The story of Josh Jacobs’ recruitment has been told many times. The Alabama running back was barely on the radar of most major schools, committed to Missouri until signing day in 2016.
He picked an Alabama hat off a table at a ceremony at his high school and headed to Tuscaloosa. The Tigers lost a running back with NFL potential. The Tulsa native had another option, though.
Oklahoma was the third hat on the table at that ceremony. Sooner head coach Bob Stoops had come to his high school shortly before Alabama jumped into his recruitment.
“It was right about the same time, probably two or three days before,” he said.
Jacobs is the only Oklahoma native on the roster for Alabama. The Sooners don’t have any players from Alabama this season. The recruiting footprint of the two programs has some overlap in Texas and among some national prospects, but perhaps no player on either team has a connection to the opponent like Jacobs does.
“It’s a game you always dream of,” Jacobs said. “If (you’re) not going there, playing against your hometown. I’m going to treat it like every other game. Hopefully we come out here with a victory.”
The matchup comes with his career cresting. He’s rushed for 495 yards and a career-high 11 touchdowns as a junior, adding two more touchdowns as a receiver and one as a kick returner. He leads the team in touchdowns.
He was named MVP of Alabama’s SEC championship game win against Georgia with eight carries for 83 yards and two touchdowns. He pulled through even though he was ill the day before with flu-like symptoms. On the day of the game, he still wasn’t feeling 100 percent.
“I was more, at that stage, just like drained and tired,” he said. “My nose was stuffed and everything was running but I was more fatigued than anything. I was just trying to make sure I kept fluids in me.”
His strong season in a busy Alabama backfield has helped him stand out to NFL scouts. He said he hasn’t thought about the decision he’ll have to make about whether to skip his senior season at the end of the 2018 campaign. It’s become something he and his family have heard about, though.
“Most of the people that talk to my pops, they get mad because he always tells them he’s not going to have nothing to do with the decision,” he said. “It’s my decision. So, they’re not going to get nothing out of me.”
He heard pressure from others during his recruitment, too. Some of them expected him to go to Oklahoma.
The Sooners have never been completely in his rearview mirror, though now they’re directly ahead. Many of his family members remained Oklahoma fans. But they also want the best for Jacobs.
“So, if we go against (Oklahoma) — which we are — they will be rooting for me,” he said.
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.