Former Lake Highland Prep star Hayden Jones was happy about the news he received on Friday from the admissions office at UCF.
“I actually got accepted today so it’s a pretty exciting day for me,” said Jones, who is now officially transferred from Lehigh University, where he spent his freshman year on the football team.
New financial aid packages at the Patriot League school, however, did not meet expectations for what the Jones family had anticipated, so Hayden, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound slot receiver, was looking to transfer for his remaining three years of college eligibility.
“During spring practice me and my family went over and visited UCF and I talked to one of recruiting coordinators, and after practice we talked to Coach [George] O’Leary about it,” Jones said, “and I told him I was looking for a university and to play closer to home and he said, ‘Do anything you can to get him in.’
“So I applied and got in today. I’m really excited and can’t wait. I start summer classes the 31st of June and will start working out with team. I’m looking forward to getting to know some of the players.”
His first year will be as a preferred walk-on at UCF, and he’ll be required by NCAA regulations to sit out a year. He can begin play as a redshirt-sophomore in 2014.
“Lehigh was an awesome school but I didn’t really like the north that much … I prefer the hotter weather,” he said. “I like UCF. It’s a great school and I get to play for the hometown team, which I always wanted to do growing up.”
UCF never offered Jones out of high school, but he said the coaching staff did keep in touch with the speedy slot receiver. He’s been clocked a 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash and was instrumental in the speed events while on the Lake Highland track team.
As a senior in football at LHP in 2011, Jones had 46 catches for 641 yards and six touchdowns.
“[UCF] coaches came to my spring practice my senior year and called me every once in a while,” Jones said. “We kept in contact. I had a preferred walk-on back then, but they ended up not offering.”
Now he’s back home and his parents couldn’t be happier.
“You have no idea. I came back from Lehigh and my mom had stuff all over the house saying, ‘Welcome back,’” he said. “It was nice and my parents, of course, love it. It’s so close to home.”
Jones never saw the field during his freshman season at Lehigh, but said he had high hopes for a lot of playing time in the fall, until he decided to transfer.
“I was sick a lot or I probably would have gotten to play. I got the flu twice in the fall and I missed probably about a month and a half of practice,” he said. “Since I figured out that I would be transferring I’ve been working hard just trying to get bigger and faster.”
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun