Crazy being Ricky Seals-Jones

Five-star WR got death threats after decommitting from Texas, but stays positive

Originally Published: July 10, 2012
By Damon Sayles | ESPN RecruitingNation

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Ricky Seals-Jones, the nation's No. 1 receiver in the 2013 class, looked like a normal kid.

Among many of the nation's top prospects participating at The Opening over the weekend, the Sealy (Texas) High School star could be seen playing video games, laughing and joking with teammates or just hanging out, relaxing and making new friends with players from outside his home state.

[+] EnlargeRicky Seals-Jones
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comRicky Seals-Jones won't let anything, including death threats, keep him from doing what he thinks is best for his future.
But Seals-Jones, all of 17 years old, was forced to deal with things most kids don't have to when he decommitted from Texas just over a month ago.

"When I decommitted, it was crazy," said Seals-Jones, who committed to the Longhorns in February. "I got death threats on Twitter. A couple cars in my neighborhood we didn't know would drive by house real slow. I live in the country, so the cars that do drive by, you know who's in them.

"I guess for some people, it's that serious. As the days and weeks went by, it started to die off, but for a few days, it was real hectic."

Seals-Jones, No. 7 in the ESPN 150, chose to reopen the recruiting process in an effort to reassess all of his options and created a buzz unlike few players in his class. He and his family didn't go to the police with the threats and refused to be intimidated by the words of anonymous strangers hiding behind a Twitter avatar.

"Once he decommitted, he heard everything under the sun," said Chester Jones, Seals-Jones' father, "but he said he's not going to read all that outside stuff because he knew the truth.

"After he said that, we knew he'd be all right. We knew he'd be just fine."

It's not that complicated

Chester Jones said he and his son have heard all the rumors. They've heard the decommitment happened because Texas wouldn't allow him to play football and basketball. They've heard Seals-Jones would rather play in the SEC than the Big 12. They've even heard Seals-Jones got into it with Texas coaches, which led to the decommitment.

"He decommitted so he can go visit some other schools; that's it," Jones said. "I hear all the people saying he decommitted because he couldn't play both sports. Texas has always wanted him to play both.

"A lot of people take things out of character. It wasn't anything Texas did. He only visited one school outside Texas, and that was LSU on junior day. We even called [Texas recruiting contact] Oscar Giles and said it was nothing he did. Ricky felt a little rushed and wanted to take his time to see some more schools."

Seals-Jones When I decommitted, it was crazy. I got death threats on Twitter. ... I guess for some people, it's that serious. As the days and weeks went by, it started to die off, but for a few days, it was real hectic.

-- Ricky Seals-Jones

For Seals-Jones, the one question that always pops up is his desire to be a two-sport athlete in college. During the football season, Seals-Jones, 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, is an all-state receiver. But he's also one of the best combo forwards in Texas on the basketball court. Seals-Jones led the state of Texas in scoring and averaged 32.3 points and 15.2 rebounds per game as a junior for Sealy. His best game statistically came on Jan. 20 against Stafford (Texas), as he put up 52 points, 22 rebounds, 7 steals and 3 blocked shots.

Seals-Jones said the college that will allow him to do both will be his choice. Among the leaders outside of the Longhorns, according to Seals-Jones, are Texas A&M, LSU, Baylor and Oregon. Seals-Jones added that Texas is still the team to beat.

"It's a great program, phenomenal," Seals-Jones said. "They have a great football team and a great basketball squad. They have great coaches all around and great academics.

"The atmosphere is what I look at the most from these schools. You're going to be there three, four, five years of your life. If I'm not able to make the NFL or NBA, I can always go back and connect with someone for a job. They really help your career options. That's what I like about all those schools."

Wise beyond his years

Seals-Jones is one of those athletes who realize that if they sneeze, it will be all over the multiple social media sites. He refuses to let the rumors get the best of him. In turn, Seals-Jones continues to live his life as a happy-go-lucky rising senior.

While he said he loves to have a good time with friends, he knows he has to be very cautious with everything he does and says. Rarely do you hear him say something out of context. Hardly ever do you hear him not address an elder with "Yes, sir" or "Yes, ma'am."

