EDITOR’S NOTE: SDS introduces the junior college prospect series, where we take a look at some of the top JUCO talent in the nation, while also looking back to see which SEC schools have utilized junior college players the most over the years. This year, the national rankings are filled with JUCO prospects that either are committed to SEC schools or will be with SEC schools soon.
It’s your choice, SEC coaches–do you want a man who has persevered the loneliness and rigors of junior college football, or do you want a teenager who is infatuated with his press clippings and recruiting rating?
OK, that’s a bit of a generalization, but there is at least a shred of truth in the statement.
Junior college prospects have endured … the JUCO level can weed out those who aren’t serious about improving in obscurity, whether it’s academically or athletically. It could be at a JUCO outpost in Kansas, Arizona, Mississippi, Texas, California and even Brooklyn (N.Y.). Many times they play in front of just a few hundred fans, not a hundred thousand like in the SEC. But the quality of football? Well … let’s just say, this isn’t lowly high school football. These are players who are clearly good enough to play BCS level football, but for one reason or another had to postpone that dream to get some work done. Many start from day one in the SEC.
Just ask two of the top five JUCO prospects in the nation, D.J. Jones and Marquavius Lewis. Jones plays at East Mississippi Community College and Lewis is at Hutchinson C.C. in Kansas. Both are South Carolina natives who could very well end up in the SEC.
“It’s all about the maturity and the experience,” Jones told Saturday Down South. “It’s actually a lot more about the maturity in the classroom. I’m just a lot more focused on what I do and I’m paying a lot more attention to detail and how I’m coached. In high school I went on pure ability. I had good coaches, but I could just go out there and play. If I’d known then what I know now, I would have been a lot more dangerous a player in high school.
“It’s a humbling experience, realizing that a year from now I’ll be standing in front of thousands of people. But now you have to be focused, you have to turn it into a business. That’s the mindset here. If you don’t have it, you go home. This isn’t high school.”
Lewis, who knows Jones from back home, agreed with his fellow Palmetto State native.
“When you’re straight out of high school you’re not mature, and sometimes maybe not even humble about where you’re going and your choice of school,” Lewis told SDS. “When you come here (to Kansas), it just makes you more focused on what you have to do. You can’t rely on the crowd or other people to get you prepared. You don’t get the adrenaline from the crowd or other people, you have to pump up yourself.
“And I think the distance by itself has helped. You get the experience of being away from home and everything.”
Jones and Lewis are two undeniable success stories in the junior college ranks. Lewis was more of a basketball player in high school who blossomed late. Jones was definitely a prep prospect, but admits not taking his schooling seriously until his senior year–and by then it was too late to undo the academic damage. These are two examples of how a junior college can give a recruit a second change. Now, both are being hotly pursued by all of the big boys of college football.
So whether it’s at a school in the prairie in Kansas or in the desert in Yuma (Ariz.), this year’s junior college crop is getting geared up to make some decisions. These guys are hungry, and ready.
“It’s a lot easier to focus here … we’re an hour from anything entertaining,” Jones told SDS. “In the end, that helps.”