Considering all the factors, Jonathan Kongbo may have been Tennessee’s most significant signee in the 2016 class.
First, the defensive end from Arizona Western Junior College (Yuma, Ariz.) plays an impact position. Second, based upon his recruiting ranking as the top junior college prospect in the nation, he should be able to provide an immediate impact this season as the Vols try to reach sky-high expectations. Lastly, the Vols kept him away from bitter rival Alabama.
Yet it almost never happened. Kongbo, who committed to Tennessee in November before decommitting in January, revealed to SEC Country that he had actually committed to another school before again changing his mind just two days before National Signing Day.
Which school came in second? I’d probably say Florida State. Looking back at it, I didn’t find I wanted to go to Tennessee until that Monday morning (before National Signing Day on Wednesday). I was kind of committed to Florida State…I committed to Florida State on my visit. I kept it low key, but I switched it up.
I hadn’t heard that that. Have you told anyone else that? You’re the first person I told that.
Did you call Florida State’s coaches and tell them you were going to sign with Tennessee? Yeah, I just told them I had a change of heart.
Did Tennessee’s coaches know you actually committed to Florida State? We talked when I came back from the (Florida State) visit…(Tennessee’s coaches) called and wanted to see what’s up. I told them who it was between, but I never really told them I committed.
What did Florida State’s coaches say when you told them you were going to Tennessee? They were kind of persuasive…but at that time I was set on going to Tennessee.
What was the most creative thing a school or coach did to get your attention? I would have to say Tennessee. They created me a personal logo. They started hyping that up. It was kind of cool. It’s like the eyes of King Kong.
Which school disappointed you the most during recruiting? I’d say Alabama. They just play too many games. They were never straightforward with me. Some of the things they were telling me were untrue.
What type of things? I was the only J.C. (junior college defensive lineman) guy they were recruiting.
Did you find out they were recruiting other junior college defensive ends? Oh yeah, the weekend they were trying to bring me in, they brought in like three other guys because they were other J.C. people I met. I was set on giving Alabama really good consideration. I just told them to be straight with me and tell me what was going on, but that didn’t really happen.
What is the funniest thing any head coach said to you during the entire recruiting process? Ole Miss coach (Hugh) Freeze, he came to see me at my school and he was going to go see my parents later and he was like, ‘You better be coming to Ole Miss. I’m a guy from Mississippi and I’m out here in Yuma, Arizona. What’s a Yuma? You better be coming. Don’t waste my time.’ That was pretty funny.
Which coach was it the hardest to say no to, that you weren’t coming? Coach Freeze by far. I called him two nights before signing day and said that I wasn’t going to come. It was hard because we formed a good relationship for a long time. My parents really liked him. It was hard to say no to him.
Which head coach of a team that you did not sign with was the nicest? I would say Ole Miss. Coach Freeze and I had a good relationship. We talked on the phone for quite a bit of time. He was probably the nicest coach.
So, with all you’ve said about Ole Miss, why didn’t you end up going there? Butch Jones’ got more swagger. Ole Miss, I felt like was a good school, but it would be more special to do something great with Tennessee.
Which coach was not the nicest? Nick Saban. It wasn’t necessarily he wasn’t the nicest. He was very respectful. He just has a presence about him that is very intimidating for a lot of people. Sometimes it rubs off as not being nice.
Which college would you have considered more seriously if they had offered you earlier in the process? A week before signing day, I picked up Miami, Arkansas, TCU. It was a little too late. I would have definitely considered Miami and taken a visit there if they had offered a little sooner, but they waited a little too long to offer.
What was the biggest rumor about you that wasn’t true? Probably the whole grades thing. He doesn’t have the grades to make it and that’s why he’s stalling. That was the biggest rumor I’d have to say.
How much negative recruiting was out there? I feel like there was a lot. In one way or another, most schools negatively recruit. They just tell you, ‘Why would you go here? They don’t have anything. They don’t have this or that.’ I would say there’s a lot of it.
Was there any school that was more negative than the others? I would say if you were considering a rival school, a school would get pretty negative about the other school. I don’t want to put out any names.
Describe the impact of cost of attendance on your recruiting? It was definitely nice to know that, for example, Tennessee gave out the most in the SEC, so I guess that somewhat had an impact. The more money you get, the more you can take care of yourself and ease your mind.
If you could give a junior a piece of advice about the recruiting process, what would it be? In the recruiting process, once you start blowing up, people start telling you what to do and all of the sudden you get a whole lot more friends than you had before. At the end of the day, you have to go with your heart and what makes you happy above all because you’re going to be doing all the work.
What was your biggest regret during the recruiting process? One thing I would change is not stress myself out about all the options. I felt like I stressed myself out way too much during the process.