Mac Jones plays his last high school football game days before he signs with Alabama and he’s proud he gets to do with the letters USA on his jersey.
Jones, from The Bolles School (Jacksonville, Fla.), is a quarterback for the USA Football Under-19 team that will face Team Canada on Saturday at the North American Championship at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla.
“It’s really a privilege to get invited to an event like this when you can represent your country against another country,” Jones said. “To play your final game before you go to college and be able to put USA on your chest, that’s something you want to do for pride in representing your country and something you can tell your kids about.”
Jones, ranked as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback by the 247Sports, Composite, will sign his letter of intent Wednesday on National Signing Day, ending a process that saw him commit to Kentucky in July 2015, and then decommit and commit to Alabama last July.
He took an official visit to Alabama last weekend after an unofficial visit in September. That was before freshman Jalen Hurts established himself at quarterback and led the Crimson Tide to the national title game.
“It’s definitely a relief,” he said. “It’s been pretty crazy. I was committed somewhere else and then had to decommit and I learned a lot from that. I was fortunate to have 24 offers or something like that and I had a lot of options.
“I feel comfortable. It’s going to be exciting, but it’s going to be tough when I get there. Recruiting is fun and it’s different, but then you get put back into the real world when you sign the paper. You go back to being a freshman and you’re not that big fish in a small pond anymore. You have to earn your respect from your teammates and go back to the basics.”
Jones spoke with USA TODAY High School Sports on the eve of the North American Championships about Team USA, his legendary high school coach and his future at Alabama.
Q: What has this week been like?
A: It’s been an unbelievable experience so far — just meeting some of the players, and the coaches have done a great job of installing the plays and practice. I’m happy that I came. It’s been fun to learn a new offense and hopefully everything goes well and we can beat Team Canada.
Q: How did you get involved with USA Football?
A: I did a couple of regional camps when I was a sophomore, and I think they know me from there and that’s why I was selected. I know a lot of the people involved. Everything I’ve done with them, it always has been really organized and a fun experience throughout the whole deal.
Q: Your high school coach, Corky Rogers, is among the legends in Florida high school football. Most wins, most state titles, one of the few in the nation with 400 wins. What was your experience like playing for him?
A: I’ve known him since I was like 5. His grandson played with me and he watched me grow up. He sort of knew I was going to be his quarterback all along and I knew he was going to be my coach. One of my dreams was going to that school to play for him.
I got to see how everything works going to that school from pre-K. The high school players come to the lower school and say hi and I got to the do that this year. It was a really great experience to switch places — from being that little kid who wanted to play football and then doing it and coming back doing the reverse.
He’s been a great coach and a great person. He turned me into a much better person than I was when I started out at Bolles so I’m grateful for him. He’s struggling a bit with his health right now and he’s going to do what’s best for him, but regardless of that, he’s had a great career and it’s been a pleasure to play for him.
Q: You haven’t played since the state final in early December. Any trouble getting the pads on again this week with only a few days of practice to prepare?
A: I took a break after football season, and it’s been good to get back into it and start throwing again. Getting hit a little bit always helps. It’s not foreign, but it’s good to get the pads back on. Having done it for so long, it’s not that big of a deal.
Q: Jalen Hurts had a great freshman year at Alabama. How did that affect your decision or potentially changing your decision?
A: I knew going into my decision that he was going to be the guy. I’m sticking with my decision. He did a great job and Coach Saban was happy with him. I’m looking forward to getting there and the competition.
We’re different players. He’s more of a dual-threat guy and I’m more of a pocket passer pro-style. We bring different assets to the table. That’s something that I thought about in my decision. He’s a great guy and I’m looking forward to having him as my mentor for the first couple of years. I’m looking forward to competing and putting my head down and getting to work.
Q: The other quarterback in this recruiting class is Tua Tagovailoa from Hawaii. He’s already on campus as an early enrollee. Does that give him an advantage?
A: Not too much. It’s good he’s there early. He’s like Jalen as more of a dual-threat QB. Tua is a great kid and I’m looking forward to competing with him, too. He’s a good talented quarterback. I met him at the Elite 11 in Los Angeles. We got to spend some time together. I saw him throw the ball around, and I made my decision after that. I have some family in Hawaii so we talked about that.
Q: Alabama has a new offensive coordinator since you committed with Steve Sarkisian taking over for Lane Kiffin. Have you had a chance to get to know him?
A: I got to spend my time during my official and he came to my house for an in-home visit. He didn’t even really talk about football. He talked about his life, and that when I come to campus, how he’s going to help me out. He said it’s already stressful enough on being a QB and he will be there to give me advice. If I have any problems, just come to him and he’s going to serve as that father figure type role. I was excited to hear that.