It’s been a whirlwind two months for Georgia linebacker Jayden McDonald. He’s won a state championship, picked up scholarship offers, played host to college coaches and visited campuses all while living the life of a high school senior.
“He is overwhelmed. He’s trying to finish school and get his home work done and all that,” said his mother, Kristi McDonald.
Kristi McDonald stands at her son’s side, helping him through the recruiting process. She takes on as much as she can while allowing him to make the ultimate decision.
“He understands that he’s blessed to be in this position,” Kristi McDonald said.
Mother and son officially visited Iowa this past weekend. The Hawkeyes have been among a group of schools pursuing Jayden the hardest.
“The athletic facility was what stood out to us about the Iowa visit,” Kristi said.
Iowa offered McDonald a scholarship in late December. When the dead period ended a few weeks later, it made several in-home and school visits. Position coach Seth Wallace and head coach Kirk Ferentz were involved.
The Hawkeye staff’s message to the McDonalds on the visit was pretty straight forward.
“There was nothing that was in-depth,” Kristi said. “Coach Wallace discussed the need at linebacker. We causally visited with coach (Phil) Parker but didn’t meet with him.”
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Ferentz also stayed on message.
“He really highlighted that the linebacker position is wide open,” Kristi said.
As one would expect from a mother, Kristi McDonald was focused on more than football.
“The Tippie business college is amazing,” she said. “I was pleased with the academic support that Liz Tovar and her staff provides.”
A chance to speak with current players also benefitted the McDonalds, Kristi said. They asked questions, particularly of fellow Georgian Trey Creamer, who played host to Jayden.
“The people were nice and friendly,” Kristi said. “It’s a very beautiful campus. We didn’t learn a lot about the community except they are die-hard Hawkeye fans.”
The McDonalds also found out that they had a connection with assistant defensive line coach Kelvin Bell. He worked with one of Kristi’s cousins, Ashton Aikens, a former wide receiver at Northwestern, at Trinity International University. Aikens now is the receivers coach at Western Michigan.
Jayden McDonald verbally committed to Rutgers in June but didn’t sign a letter of intent during the early period (Dec. 20-22). He then de-committed from the Scarlett Knights on Jan. 5.
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Kansas State, Purdue and Ole Miss were among some schools that offered around the same time as Iowa. He has officially visited three of the four with his Ole Miss stop coming up this weekend.
“He plans to make his decision on Feb. 5,” Kristi McDonald said.
McDonald (6-1, 215) slowed down his recruiting process during the season. He was focused on leading Suwanee (GA) North Gwinnett to a state championship.
It was during that title run that McDonald opened up more college possibilities with his strong play. Several outlets named him the state’s defensive player of the year after he recorded 93 total tackles (12 for loss), 12.5 sacks and four interception. He also forced three fumbles, recovered two fumbles and was credited with three quarterback hurries.
Here’s a look at McDonald’s senior highlights: