To say this is a busy week for Byrnes HS (Duncan, SC) three-star wide receiver and South Carolina commitment Nick Jones would be an understatement. But that's okay, the talented prospect is used to it. He is also used to winning.
See, at Byrnes High School, where the football program is run much more like a small college program than your typical South Carolina high school, if you're not working hard, you're getting passed. It is there, that Jones has made his name as a pass-catching playmaker in the potent Rebel offense. And it is there that Jones is part of a Byrnes program that has won five of the last six State Championships with another possibly to come this year.
Jones's busy week started out this past Saturday when he celebrated his Birthday with friends and family. During the celebration his great-grandmother asked for his attention.
"My great-grandmother made a little speech and it really got to me," Jones said. "Basically, she just said that she really wants me to stay close to home, because all of my family has really been supporting me through all my years of playing sports, and she really wants me to stay close to home.
"It's going to mean a lot. Not only are they going to be there, but it's a lot of people from Byrnes that are going to be there, because I'm staying in-state."
Jones called his recruiter, running backs coach Jay Graham, and committed to South Carolina. Graham and defensive line coach Brad Lawing, who also recruits the school, are a big reason he chose to stay home and play for the Gamecocks.
"It's not always about football with them," Jones said about his relationship with the two coaches. "I can talk to them about any situations [whether it's] about a family crisis, or something about a girlfriend, just anything. It just really showed me they really cared, and they really wanted me to come to South Carolina."
The 5-9, 171-pound receiver also says he chose South Carolina over offers from USC, Auburn, Michigan, Northern Illinois, and Georgia Southern to play slot receiver in Steve Spurrier's offense. The abundance of taller receivers, with no real athletes like him on the USC offense made the situation appealing.
"It's going to be great," he said. "They've talked about getting the ball in my hands a lot. That means a lot to me. Anybody would love to play for Steve Spurrier in that offense."
Spurrier has talked to recruits a lot about staying home to help the home-state school win a championship, and Jones says the fact he is from South Carolina would make it that much sweeter if he were to help win one.
"It would mean a lot more," he said. "Gamecock fans are anxious to see a championship come to USC. It would mean lot to me and everybody in this state"
If that were to happen, Jones could potentially be doing it alongside two long-time friends. He will definitely be playing at the next level with Boiling Springs HS quarterback and Gamecock commitment Dylan Thompson and could end up playing with his current teammate, five-star running back Marcus Lattimore as well.
"Me and Dylan have been good buddies ever since we played little league baseball. I mean it's going to be great playing with him. We've never really got to play on the same team, we've always been against each other. Being on the same team with him finally is going to be great. And hopefully a chance to play with Marcus... I mean we've been best friends since little league football, little league baseball, we've been through it all with each other through middle school and high school, and I would just like to continue that."
What are the chances he will be able to? Jones says he doesn't plan on doing a whole lot of actual recruiting.
"I really don't have to tell him anything. I'm not going to pressure him like everybody else tries to. I mean he knows where he wants to be at; we both know that. I don't really have to tell him anything; I just have to tell him to do what's best for him."
While many will be using Thanksgiving to take a relaxing day off with their families, Jones will likely be looking ahead to Friday night. He and his teammates will face a red-hot Spartanburg team at 7:30 that night in what is the next step on the road to that sixth state championship in seven years.
"Those guys are coming in here thinking they can upset us," Jones says. "I see why they feel that way, they're playing real hot lately. But if we just come out there and play our game, we shouldn't have any problem."
If the Rebels take care of Spartanburg in Round 3, then the next step will be a trip to Williams-Brice Stadium for the Weekend of Champions as Byrnes will pull one win away from its tenth all-time state title.
"We try not to look ahead, we try to take it one game at a time, because Spartanburg is really playing some good football right now," Jones says. "So we've got to concentrate on that because we've got to take care of them before we start looking ahead. But I hope we can play in Williams Brice."
There will be a different kind of state championship going on when Jones and several of his teammates travel to Williams-Brice Saturday to take in the Clemson-Carolina rivalry game. Jones says he is expecting the unexpected.
"I'm expecting some exciting plays," he says. "I don't really know what's going to happen to tell you the truth. Anything can happen."
Being from Byrnes, which is a mere hour away from Clemson, and Jones now a Gamecock, he says he fully understands the rivalry, to the point he can barely put it into words.
"Oh, it means a lot; we have a lot of coaches that love Clemson. It just means a lot," Jones says pausing to try and put his thoughts into words, "there's nothing you can really say about it, it's Clemson-Carolina. It's just like a Byrnes and Dorman."
He may not be able to describe it, but like any true new Gamecock, Jones is predicting the upset.
"Well, Clemson is kind of the hot team right now, but in my opinion Clemson hasn't played the teams like South Carolina has like Florida, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss, those guys. I really think Carolina is going to beat them 31-14."
It would make for a perfect ending to his week. And Nick Jones isn't used to losing.