Newton football has another Division I prospect who is committed to staying in-state for his college career.
Four-star linebacker prospect Jaquan Henderson announced that he would be committing to Georgia Tech this past weekend, after being a long time Tennessee pledge.
“Really the fact is that I felt like I wanted to stay close to my family,” Henderson said. “And I was trying to see things through the bigger picture in life besides football.”
With his commitment, Henderson joins fellow Newton teammate Jeremiah Holloman as Ram football players who chose to stay close to home for college. Holloman announced his commitment to UGA and signed with the Bulldogs in December so that he could enroll early and report to campus this month.
During Holloman’s signing ceremony, Henderson said He was still “100 percent committed” to Tennessee, but that he would not stop hearing overtures and taking visits.
He figured the Tennessee coaches and recruiters may be a tad disappointed, But Henderson said he took the advice of Newton football coach Terrence Banks in making his choice.
“He just told me that at the end of the day you’ve got to make the best decision for yourself and your family,” Henderson said.
Georgia Tech was one of a plethora of Division I schools that visited Henderson since November, after Newton’s football season ended with a first round playoff loss to Mill Creek.
Henderson had offers from 22 other schools aside from Tennessee and Georgia Tech, including Michigan, LSU, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Nebraska and Georgia Southern.
The 6-foot-1, 195 pounder had close to 60 tackles and three sacks from his linebacker position in 2016 for a Newton squad that finished 6-4-1. He also had a pass breakup, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Toward the end of the season, he showed his versatility by lining up and taking snaps at running back as Newton got closer to the postseason.
Part of Georgia Tech’s appeal for Henderson was also the way that he said the Yellow Jackets plan to use him.
“I’m seeing myself there as more of a Sam linebacker,” he said. “I’ll be rushing off the edge and covering tight ends and slot receivers.”
And with 4.5-second speed in the 40 yard dash, he could become an intriguing piece to Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof’s 4-3 multiple scheme.
With his pledge to Tech, Henderson became the 18th hard commit to coach Paul Johnson’s recruiting class which currently ranks 47th in the nation and ninth in the ACC.
Henderson wasn’t the only Newton defender to commit this past weekend. Defensive back Trey Alexander took to Twitter to announce his decision to commit to Alderson Broaddus University in Phillipi, WV.
The four-year old NCAA Division II program finished its 2016 campaign with a 9-2 record, and coach Dennis Creehan was named coach of the year after guiding his team to the Great Midwest Athletic Championship.
After giving thanks to “coaches, teachers, Mom” and other family members for support, he made known his intentions to go to Alderson.
He chose Alderson over Gilford and LaGrange colleges for the opportunity to play football on a higher level while studying in a smaller environment.
“With it being seen as a D-2 school, I just felt like it was at a higher level than all the rest of the schools I could’ve chosen,” he said. “But also, I like the classroom size. On average it’s like 20 students. And since it’s a smaller school, I feel like I’ll have a lot more opportunities with tutoring and more hands on interactions with professors.”
Alexander holds a 3.1 grade point average at Newton and is planning on majoring in sports medicine. He said that the fact that he’ll be sharing the Signing Day stage with several of his teammates, including Henderson and Holloman, will make next week’s Signing Day ceremony sweeter.
“It feels awesome to think that we can and have actually put Covington on the map,” he said. “We’ve got more athletes who will be signing on Wednesday too at other bigger places.”
Alexander said he’s looking forward to finding a home at either cornerback or nickel for the Battlers. And knowing that college football is on the horizon has made him desire to work even harder to be ready to go next fall.
“One thing I want to improve is my play at the line of scrimmage,” Alexander said. “I want to get my hands faster with the jam at the line of scrimmage, and I want to get my feet faster too. Doing that, especially getting better hand speed, slows a receiver down off the line. So if they’re running the quick slant route and I can jam them good, they won’t be able to do it.”
Both Alexander and Henderson said that their experiences at Newton were ideal preparation spots for their collegiate pursuits.
“Being here prepared me early for things like the ACT and SAT (tests),” Henderson said. “They helped me learn to balance football and academics.”
Alexander noted that playing against Division I talents like Henderson and Holloman help make everyone on the team better and more equipped to play collegiately.
“Those guys really helped prepare me very well,” Alexander said. “J.J. and Jaquan are Power Five conference guys, and just watching them and going against them makes you prepared for what you’ll face later on. You know that there will be people just like them at the next level.”
*Make sure to follow our Feb.1 National Signing Day coverage on our website’s special National Signing Day section at www.covnews.com/section/237 and through our social media platforms: @CovNewsSports on Twitter and CovNewsSports on Facebook.