“I feel like I have a weight lifted off my shoulders,” said Austin Jones on Wednesday evening. “I can put all my focus into this season and Rabun County.”
The Wildcats’ gifted three-way athlete announced July 4 afternoon that he is committed to Furman University. The decision ends his recruitment process just weeks away from the start of his senior season.
On June 24, Jones had announced publicly that he’d narrowed down his list of suitors to two – Army West-Point and Furman. Jones held offers from a dozen NCAA Division-I programs, including Eastern Kentucky, Kennesaw State, Elon, James Madison, The Citadel, Western Carolina, Tennessee Tech, Air Force, Mercer and Wofford.
Tennessee Tech is where former Rabun teammate Bailey Fisher went to, and Western Carolina has close ties to Wildcats coach Lee Shaw and OC Jaybo Shaw, who both played and/or coached there.
Ultimately though, it was the coaching staff that drew Jones to Furman. It certainly helped that Connor Shaw, Lee Shaw’s youngest son and former NFL player and South Carolina great, is now coaching on the Paladins staff as the tight ends coach.
“It was a very tough decision when deciding, because Army recruited me first and recruited me hard, but in the end I felt that Furman was just a better fit for me and I love the coaching staff,” said Jones.
It’s unclear when he’ll see time, but his position is pretty well established for the Paladins in 2019 and beyond.
“[I’m] not sure on playing time, but I will be defense only, playing either free or strong safety depending on how I develop when I’m there,” adds Jones.
In 2017, Jones put up a rare season of more than 1,300 all-purpose yards on receptions and punt returns, as well as 137 tackles, 5 interceptions, 8.5 TFL, 7 pass break-ups. He recorded 618 yards receiving on 31 catches and 7 TD. He also recorded nearly 50 rushing yards and one touchdown. He added 488 punt return yards, 35 kick return yards and 40 interception return yards.
His sophomore 2016 season saw him reel in 41 catches for 623 yards and total 84 tackles. He was named GACA All-State and Region 8-AA Defensive Player of the Year.
In his varsity career at Rabun, he has 1,364 receiving yards and 13 TDs on 81 receptions (and one rushing TD). He has 2,124 all-purpose yards to date, 249 tackles, 9 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries and 2 forced fumbles. He has four punt return touchdowns (3 in 2017) and one interception “pick-six.” All said, he’s amassed 19 TDs.
With his attention now squarely on this 2018 senior season, Jones knows that Rabun has high expectations after a 2017 State Finals run.
“We are jacked up and ready to go,” says Jones enthusiastically. “Our senior class is hungry to lead the whole team to a state title and bring that trophy back to Rabun this year!”