Gainesville High junior wide receiver Tai-ler Jones surprised more than a few people in the school’s packed lobby Thursday when he verbally committed to play football for Stanford University.
Jones, who’s ranked as a four-star recruit by Rivals.com, walked to the front of a large student contingent for the announcement wearing a baby-blue shirt and tie, leading many to believe he was going to pick North Carolina.
However, Jones was also wearing Notre Dame cuff links, a nod to the school that appeared to be the frontrunner due the family ties through his father, who played for the Fighting Irish.
Then Jones sat down at a table beside his parents, in front of Gainesville coach Bruce Miller and assistant coach Todd Wofford, and revealed a Stanford hat he put on his head, which set off a flurry of flashes from the cameras of students and media in attendance.
"I knew once I visited Stanford that it felt like home," Jones said. "I know the coaches there are going to take care of me for the next four or five years."
Jones made his decision official with his parents on April 7 after returning from visiting Stanford, California and UCLA during spring break. He said academics also played a big part in verbally committing to Stanford. He plans to major in broadcast journalism.
Miller said he wasn’t caught off guard by his star wide receiver’s decision to attend college 3,000 miles from home. Gainesville’s coach says that it’s good for players to make declarations for college early if they’re set on where they want to attend, so they can focus on having a strong senior season.
"Tai-ler wants to go ahead and make his college decision so he can help us go out and win a state championship next season," Miller said to the crowd before Jones revealed his decision.
As a junior, Jones had 81 catches for 979 yards and 12 touchdowns. Jones will not be able to sign with Stanford until National Signing Day next February.