The Florida Gators continued their recruiting roll on Wednesday night, landing Pensacola wide receiver Jacob Copeland — just spots removed from being a top-50 prospect in the 2018 class — to push their tally of commits in the last two weeks to 12.
Copeland is an excellent player, the sort of wide receiver whose unremarkable size — 6’1” or so, and around 180 pounds — belies speed, agility, and savvy on the field, as witnessed in a highlight reel dotted with big plays on which Copeland gets open repeatedly and beats everyone on the field to spots.
But today, I don’t care so much about his play as the way he made his commitment to Florida — one I was told was given to coaches over Florida’s Friday Night Lights weekend — publicly known, in a video first published by SEC Country, written and co-directed by the site’s Zach Abolverdi, and produced by Giant Productions.
It’s far cry from the glitzy productions that have come into vogue as commitment videos, thanks largely to Bleacher Report aiding prospects with commitment videos that have ranged from amusing parody to simple stunting. Copeland goes to a barber shop — it’s The Corner Barbershop in Pensacola’s Cordova Mall — to get lined up by a barber with Alabama apparel on, fields texts and tweets from fans of finalists Alabama, Florida, and Florida State, and visits a childhood home with windows pockmarked by bullet holes, before finally making the call for Florida by Gator Chomping atop an ATV and standing with his family on the front porch of that childhood home.
It is the rare commitment video that shows one of the facts of college football and the recruiting of players to play it — that Copeland, like so, so many college football players, comes from a place that has been dangerous, and from poverty — rather than hand-waving about it, or focusing only on the path forward. It is grounded in Copeland’s roots, in a brother — seemingly — saying frankly that people said Copeland was “sorry” early on in his career, and making a succinct case for getting out of the hood...
“Look at these bullet holes, man. All we went through. Gotta get it. Ain’t no need to keep fakin’.”
...with ten toes down in it, and rain splattering on the roof.
And while it’s heartening that Copeland appears to have put friends, family, and Pensacola in his commitment, it’s also heartening that he may well have put them on by releasing this video — which is as professional and slick as anything I’ve seen from Bleacher Report, and done by a guy with 828 Twitter followers — and showcasing their work, whether behind the lens, with clippers, or on the songs by Major850 that soundtrack the video.
Many moons ago, a future Gator from Pensacola, and from Copeland’s high school of Escambia, made Gator Nation quite happy with the rare commitment that made headlines at a time when recruiting happened largely without notice.
Jacob Copeland is not Emmitt Smith, of course, and he is forging his own path out of the same city and school. But given the care and circumspection in his commitment video, I’ll be rooting for him to have that sort of success.