ATHENS, Ga. — Asked when he knew Auburn was his choice, Richard Jibunor gave a conflicting response.
“I’ve always known,” he started.
“But really, after the Georgia game,” he closed.
Either way, Auburn landed its 16th commitment when Jibunor chose the Tigers over Florida and Tennessee. The 4-star linebacker/defensive end propels Auburn to No. 13 in the recruiting class rankings with some important work left to do in the Class of 2018 to return to a top-10 class.
Jibunor’s addition has felt like a long time coming. He has visited the Plains since receiving an offer last summer. Linebackers coach Travis Williams and defensive line coach Rodney Garner both made it clear their want for the Athens-area athlete.
But it wasn’t always as crystal-clear Auburn as it may have seemed. Jibunor had moments throughout his recruitment when he felt ready to choose Tennessee (especially at the beginning) and Florida (especially at the end). With Florida, he became so entrenched in the Gators’ culture this fall that he was doing the Gator chomp after sacks and other big plays.
That’s why Jibunor hesitates to say he’d “always known” it’d be Auburn. But eventually, the mystique of the Plains had its lasting efffect.
“That’s why I wouldn’t say I’ve always known. Because at one time, I was almost committing to Florida. It was so close. Initially, I wanted to go to Tennessee,” Jibunor said. “But every time I visit Auburn, I feel so, I feel so, I feel happy. Let me use the word happy. I feel like that’s where I want to be. The fan base is beautiful. The football team is awesome. The academic standard is good. It’s a beautiful city. It’s a place I feel I want to be.”
The Georgia game sealed the deal.
Jibunor had seen several Jordan-Hare Stadium environments, but it was never anything like the win over the No. 1 Bulldogs. If there were ever any doubts about the Tigers, everything about that game day experience put them to rest.
After flirting with Knoxville, Tenn., and Gainesville, Fla., Jibunor finally realized he didn’t need to wait any longer. Auburn was home.
“I went back to Auburn and it just felt different. I went back again for the Georgia game, and I was like, that’s the place to be,” he said. “I was just there, and sometimes, you know, you go walk around on the field. I just prayed and listened to what was going on in my heart. Deep down, I just keep hearing a voice, and it’s Auburn.”