Jaleel Laguins knows what it means for his hometown team to win or lose.
Having grown up less than 10 miles from Georgia’s campus, he has seen how the city and surrounding counties react on Saturdays -- the jubilation following a win and the sting that follows each defeat.
Laguins, a four-star linebacker at Oconee County, grew up a Georgia fan, catching a game at Sanford Stadium for the first time with his father in the mid-2000s.
Early Wednesday morning, Laguins held a small ceremony at his high school’s field house, overlooking the football field at Warrior Stadium.
His decision lasted roughly three sentences, with Laguins quickly announcing his commitment to Georgia.
Although he didn’t necessarily feel the need to stay home, the personal connection he has to Georgia weighed heavily in his final decision.
“Living in Athens, knowing how it feels after a win, after a loss. It makes you feel different,” Laguins said. “Especially if you go win a national championship. It’s different if a guy from Alabama goes back home from Georgia and says, ‘I won a national championship with Georgia.’ Well, I’ve lived in Athens my whole life. I’m a hometown boy. I know how it feels every day to live in Athens.”
Laguins chose Georgia over Auburn, which made a strong push to grab him. Laguins visited Auburn several times and will take a trip down there for this year’s game against Alabama. Asked about the Tigers, Laguins said it was tough to turn down a coaching staff that has done a great job recruiting him, and is unlikely to stop.
“It hurts. It hurts telling a bunch of people I’m not coming,” Laguins said. “Fan bases all over the world are excited and then just to hear that, it breaks me. I can’t make everybody happy which I hope they realize.”
Following his ceremony, Laguins got on the phone with Georgia head coach Mark Richt to affirm his decision. Laguins said the relationship he established with Richt was key in the process.
Laguins admitted he’s been a silent commit to Georgia for almost a month. Even so, Laguins initially thought about taking the recruiting process out longer and committing on National Signing Day in February.
After speaking with his family, they decided to go ahead and get a decision out of the way.
“I told him to make up his mind so he could focus on the season,” Laguins’ father, Bobby Laguins, said.
While Laguins is committed to Georgia, he’s still going to let Midwest and West Coast schools to recruit him. One school he’s visiting this fall is Nebraska.
Oconee County head coach Travis Noland said the Bulldogs are getting a well-rounded student-athlete.
“Any time you have anyone that can play SEC football, that’s a big deal,” Noland said. “I don’t care what high school you’re at or how many students you got. What it makes it nice is because he’s a character kid. He’s a great role model for the next group of kids coming.”
Laguins is projected to play either the Mike or Will inside linebacker positions when he gets to Georgia. With the depth stockpiled at the position, he knows he might have to wait his turn to play. But Laguins said he’s eager to take the field at Sanford Stadium when that opportunity comes.
“If I don’t get in there as a freshman or a sophomore, I think once I do get out there, they’re going to be like, ‘Wow, this kid can run, this kid can play,’ ” Laguins said. “Playing behind those guys to better yourself to try and get in front of those guys and work that much harder every day in practice, every day in the weight room, I think it makes you that much better as a player.”