"You've got to watch what you're doing and try not to hang with the bad crowd. You have to keep your nose clean," Seals-Jones said. "I'm 17, so I'm going to have a little fun, but I know I've got to watch what I'm doing, because everybody's watching. People out there are waiting for me to mess up."

It's that attitude that assists in making Seals-Jones such a wanted college prospect. What many don't know is that in addition to being a star athlete, he's also an exceptional student who balances a part-time job. Seals-Jones has a 3.9 grade-point average. Chester Jones said academics trump all, and he credits Seals-Jones' mother, Buffy, for cracking the proverbial whip.

Some people question whether Seals-Jones can physically and mentally compete in two major college sports. Chester Jones said it's challenges like those that make his son fun to watch.

"When he wasn't playing basketball or football, he ran track. He ran all the relays and also long-jumped and high-jumped for the school," Jones said. "The one thing about him, if he can't do anything 150 percent, he won't do it. That's just the kind of guy he is."

Watch Seals-Jones primarily on the football field and you quickly understand why he's wanted by colleges from coast to coast. He's a big, physical receiver who likes contact -- something that doesn't favor opposing defensive backs. During The Opening, Seals-Jones often lined up against cornerbacks seven and eight inches shorter and 50 and 60 pounds lighter.

It was a chance for Seals-Jones to show why he's the top-ranked receiver, and he delivered results on multiple occasions, whether that involved making a nice catch in the corner of the end zone or outrunning the secondary on a go route.

Sealy coach Jimmie Mitchell told HornsNation back in February that he was getting 50 calls a day about Seals-Jones. Guessing that number hasn't slowed down much now.

"Sometimes I ask him, 'Do you know how good you are?' He's so humble, but he's a real go-getter," his dad said. "He's always wanting to show people he can do more than you think."

Hall of Fame sounding board

Sealy, Texas, is a town of roughly 6,000. It's the home to Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson, a four-time NFL rushing champion and six-time Pro Bowl back who also happens to be Seals-Jones' second cousin.

Chester Jones said Dickerson serves as a mentor of sorts to Seals-Jones. Dickerson and Seals-Jones talk as much as twice a week, as Dickerson offers all kinds of advice to help Seals-Jones' recruiting process go as smoothly as possible.

"He always talks to Ricky about taking his time with the process," Jones said. "It's a one-time deal, so you've got to make sure when you decide about where you want to go. You want to be relaxed wherever you go, and you want to make sure that the people in place, you can relate to them."

Seals-Jones added: "I know this is only going to happen once for me, so I've got to live it up. You just have to stay focused every day and come out and compete. That's what I get most out of it."

Seals-Jones hopes he can one day have the kind of pro football résumé his cousin had. Dickerson was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1983 NFL draft. No running back in the league has rushed for more yards in a season than he did in 1984, when he recorded 2,105 yards. He played for four teams -- the Rams, Colts, Raiders and Falcons -- and his Rams No. 29 jersey has been retired.

Seals-Jones looks at Dickerson as a measuring stick -- the way some of the players at The Opening said they viewed Seals-Jones. Torii Hunter Jr. (Prosper, Texas/Prosper), who put on an outstanding performance in The Opening 7-on-7 championship game, said watching Seals-Jones over the four-day period gave him his own goals to shoot for.

"I'm looking at guys like Ricky Seals-Jones as role models," Hunter said. "You get to take bits and pieces of their game and make your game better."

Seals-Jones rarely thinks back to that stretch in June when he received the death threats. He has other things on his mind deemed more important, such as planning upcoming college visits. He said he will begin taking official visits after the AAU basketball season, which runs red-hot during the month of July.

Until then, Seals-Jones said, he will continue working hard to stay high on coaches' radars and take what he learned from The Opening and use it to his advantage. He added that the technical drills in Oregon were just as valuable as the new friendships he made with players.

"It was cool meeting everyone, because all of us know what it feels like to be on top and to have pressure on you," Seals-Jones said. "You go to your other schools, and you say you have all these offers, but a lot of people don't really know how that feels. These guys do.

"Everything's been fun. I don't even think about the death threats anymore. I've had some fun with this and now I'm going to keep working. I don't look at it as me being the best. I'm just another dude out here competing."