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Although COVID-19 has halted spring practices across the country, 2021 linebacker Jaydon Hood is ready for the 2020 high school football season. After a strong junior season with Cardinal Newman in West Palm Beach that included seven sacks and 25 tackles for loss, Hood has transferred to South Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas for his final season.

Ranked as a consensus 4-star linebacker by 247Sports, Rivals, and ESPN, Hood has drawn interest from multiple schools. To this date, Hood has accumulated over 30 offers, including from LSU, Michigan, and Miami. For Hood, the process has not changed much, even with the current situation.

Adapting

“It’s been the same for me,” Hood said. “Coaches hit me up every day. I get text messages and calls every day, lot of meetings, lot of virtual tours. Interviews and Rivals and 247[Sports], they hit me up. It’s about the same every day.”

As Hood explains though, the situation has given Hood a clearer image of teams that are truly interested in him.

“Right now, if a school isn’t looking at you, that just means you weren’t on their board or you weren’t high on their board,” Hood explained. “So right now, you kind of know, by this time or not, even if you can’t see the schools, you kind of know what schools want you or don’t.”

Among the changes in recruiting with the coronavirus is the change from in-person visits to virtual visits. The virtual visits have allowed Hood an opportunity to see schools, even if it’s been a different experience for Hood.

“It’s completely different, especially since I’ve never visited a school outside of Florida,” Hood said. “Obviously, the facilities outside of Florida are completely different than inside Florida. It definitely changes everything. Seeing it on video makes you want to see it in person but you can’t really. It’s definitely hard, it’s challenging, it’s different. It definitely, in a way, gives you an insight on how things are up north.”

Florida Schools Recruiting Hood

Among the many offers for Hood are in-state programs that are recruiting him hard.

One of these schools is Miami, which sits just about 33 miles south from St. Thomas Aquinas. Miami is one of the few schools that Hood has visited and have continued to pursue him to this date.

“Miami is actually one of the few schools that I have seen and I loved Miami when I was there,” Hood said about the Hurricanes. “It was great talking to Coach (Manny) Diaz, Coach (Blake) Baker, the whole defensive staff. You love the history that Miami has… I definitely enjoyed that visit, enjoyed them. I like Miami a lot.”

Along with being rivals on the football field, Florida State has also pursued Hood and have offered him a scholarship. Hood grew up a Florida State fan and was excited when he received that offer.

“I grew up a Florida State fan actually,” Hood explained. “I definitely was very excited when I got the offer — truly a blessing. … Florida State has plans of their own and it’s up to God to see where I go.”

Preparation For St. Thomas Aquinas

As the coronavirus shut down high school campuses and canceled spring practices across the country, Hood was beginning his new chapter with St. Thomas Aquinas. For Hood, the cancellation of spring practice and the movement to online schooling has made it a slower process for him to develop chemistry with teammates.

“It’s definitely hard, especially since I transferred in January and the virus hit a month or two after,” Hood explained. “It’s hard but we’re building, but it’s just a slower process now.”

For the current shutdown, Hood relocated to Orlando, where he can continue to develop his game and stay in both physical and mental shape.

“On the physical side, I’m working out. I do a lot of core workouts. I do pushups and a lot of ab workouts, I do a lot of footwork drills,” said Hood. “Right now, I’m in Orlando and my uncle is the head coach of a high school, so I have access to a gym, so I’m doing that too. So, I’m staying in top physical shape right now.”


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Hood continued to touch on the mental side, where he has continued to watch film and stay in touch with the team through virtual meetings.

For Hood, the transfer has also presented a different experience when it comes to his preparation. Overall, the change in competition has allowed Hood to continue to strive to be the best player he can be.

“It’s St. Thomas [Aquinas], so the workouts are different, the mentality is different, the competition is different. That changes the way to look at things, and how they work,” Hood said. “Obviously, that pushes you to do more — to be the best every day. To beat myself, beat yesterday: That’s the goal and that’s what keeps me going.”

Although some presume St. Thomas Aquinas as a school that focuses strictly on football, Hood believes that St. Thomas Aquinas’ academics, along with football, will prepare him for college.

“Even without football, the academics at St. Thomas is top notch; it’s hard. I’m actually doing homework right now, still doing homework,” Hood said. “And then, once you add the football and that element of football, the high competition, the high workload at St. Thomas… it’s different. It definitely will prepare you for college.”