that position,” Plott said. “You could see the athleticism, and he did a great job.”
Prior to the season, Jones had played just four games of varsity football ever, thanks to not going out for the team until his junior year and missing the majority of that season with an illness.
So when word got out about the unknown linebacker at Woodland tearing up opponents, college coaches started to take notice.
“We didn’t have the greatest season, obviously, but it just shows that you don’t have to go to another school to get recognized,” Plott said.
Jones said that he didn’t make a final choice until last Sunday, as the process really came down to the wire.
He’ll fit in at any of the linebacker spots at Colorado State, which runs a 3-4 and a 4-2-5 defense. The Rams went 7-6 last year, 5-3 in the Mountain West Conference.
The dual-sport athlete will also potentially have the opportunity to walk on to the baseball team at CSU, provided it doesn’t interfere with his gridiron pursuits.
It’s been a wild ride for Jones, who two years ago wasn’t even playing varsity football. Now, he’s headed to Division I.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Jones said.