November 13, 2008

Meeks plays large, ponders future

Safety Jonathan Meeks had several offers coming out of the small town of Rock Hill, S.C., a year ago. But they were all from Division II schools.

He put his dream of playing college football on hold and enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., and a lot has changed for Meeks since then.

"I have nine D-1 offers," Meeks said with a smile on his face Thursday night after his Hargrave team played Tennessee's JV squad in Neyland Stadium. "I've become a better player and teams have taken notice. I've got a big decision ahead of me now."

Nine offers is a long way from where Meeks was less than a year ago. He credits his time at Hargrave to his success on the recruiting trail.

"Hargrave has taught me discipline," Meeks said. "It's been tough off the field. Between the work in the classroom, shaving, wearing a uniform and waking up at 6 a.m., but it's made me a better person and player. Those are things you just hate as a kid, but in the long run it teaches you a lot."

On the field, Meeks has improved in several different areas. He says the day in, day out competition in practice against players with similar skill levels has been his biggest help.

"My entire game has come a long way," Meeks said. "I've become a pretty good safety. I'm a better tackler, and better in coverage. I'm also strong at kick returner. Most schools tell me they want me to play safety, but some say I could play either safety or corner. I don't really care. I just want to play.

"I think playing at Hargrave makes you a more mature player," Meeks continued. "In high school, you are one of the best if not the best player on your team. But here all the guys can play and you have to bring it every day. It makes the competition so much better because all of the guys want to start."

Meeks and his team failed to stay undefeated on Thursday night inside Neyland Stadium against Tennessee's junior varsity in a 37-21 defeat. The Vols were victorious for the second consecutive year against the Tigers.

Meeks now turns his focus to recruiting where there are several teams hoping he'll choose to play his college football with them.

"To be honest, I've not thought about it a whole lot," Meeks said. "I've just been trying to get better and hope people take notice."

Penn State, South Carolina, Clemson, Tennessee, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Florida, Virginia Tech and Kansas have all taken notice. He's been on an official to North Carolina and will visit Raleigh to see the N.C. State Wolfpack this weekend.

Wednesday night and all day Thursday, he got to see Tennessee and even though the Vols are lacking a head coach, he says he was impressed by the program.

"Getting the chance to spend the night in Knoxville and check out Tennessee was great," Meeks said. "The locker room and stadium were amazing and so were the rest of the facilities. When I first saw the stadium, I was like WOW! It was awesome and I'm glad I got the chance to come here. I definitely want to come back on an official visit."

So Meeks wants to come back even though it's unclear who Tennessee's next coach will be?

"It's still Tennessee," Meeks said. "Coach (Phillip) Fulmer did a lot for this place and he's a legend, but it's still Tennessee. His legend will live on and so will Tennessee football. It's a great school."

Helping Tennessee's chances is Vol commitment and fellow Hargrave teammate Marlon Walls.

"He's been in my ear," Meeks said. "When I went to North Carolina, some of their guys like A.J. Blue were in my ear too. They all want me to play with them."

Meeks' decision won't be made until he gets a chance to see all of the schools that he's considering.

Rivals.com rates Meeks a 4-star safety in the class of 2009.

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