OXFORD, Ala. — To understand what that moment meant to KJ Britt, you first must understand his typical toothy-grinned personality.
Fellow recruits have referred to Britt as the life of the party. He’s the prospect on visits or at camps that all the other prospects are drawn to. Britt, as his high school coach says, brings the best person and football player out of every person around him in a locker room or on a football field.
On Monday in the Oxford High gymnasium, Britt was, in a different sense, the life of the party as he prepared to talk to the gathered audience of family, friends, coaches, classmates, teammates and media. He grabbed the microphone, ready for his first words since showcasing his Bleacher Report-created commitment video, and went for an off-the-cuff speech.
RELATED: Britt selects Auburn over Georgia
The vibrant personality, the vocal leader of the 10-0 Oxford Yellow Jackets, couldn’t muster any words. He was overcome and, yes, speechless to finally announce to the world he’d be an Auburn Tiger.
“You don’t go into something like, ‘I’m going to get emotional.’ It just came over me,” Britt said. “It’s big. I’m excited. I’m happy as all get-out.”
The well-spoken Britt instead passed the mic along to his mother, while he gathered his thoughts. She fired off the celebratory “thank-yous” and finished with the obligatory sendoff: “War Eagle,” she shouted to the Oxford High crowd.
Britt’s unexpected emotion was an amalgamation of joy from his final choice and relief that the decision process, for all intents and purposes, is over. The 4-star linebacker, ranked the 324th overall prospect in the nation, didn’t pick up his first SEC offer until February. As Britt himself put it Monday, within the last year, he would pray for schools to even show interest.
Once unranked, Britt rapidly became a high priority for multiple high-profile institutions and cracked recruiting rankings. Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss and Stanford all were in the race until the end. In the end, in Britt’s mind, it was a two-team race between Georgia and Auburn. The Tigers inched out the Bulldogs and others for good about three weeks ago, Britt said.
It just felt right.
“They’ve been having faith in me ever since my junior year. Even though I didn’t have an offer, they invited me to every game. I had contact with the coaches. I had contact with the players. Players and coaches recruiting me,” Britt said. “I knew it myself. Nobody had to tell me Auburn was special.”
If two people were telling him how special it could be, it was Auburn linebackers coach Travis Williams and fellow linebacker commit Tadarian Moultry.
Williams has established himself as a prime-time recruiter for the Tigers. He landed Moultry and Chandler Wooten this summer. Now he can add Britt to the list during his first full recruiting cycle on the Auburn staff. Britt said Williams played a “big, important role” in his choice.
Moultry and Britt long have contended they’d come as a package deal. The duo formed a relationship before either recruiting process began, and they’ll take that friendship to Auburn. Moultry has indicated to SEC Country for a while that he felt good about Auburn’s chances of landing his close friend.
On Monday, he got his wish.
“Man, he was pumped like I was pumped. We’re ready to go to work,” Britt said. “First off, we’ve got to take care of what we have ahead of us. We both have high school teams to take care of. We might play each other in the playoffs, so I mean, right now, we’re going to take care what we got to do first.”
Britt brings a downhill, run-stopping component to this linebacker class. For his high school team, he’s in on or around every tackle. He even plays some tight end to serve as a blocker in the Oxford High stout run game.
But, according to his high school coach, that’s the least of Britt’s contributions.
“They’re getting a guy who is ranked a 4-star football player, who is a 5-star person. He’s the highest character of any kid I’ve ever coached,” Oxford High coach Ryan Herring said. “They’re getting someone who’s going to help in the locker room. I do know that.”
Britt will enroll in January to begin his studies at Auburn and get accustomed to the football routine.
The mid-July turning point
Britt had his mind made up, as his original Aug. 6 decision date approached.
He didn’t need to go into his senior season. He was convinced he wanted to cut his process short and commit to Georgia. That’s what he would’ve done, Britt said, if not for a mid-July car accident that put a scare into Britt and his 9-year-old brother, Keenan.
Once the wreck happened, Auburn’s coaching staff dropped all football talk and rushed to comfort Britt and his little brother. The entire staff sent cards, wishing both well in their health and recovery. Britt, ever a young man of faith, felt he was getting a sign at a critical juncture.
“After the wreck, the coaching staff, they were unbelievable to me, my brother and my parents,” Britt said. “I just felt like, if I ever needed something from them, if I ever needed something big, they have my back like I have their back. I needed that.”
How convinced was Britt that he would go to Georgia? He referred to it as “set in stone.” The unsettling wreck made him take a step back and do as he often does — pray.
Ultimately, in his many trips to Auburn, his growing relationship with commits and coaches was too much to ignore. Fate and faith helped lead Britt to the Plains.
“After that wreck, it made me realize that maybe God didn’t want me there,” Britt said. “Once I had my wreck this summer, I (saw) who was there for me the most. I think God put me through that for a reason.”
Story behind the commitment video
Happy Halloween, Auburn fans.
