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The huddle

August 1, 2018

Georgia Bulldog Defensive End Jonathan Ledbetter’s Football Recruitment Story

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Defensive End Jonathan Ledbetter is an absolute monster on the football field. An upcoming senior at the University of Georgia, Ledbetter is a key cog on this UGA defense that looks to be a nuisance for SEC Quarterbacks in 2018. He was able to talk with LRT Sports and give some great insight into his recruitment. Hope y’all enjoy!!!

LRT: According to multiple recruiting websites, you were a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school. How were you able to handle all the fame and notoriety that comes with being a top recruit?

Jonathan: “Honestly, you get recruited and they do the whole star thing and it doesn’t mean much when you get to college. It’s a whole new food chain at college. You might have been a big deal in high school, but you’re just another football player in college. You have stars and you get here and then they are all gone. You can’t think about where you at right now, but where you want to be in the future.”

LRT: Why did you ultimately end up picking Georgia? What stood out about them?

Jonathan: “I committed to Alabama originally. I was heavily recruited. Rich talked to my mom and she was sold instantly. I jumped right in to UGA family and the Georgia way. I wanted to be here and be a part of this team. We are one big family here. Coaches are like family, but they are hard on you at the same time. They want you to be better. The teammates and camaraderie here are also why I decided to come here. Sometimes, teammates and coaches want it for themselves, but everyone here is doing it for each other, which is why we have that family atmosphere.”

LRT: To you, what was the most important factor in deciding where you were going to spend your next 3+ years in college?

Jonathan: “Your personal fit with the college. Also the best fit for you and your family. You have to think about where you will be in three years and where you see yourself with the university. Really just the best for you as an individual and person.”

LRT: You accumulated many high-level offers as a recruit. How did you initially narrow it down to your top schools and what was that process like for you?

Jonathan: “I really wasn’t eliminating schools. More of just looking for ideal fit and what kind of schools would be best for me. I picked which conference I wanted to play in first. Actually, my first offer was from Duke, but my heart was set on the SEC. That’s when I got an Alabama offer from Nick Saban and committed right away. Although, I didn’t really want to shut down my recruitment and I did an ACC tour and out west tour of a couple of schools. I actually looked heavily at Stanford and Coach Shaw. I was really interested in them for a while. But a bunch of guys from my high school came to Georgia and that was the deciding factor.”

LRT: Was there every any so-called “Recruiting Horror Stories” associated with your recruitment or any parts that you didn’t enjoy?

Jonathan: “I guess you could say it can be uncomfortable and awkward at times. I had to meet weird people and sometimes you were just uncomfortable and acted like you knew people when you really had no clue who they were. Kind of like buying a house and acting like you knew what you were doing but really had no clue.”

LRT: What do you feel is the most important thing for a recruit to know about each school before committing?

Jonathan: “Cost of attendance. So you can figure out how much money you make a week.” (Laughs)

LRT: You were initially committed to Alabama as a Junior at Tucker High School, but you ended up flipping your commitment. Can you talk on that decision and the importance of finding the right school for you?

Jonathan: “Yeah, I literally went to Alabama one time with my best friend and we wanted to play together at the time. He ended up getting hurt and not playing anymore and I had to realize what was best for me and couldn’t make decision based off of someone else.”

LRT: Do you have any advice for football players trying to take their game to the next level from high school to college?

Jonathan:“Just have a mental capacity for information and hurt and pain and tolerance. Be mentally strong. Everyone can play football, but it’s about who can do that job the best and be smart about it. You might not realize it in practice or film study, but in the game it is the real deal. Like, I know that I’m about to go in the matrix in the actual game and let me instincts take over. My technique doesn’t have to be perfect, but better than the guy in front me.”

LRT: Do you have any advice for football players going through the college recruitment process that you wish you had known when you were going through it?

Jonathan:“Take your time. It’s a process. Don’t feel pressured. At the end of the day, it’s your decision. There’s so much scrutiny on kids nowadays. Fans are talking trash on social media about kids picking schools. People are scrutinizing them. 17 -year old kids are just trying to live their lives. Old people are always trying to tell kids what to do and they probably haven’t been in that situation before. Do it for yourself and no one else.”

LRT: Social media is so prevalent in today’s society. When you were going through your recruitment, how much of a role did it play?

Jonathan: “It actually didn’t pick up till next year after I was committed. Right now it’s ridiculous and stupid. Kids are getting glorified and haven’t done anything yet. I think it gives them like a God complex that they might be better. 9/10 times though, they aren’t better and don’t know what they are doing when they actual put on pads for college football. It really gives kids false hope. Coaches actually love it and want to use it as a tool to break them in and show them they aren’t the king anymore. But you really can’t bash kids like that after you roll out the red carpet and it may hurt their self-esteem. Social media can help with PR and outreach, but advertising kids as little Gods doesn’t help anything either.”

LRT: I heard a funny story that when you committed to Georgia over Alabama, then Alabama Defensive Coordinator and current UGA LRT: Head Coach Kirby Smart told you “I’m going to coach you one day.” Can you speak on Kirby’s influence on you as a player and as a person?

Jonathan: “Honestly Kirby recruited me to Alabama. I didn’t really know what was going on. There was no speculation, but it’s funny how it worked out. He actually told Terry [Godwin] too and said same thing. We thought he was talking about flipping us back. But a couple of years later, he’s the head coach. I actually went up to him when he got hired and said “dang coach, you probably don’t remember what you said to me when you were recruiting me” and he said “you thought I forgot?!?”. It’s wild man. Just crazy. But he’s a great coach and has really done a lot for me both as a player and a person.”

LRT: You are a SEC East Champion. You are a SEC Champion. You are a Rose Bowl Champion. Do you have any advice for potential football recruits that wish to experience the same level of success that you have had?

Jonathan: “Take each day one day at a time. Don’t try to process everything at once. You can’t overlook stuff or take stuff for granted. You can’t look ahead. You have to get better every day. Don’t look up. I never looked up. Just put your hand in the dirt and go forward. You can’t limit yourself based on another person. Base your limits on you and what you think you can achieve.”

YOUR JOURNEY STARTS HERE