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Michael CarvellMichael Carvell

Jonathan Ledbetter’s mom on flip to UGA: ‘Family is very important’

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Jonathan Ledbetter (right) at UGA's Dawg Night. He flipped from Alabama to UGA on Saturday (AJC/Michael Carvell)

Jonathan Ledbetter (center) at UGA’s Dawg Night. He flipped from Alabama to UGA on Saturday (AJC/Michael Carvell)

Jonathan Ledbetter’s mother told the AJC that star defensive lineman flipped his commitment from Alabama to UGA because “family is very important to him.”

Ledbetter’s older brother, Joseph Ledbetter, recently joined UGA football team on scholarship as a tight end after playing NCAA Div. II basketball the last two seasons.

Jonathan, the 4-star recruit from Tucker High School who had been committed to Alabama since last January, switched to UGA to play with his brother – and also remain in closer proximity to other family members.

“You know, he has been visiting colleges,” Ledbetter’s mother, Teresa Belcher, told the AJC. “He went to Stanford and a couple of other schools, along with Georgia.

“You know family is very important to Jon. I guess the more he thought about it, the more he wants to be close to home. He really wants his sister and me to be at the games. He made the decision, and I support him 100 percent. I am very excited about him going to Georgia.”

How tough was it for Jonathan to make the switch? “I think Jon just built a good relationship with (assistant Lance) Thompson and Coach Saban,” Belcher said. “And he has been talking with them all along, letting them know what’s important to him. I think they know that family is important to Jon — and he’s going to do what is going to keep him close to me and his grandmother.

“His grandmother is an important part of his life. She’s 85. She won’t make it to the games, but she always looks forward to talking with him after he has a game – and making sure he has his favorite foods when he comes home. I know she’s excited, and I know he talked to her about it. I think he made the best decision for him and our family, so I’m really happy for him.

“I know Alabama is not that far away. An hour and 20 minutes (to UGA) compared to three or four hours is a big difference when he knows it’s just me traveling up and down the road. I’m happy for him.”

There have been rumors that Jonathan was in the process of de-committing from Alabama for months, even before UGA got involved with his older brother. And the Bulldogs weren’t the only new destination that Jonathan was seriously considering.

“He’s coming out of school early (and graduating from Tucker in December),” Belcher said. “I think one of the things that he thought about was that he couldn’t start at Stanford early. All of their classes start at the same time. He just said ‘It’s really too far.’ He loves California. He loved the visit. But he was really considering it. Then he just said ‘Mom, I just really want to be home.’ I think that was the crux of the matter right there (with him picking UGA).”

It’s always tough for any high-profile recruit to make a switch but Ledbetter won over some Alabama fans by going out of his way to thank the Crimson Tide’s coaching staff while tweeting out the news on Saturday night. Ledbetter’s mother said it went just fine telling Alabama about the change of plans.

“I don’t think he had a hard time telling Alabama he wasn’t coming there,” she said. “He had been communicating with Coach Thompson and Coach Saban. They’ve been really trying hard to encourage him to not make a decision to leave. But I think they knew pretty much that this was coming.”

Ironically, both Jonathan’s mother and brother had no idea that the flip was coming. Well, they knew that Jonathan was thinking about it, but they didn’t know that it would go down when it did.

“I think (my sons) are really are happy to be able to play together on the same team,” she said. “It’s something they talked about, and that they want to do. But I know Joseph hadn’t tried to influence Jonathan in any way about Georgia. He really stayed neutral and told Jonathan to make the best decision for himself. Joe was just as surprised as I was (on Saturday) when Jon made the decision.

“We didn’t know it was coming until Jon let the cat out of the bag.”

After wide receivers, defensive linemen are the top priority for UGA’s 2015 recruiting class. Earlier in the week, the Bulldogs landed 5-star defensive tackle Trent Thompson, the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect.

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Got an item? mcarvell@ajc.com

mcarvell@ajc.com

– By Michael Carvell, AJC’s Recruiting Blog

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