SARASOTA, Fla. - Booker High School’s Arthur Jeffery Jr. never saw the season-ending knee injury that he suffered in a victory over city rival Sarasota on Sept. 5 as a gloom and doom prophecy.
Jeffery’s patience and positive outlook will be rewarded on Feb. 4, 2009, when he plans to sign a national letter of intent with Tennessee. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound defensive lineman confirmed his decision on Thursday and said that he planned to make his official visit Jan. 16.
The story was first reported by sportsota.com.
“He never lost his faith,” Booker coach Fred Gilmore said. “I’m sure that he had his doubts, but he never showed it around us.”
Ranked as the 16th best defensive tackle in the country by Scout.com, Jeffery underwent surgery on Oct. 24 to repair a torn MCL and ACL in his left knee. Tennessee and the University of South Florida were the main contenders for Jeffery’s services, while schools such as Arkansas, Kentucky and Florida Atlantic continued to express serious interest after the injury.
“Tennessee can do a lot for me,” Jeffery said. “All the coaches said that it was a common injury and that I will come back stronger from it. The thing that kept my spirits up was the fact that (Tennessee and USF) were still calling and were still interested.
“With other schools, I didn’t know if they were still interested. Once everybody found out about the injury, there were a lot of people who didn’t want to hear from me.”
Jeffery reported no complications from the surgery and that his rehabilitation is “going great.”
“I’m just anxious to get back on the field,” Jeffery said.
Jeffery burst onto the scene as a freshman, earning a promotion to the varsity and establishing himself as a starter in the midst of the Tornadoes’ run to the 2005 Class 3A state championship game. He earned first team Class 3A All-State honors after recording 74 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, five blocked kicks and four forced fumbles in 2007 for the District 11 champion Tornadoes.
Gilmore, who publicly stated that the injury wouldn’t hurt Jeffery’s scholarship hopes, lauded Tennessee and USF for doing their “due diligence” during the recruiting process. Despite the injury, Jeffery wasn’t going to fret about the direction of his career.
“I try to stay positive in everything that I do,” Jeffery said. “I don’t like having negative energy around me. I’m one of the those people who look for the best in a bad situation.”
Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer and his staff made Jeffery a top priority last summer. New coach Lane Kiffin picked up where Fulmer left off.
“It’s the SEC and that’s where all the great games are played,” Jeffery said. “I want to be where the best of the best are.
“They’re looking for someone to come in and play right away. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing. I would love to make an impact on the team.”