Sometimes sweater vests say it best.
Senior safety Jamel Cook proved that no commitment is 100 percent until the sign of a dotted line, when he chose the University of Southern California over Florida State on Wednesday at Miami Central High School. Cook arrived late to the ceremony, donning a cardinal red vest, foreshadowing the choice.
Cook was one of nine Rockets to sing national letters of intent.
“California felt like the right choice for me,” Cook said. “I went out there and it felt like home. I’ll be working on starting as a true freshman. The programs here aren’t ready right now. I made the decision that was best for me. FSU feels like home also, but I just had to get away from Miami.”
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Defensive end Keir Thomas, an early enrollee at South Carolina, did not attend the event. Darnell Salomon chose South Florida, Eric Mitchell chose Central Florida, Donovan Thompson picked Utah, Kenny Turnier chose Oregon State, and Jamal Hudson chose Air Force.
“It was a great challenge, especially coming from a small private school,” the Champagnat Catholic transfer Salomon said. “I had to step up my game. And I did. I feel great for all of my teammates. Their future is bright.”
Teammate Kahmanie Carter will play at Coffeyville Community College, while Treyvon Brinson and David Bradley chose Tuskegee and Gallaudet, respectively.
“From the first day USC came and recruited me, it was state game, since that day I gained a connection with them,” Cook said. “They never stopped calling my phone. Every day I’ve been talking to the USC coach and they helped me make my decision.
“It was very hard to turn down coach [FSU coach Jimbo Fisher] … ”
The Rockets have won four consecutive state titles.
“To be in a position to receive an athletic scholarship, you are always proud of that,” Central coach Roland Smith said. “This is the happiest time of the season. A lot of people think winning a state championship, but I know what it costs to go to school. I know what the parents have to go through.”
Assistant coach Dwight Jackson, who mentors Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl running back and former Central star Devonta Freeman, spoke to the students about determination. Freeman didn’t know if he would get a scholarship while sitting behind Brandon Gainer, until getting his chance his junior year.
“If you don’t believe that you can achieve it, it wont happen,” Jackson said. “It’s very important that you have someone that can give you motivation. Brandon was a motivator for him.
“I see a whole lot of Devonta in these kids.”
Miami Central signees
DE Keir Thomas: South Carolina (early enrollee)
S Jamel Cook: Southern California
WR Darnell Salomon: South Florida
DE Eric Mitchell: Central Florida
LB Donovan Thompson: Utah
DE Kenny Turnier: Oregon State
DB Jamal Hudson: Air Force
WR Kahmanie Carter: Coffeyville CC
WR Treyvon Brinson: Tuskegee
OL David Bradley: Gallaudet (D.C.)
QB Jerrod Thomas: Undecided