SMACKOVER, Ark. — Without a doubt, Nick Saban’s January 2015 visit rocked this southern Arkansas town and its population of less than 2,000.
One of college football’s greatest all-time coaches — and the face of Southeastern Conference gridiron success — roamed the halls of Smackover High School, hoping to convince then-junior wide receiver and Arkansas commit Jordan Jones to give Alabama a look.
“The day that Nick Saban came to Smackover High School … it was a big deal,” said Smackover coach Brian Strickland. “I know that was tough on Jordan. Very tough.”
Jones had committed to Arkansas months earlier after receiving an offer at the Razorbacks’ camp, and felt solid in his commitment. But the allure of the mighty Crimson Tide created some inner conflict.
Saban wanted Jones to visit Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the Crimson Tide’s Junior Day, and Jones was intrigued by the idea that college football’s preeminent powerhouse — which had offered him a scholarship a couple months earlier — was interested in him.
“He was a real smooth person,” Jones said in a Tuesday interview with SEC Country. “He came in, real calm and collected, and said, ‘We know you’re committed, but we want to know what we have too.’”
Jones spoke with Arkansas coaches about Saban’s visit, and Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema told him bluntly that he should decommit if he wanted to participate in Alabama’s Junior Day.
“That was pretty tough,” Jones said. “I kinda didn’t understand it at first, but I got over it.
“Arkansas just felt more like home. I built a relationship with the coaches. I prayed about it a lot, and it felt like where I should be.”
Jones (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) only took one official visit his senior year, and that was to Arkansas. He will report to Fayetteville this weekend with other 2016 signees and begin summer workouts.
Arkansas beat writer Jason Kersey is visiting several 2016 Razorback signees before they report to campus later this month. Here is a look at past stories in the Up Next series:
- What has kept Arkansas signee Briston Guidry from being complacent? ‘I just love the game too much’
- After stellar senior season, Arkansas linebacker signee De’jon Harris could have a role on offense
- Why quarterback Cole Kelley chose Arkansas’ offense instead of a more familiar system at Oklahoma State
- Arkansas running back signee Devwah Whaley excited for journey with new ‘brothers’
- A proud momma’s boy, Arkansas’ Briston Guidry skipped prom, stayed home, watched movie with mom