I met Jacoby Brissett at the Heath Evans 7-on-7 tournament last Spring. He was overshadowed by his two Dwyer teammates Nick O'Leary and Curt Maggitt at the tournament and quietly went relatively unnoticed. He refused to do interviews for the most part so he wasn't a media favorite and I heard rumblings like: "Brissett is overweight" and "Brissett would be better if he didn't play basketball."
Still, I took some time to watch him command the huddle with his Dwyer team and I was instantly impressed. Yes, he's a killer athlete with a cannon arm but there was more. When he stepped on the field, his teammates listened. He was quiet but commanded a rare respect. He joked with his teammates but told them to get serious when it was time to play. And it was obvious he genuinely cared about everyone around him. But mostly, he wanted to win.
Ranked a 3-star prospect and not too well known, Brissett went about his business while watching O'Leary and Maggitt get most of the attention. Brissett waited in the wings knowing it would soon be his time to shine.
"I wasn't worried about all that. I just wanted to play and win and I figure I'd show people what I could do later if they wanted to find out."
Still, he was getting a lot of attention from FSU, South Carolina, Wisconsin and other Division I-A programs. Every school seriously considering Brissett was looking at him as a two sport athlete. Brissett knew criticism was rampant about his decision to keep playing basketball. But, here's why he loves the hardwood.
"Basketball doesn't come easy to me. It's always been harder than football so I like it. I always loved basketball. My mom wanted me to play football though. So, when I went to Dwyer, she took me out to the football field and told coach (Jack) Daniels not to let me leave. I wanted to go back inside to the air conditioning but she told coach I had to stay out there and play. Then we made a deal. If I got a basketball offer before I got a football offer, I could quit football. I thought no way would I get a football offer first and then Boston College offered me to play football. But by then I loved football so it was ok."
After Boston College, many more offers came. Brissett actually showed some early interest in Florida and now laughs as things come full circle.
"I was ready to commit to Florida a while ago when coach Loeffler was recruiting me. Then, they offered the gray shirt and I thought I'd better think a little bit because I had so many other schools that were ready for me to come in with a full offer and everything. I always liked Florida though and I was happy when Matt (Elam) went there."
At the start of his senior year at Dwyer, Brissett had goals of leading his team to the state championships (they ended up falling short-- something he says he will never forgive himself for even though he was the main reason they stayed in the game against Armwood that they ended up losing). Recruiting was all sort of annoying to the quarterback.
"I just don't like a lot of attention," Brissett said. "I just want to focus on playing and getting my stuff done. My high school is very important to me and I want to make sure I do everything I can for my teammates there."
Brissett, Maggitt and O'Leary took some visits together in the fall of their senior year. They visited Wisconsin and FSU together and began considering a number of different schools. Brissett always came back with a whole list of "funny stories" from his visits and took time to notice an amazing amount of detail at every school. He knew he would wait until at least national signing day to make a decision so he wasn't too worried about deciding anything at that point.
January rolled around and everything changed after Brissett's stellar performance at the Army All-American practices and game. Analysts from around the country had him picked as the best quarterback at the Army game and he became a pleasant surprise as one of the most underrated prospects in 2011. Brissett hated the attention and said this when I asked him about comparing himself to the other quarterbacks:
"I think I'm cuter than all them....no but actually I think it's just great that all of us are here and all of us get to go to college. I know my size helps when I compare myself to those guys though and I think I have the strongest arm here."
Brissett wasn't the only one that noticed his size and arm compared to other signal callers in 2011. After his performance at the Army game, Coach Doug Nussmeyer from Washington immediately got in contact with Brissett and began selling the great quarterback history coming from coach Sark and UW. Washington was coming in late to the Brissett party but he was all ears. He liked what the Dawgs had to say.
"Coach Nuss is great. That guy is awesome. If he was at a school closer to me, I would go there in a second. I would also go to any school where the Wisconsin coaches were. All these coaches have been so great to me. That's why it's so tough to make a decision. I don't want to let anyone down."
That was a common theme: Brissett never wanted to let anyone down whether it was his family, his friends, his coaches, or his teammates. I'm still pretty sure his decision to go to college at Florida is the first decision he's ever made completely for himself.
After visiting Washington and taking a quick trip up to Florida to see a basketball game in addition to welcoming numerous coaches into his school and his home, Brissett still had no idea where he wanted to go. He was constantly torn but kept going back to Florida. Charlie Weis came into the Brissett party even later than the Washington coaching staff. Still, the impression he made on Brissett was undeniable and hard to ignore.
"Coach Weis...that's my guy. He tells me I was the only guy he recruited and I know he's going to be in Gainesville for a while. I really like him and he's so funny. I just wanted to know that Florida would give me a fair chance to compete for a job. I know it's on me if I don't get it but I just want to know I get the chance. Coach Weis and coach Muschamp are really good and I think they'll give me that chance."
Fast forward about a week and enter Miami into the equation. "The U"-- Brissett's mom's dream school. The place she wants him to be. It's the woman who he says has "done everything for me" and he feels he has to do what she wants him to and can't bear to let her down. Coach Golden and company came to his school and Brissett liked what they had to say. He went on a Miami visit and enjoyed himself. It looked like Miami was in the lead. Then, Brissett began hearing about possible transfers of Rutgers QB Savage and started to think a little bit...
Now it's national signing day and Brissett is sitting next to Maggitt and O'Leary while they sign their letters of intent. It becomes clear the the "3 Muskateers" won't be attending the same school and all three will, in fact, go to different schools. Brissett feels "weird" that he isn't signing with the rest of the high school football world but says he still just isn't ready.
"Believe me, I wish I knew where I was going. I really wish I did," he said on the afternoon of February 2.
At this time, Brissett still planned to announce on Friday at his basketball game. But, he was still very torn.
Thursday morning on his way to school Brissett said he was almost in tears and still didn't think he was ready to go public with a decision. He was terribly worried about disappointing people and was still searching for some sort of decision that wouldn't upset his mom, would be the right decision for him and would make everyone happy.
After a long conversation with his high school coaches and after weighing the pros and cons of every option, he finally came to a decision. This decision certainly carries some weight and won't make everyone happy but Brissett says it's his own and he's sticking to it. He says he's proud of it and ready to play.
"I'm going to Florida. I'm happy with my decision. I'm good with it. I'm so excited to play."
Brissett will announce his choice doing what he loves on the basketball court where his athletic career started.
He will be surrounded by his basketball team and best friends Curt Maggitt and Nick O'Leary.
He will say some thank yous publicly, but many will be said in private.
I'm willing to bet the first one goes to his beloved mom who forced him to stay out on that football field because she knew he was a quarterback in the making.
Jacoby Brissett is a Gator
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