For the past month, it's been like Fork Union Military Academy (Va.) three-star offensive lineman Jonathan McLaughlin has been carrying a battleship on his shoulders.
Finally, that weight has been lifted.
McLaughlin committed to Virginia Tech Dec. 20, but has been awaiting clearance to attend the university from the NCAA Clearinghouse. Today, he received word that he's been cleared and called HokieHaven.com right after to share the news.
"I'm just ready to go," McLaughlin said. "I've been through a lot with Fork Union, going to Fork Union, but everything worked out for the good and I thank God for everything. I'm just ready to start working out with the team and see if I can get to start. If not, I'll just continue to learn, continue to get better. I'm just ready to play football and get in college…finally."
McLaughlin, originally from Danville (Va.), moved to Mauldin, S.C. at the age of 8. He signed with East Carolina in February, but didn't qualify academically and enrolled at Fork Union. He wowed Hokies coaches when he unofficially visited Virginia Tech for the Duke homecoming game. Assistant coach Shane Beamer offered soon after.
It's been a long, drawn-out, but ultimately a learning experience for McLaughlin, Rivals.com's No. 14 ranked 2013 prep school player.
"I think I've learned to start early, start getting my grades up early," he said. "The whole thing with student-athlete is student first and athlete second. It's just getting ready and preparing myself for life, making sure I've got everything in place. I've gotta make some goals academic-wise because I messed around a lot in high school and now I've got another chance to prove to myself that I can do it, without dropping out of college or something like that. Studying every night and doing what I can do is basically what I learned from this experience."
McLaughlin said he will arrive at Virginia Tech Friday and sign the necessary paperwork to enroll for the spring semester, which begins Jan. 22. But he's not sure what coaches he'll be playing for and hasn't been told of any changes. HokieHaven.com reported last night that former Auburn coaches Scot Loeffler and Jeff Grimes have accepted positions with the Hokies as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.
"My approach is to stay hungry and work out really hard," McLaughlin said. "I haven't been with a real college team but I've been working out at Fork Union and I've just gotta keep working. I've gotta do my part. I know coach Frank Beamer knows what he's doing, so whoever he decides on coaches, I'm not gonna have a choice, but it is what it is. It's a business. I do like Coach Newsome a lot, so if he stays, that's gonna be wonderful, a great chance for me to learn. If he doesn't, I wish the best for him."
Though McLaughlin hopes to start next fall, he still has work to do.
"This spring, I want to get in the best shape of my life," McLaughlin said. "Way before spring practice, I'm gonna work really hard, reach to be one of the strongest linemen we have and work academically, also. It's just getting everybody right and ready to work."
But at least he can finally continue his career.
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