It’s not easy getting a college scholarship when you play high school football in an out-of-the-way place like Eustis. It’s not exactly a destination, nor is it even a crossroad unless of course you might be headed to the Ocala National Forest.
But in this Lake County gem of a little town is a sleeper linebacker that college coaches will be familiarizing themselves with over the next few months. Yes Jaylon Graham will be having coaches locking in GPS signals on Friday nights all next season as they try to get a glimpse of the 27th-ranked player in the Sentinel’s 2014 Central Florida Super60.
Arizona coaches are already looking at their Florida maps. Graham was offered a scholarship by Arizona on Sunday.
“I’m just very thankful and humbled by everything,” Graham said Sunday night. “I just have to continue to keep working hard.
“I’ve always known my city to be like the underdog of most cities, so I just want to represent the city well. It’s a big privilege and I’m proud of my city and very happy to say I am from Eustis.”
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker, who averaged just over 10 tackles a game this past season, is the first Eustis player to gain a spot in the Super60 since we started keeping rankings on local prospects in 2009.
“I’m happy just to know that I’ll be able to help my family out and help my community, but at the same time I know I have to continue to work hard and not give up,” Graham said. “I still have my senior year of football and I have to continue to work harder and not get complacent.”
It also helps that Eustis assistant coach Matt Franklin used to hold a position at West Virginia, where he got to know several current Arizona coaches on head coach Rich Rodriguez’s staff. What they have seen of Graham on film was impressive enough to garner an offer.
Graham said he has also had conversations with several other schools, which he listed as South Carolina, USF, Louisville, NC State, Iowa State, Florida, Missouri, Bowling Green and Western Kentucky. He also recently took a junior-day trip to South Carolina.
“I went to South Carolina about three weeks ago,” Graham said. “It’s a very nice school and I enjoyed myself up there. They asked me to come back in a few weeks for another visit.”
He was also supposed to take a trip to Louisville for junior day but was not able to attend.
His versatility and athleticism, as well as his length with a long wingspan, is what college scouts like, and Graham said he’s being recruited by Arizona to play linebacker, but South Carolina wants him as a defensive end.
“It seems like it’s been a long time coming,” Graham said of his first college offer, “but I just have to continue to work hard and stay focused and just keep pushing.
“For something like this to happen for me just makes me feel very blessed for all of the support from my family and my coaches. I’m blessed to be in this position.”
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.