Macon County High School linebacker Roquan Smith made national headlines earlier this month when he refused to sign a national letter of intent (NLI) with UCLA after he learned Bruins defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich lied to him about taking a job in the NFL.
It sparked a debate about the fairness of the NLI and whether players should actually sign them.
Smith, instead, signed scholarship and grant-in-aid papers with Georgia last Friday.
Macon County coach Larry Harold said one Georgia coach agreed with Smith’s decision to forgo the NLI.
“The UGA coaches were fine with Roquan not signing an NLI — actually one of the coaches said that if their son is good enough, they’re not going to let him sign an NLI either,” Harold told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“I’m not going to say which UGA coach it was. You’re going to have to ask them. He was like ‘Coach, if my son is good enough and is in the same position as Roquan, I’m not going to let him sign an NLI. I understand exactly why you’re doing this.’ They get it. So I guess the buzz is going around.”
Smith is the first known high-level recruit to refuse to sign an NLI in favor of a grant-in-aid award. His actions could set off a trend of high-level recruits that more or less commit to school, but allow themselves wiggle room should circumstances change.
High school recruits are not required to sign an NLI to play college football. In fact, the NLI is more beneficial for the school than it is the player. It allows the school to lock in a player and gives the player no recourse should there be a change in his situation, a change in coaching or simply a change of heart.
Signing grant-in-aid papers means that Smith is guaranteed the same financial benefits of an NLI without the one-sided restrictions. In fact, Smith could opt to attend another school before he attends his first summer classes. But Harold said Georgia fans shouldn’t worry about that.
“He’s 100-percent Georgia Bulldog,” Harold told the AJC. “His recruiting is over. It’s finished. He’s ready to move on to the next chapter of his life. His family is ready to move on. It’s just a good day. Everything is finalized. He’s relaxed. Now he can finish out his high school days and report to UGA this summer.”
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