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story.lead_photo.caption Pulaski Academy senior offensive lineman Luke Jones (right) greets junior tight end Hudson Henry after signing with Notre Dame on Wednesday. Jones originally committed to Arkansas before flipping to Notre Dame in December. - Photo by Thomas Metthe

Luke Jones had a look of relief Wednesday.

Less than two months after flipping his commitment from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville to Notre Dame, the offensive lineman was joined by five of his Pulaski Academy football teammates in a national signing day ceremony at Alex Hugg Gymnasium in Little Rock.

Jones, 6-5, 289 pounds, was one of six players to sign with the Irish on Wednesday, choosing the FBS independent school over Oregon, Arizona State, Missouri, Virginia, Iowa State, Tulane and others. Notre Dame signed 21 players in the early signing period in December.

Of the six football players at the ceremony Wednesday, Jones was the one who was most enthusiastic to sign, considering his recruiting situation over the past couple of months.

"To get it all over with," Jones said, "it's the best day."

Quarterback Layne Hatcher signed with Arkansas State University; center Allen Amuimuia signed a certificate of intent with Air Force; and defensive lineman Isiah Woods pledged to the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Linebacker Brooks Walton will walk on at Virginia, while wide receiver Tra Johnson will play at Columbia -- a member of the Ivy League, which does not offer athletic scholarships.

The Bruins left tackle originally committed to the Razorbacks in July, but when coach Bret Bielema was fired Nov. 24, Jones was left in limbo.

New Arkansas Coach Chad Morris, who was hired Dec. 6, made an official visit with Jones in Little Rock in December, but it wasn't enough to sway Jones back to the Razorbacks.

"It was tough," Jones said. "It wasn't the same staff."

Pulaski Academy Coach Kevin Kelley was quick to not criticize Arkansas. He said Jones loved Notre Dame, like he had loved Arkansas during the recruiting process.

"All of the other colleges were like a shark with an injured fish swimming around. They smelled the blood in the water," Kelley said. "They come attack. If they're a good school, have a good coach and do a good job recruiting, they got a chance.

"It's no fault of anybody's. Notre Dame came in strong. They wouldn't have had the opportunity, but that's the way it worked out."

Jones said the football program and the school's academic reputation sold him on Notre Dame.

"If you go up there, there's a whole different vibe," he said.

Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly said on Twitter on Wednesday that his team was getting a proven winner in Jones, who started for Pulaski Academy's Class 5A state championship teams in 2015-2017.

"Look out for this guy to follow in the footsteps of some of our Irish greats," Kelly tweeted.

Photo by Thomas Metthe
Pulaski Academy offensive lineman Luke Jones signed a national letter of intent to play at Notre Dame during a signing ceremony Wednesday at Pulaski Academy.

Sports on 02/08/2018

Print Headline: Jones exhales, signs with Fighting Irish

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