Britt presented a spirited commitment video, courtesy of Bleacher Report’s sensational commitment video crew. All announcement videos have their own flair, but Britt’s certainly meshed with his personality. For those who missed it, check it out below.
— Kj Britt (@K_Britt10) October 31, 2016
Here are some cool tidbits about the video, according to Britt.
- It was filmed last Tuesday, meaning he officially visited Ole Miss with his decision already made.
- Filming took place at Britt’s home during an actual Halloween celebration.
- The Gator, the Bulldog and little Coach Gus? Those were all young people close to Britt. His brother, Keenan, was the Gator. The Bulldog was David Herring and little Gus was Matthew Herring — the oldest and youngest sons of Britt’s high school coach.
- The video took 3 hours to make.
It’s a fun video because it’s genuine. After the ceremony at the school, there was a celebratory cake festivity. Britt exhibited his love for people and willingness to help serve as a role model for the future generation. Extreme workouts and hip music help make for fun-to-watch commitment videos, too, but this had a special feel because of its authenticity.
Auburn has another great one coming in at linebacker, folks.
Stanford and Ole Miss visits explained
As it turns out, these were simply just-checking trips.
Britt admitted Monday that he’d essentially finalized his decision three weeks ago, which means he went on official visits to Stanford and Ole Miss knowing he’d pick Auburn soon after. Many believed Stanford might have a surprise chance at scoring the Alabama product because of the high-academic prestige. Ole Miss always felt further behind, but the Rebels getting the last official visit before the decision raised some interest.
Britt just wanted to know for certain that his pending Auburn decision was the absolute right one.
“I was just trying to go to Stanford and Ole Miss to make sure I was doing what’s best for me,” Britt said. “There’s more out there than Auburn. I was just trying to take every visit and make sure Auburn was the place I wanted to be. Every time I go to a college and talk to the coaches, I was like, ‘Man, I know where I need to be. I know where I’m supposed to be.’ ”
Herring, Britt’s high school coach, said Monday he thought it was either Auburn or Georgia all along (always giving the edge to the Tigers because of Britt’s grandmother). To give an idea of how distant the two most recent official visitors were, only Georgia and Auburn had shirts on the table at Britt’s ceremony.
In the video, only Florida was referenced outside of those two. Auburn remained confident throughout in the chase for Britt. Now we know why.
Converting Kenney Sr.
Kenney Britt Sr. began to tear up, as well, once he saw his even-keeled son break down. When the mic got to Britt Sr., he expressed his gratitude to everyone who helped his son make the best decision.
But he wanted to make one thing clear.
“Now you might know I’m a Bama fan,” Britt Sr. said. “But, from now on, it’s War Eagle.”
Britt Sr. was one of the few people to know his son’s choice when he made up his mind a few weeks ago. But he knew long before then that he wouldn’t suit up for the Crimson Tide. He’s been able to use the last few months of recruitment to prepare for the reality that he’s now rooted to the other side of the rivalry.
“I’ve been an Alabama fan all my life,” Britt Sr. said with a smile. “He had already told me that it was not going to be Alabama. I’ve been preparing for a long time. I got over that.”
Reactions from fellow recruits
Britt has been the hot commodity among Auburn commits.
Many predictions have been made about Britt’s impending decision, and the Auburn commits got the bombshell they’d been waiting to see Monday. We mentioned Moultry’s reaction early in his conversation with Britt, but he also gave a response of “mind blowing” when asked the feeling of playing with his close friend.
Here’s how other prospects and coaches reacted, as told to SEC Country and on Twitter.
3-star LB commit Chandler Wooten: “I had a feeling. That’s big time … It’s going to be scary.”
4-star ATH commit Malcolm Askew: “We as commits already knew it was coming … but our class just got better, and I can’t wait to be on the defense with those guys. Great future ahead for the Tigers.”
4-star ATH commit Tray Bishop: “Great addition to the family. The linebackers are looking real good.”
3-star safety commit Jordyn Peters: “I’m excited. KJ is a good friend. I’m glad to have him joining the family.”
Welcome To The Fam!!! @K_Britt10 The BEST player ive played yet.
War Eagle ?!
— ⚡️Alaric Williams⚡️ (@Alaric_8) October 31, 2016
@K_Britt10 congrats bro ?. Keep ballin ?
— LaBryan Ray (@LabryanRay) October 31, 2016
— Coach T-Will (@T_WILL4REAL) October 31, 2016
— Herb Hand (@CoachHand) October 31, 2016
Boom!!!!!!!!!!!!!! War Eagle!
— Coach Gus Malzahn (@CoachGusMalzahn) October 31, 2016
This gone be sum serious https://t.co/FuGfm48PYD
— 〽️ajor ? (@2Trill_jr) November 1, 2016
— Joey Gatewood (@Joey1gatewood) October 31, 2016
— Shaun Shivers (@V8Blazing) November 1, 2016
Boy our class is loading up!!!!
— Calvin Ashley (@whiteboii_Cali) October 31, 2016