Multi-sport athlete Jathan Underwood was late getting into the college recruiting process, but once a football coach from Tusculum University reached out via Twitter, conversations began and the Plainview High School senior’s interest grew.
Underwood said Tusculum’s continued interest in making him a part of its football team made his interest in the university continue growing stronger.
“Tusculum is just a good spot for me,” Underwood said after signing a national letter of intent to continue his football career with the Pioneers during a ceremony at Plainview High School on Thursday afternoon. “It’s close to my brother, who lives in Lexington [Tennessee]. It’s kind of in the middle of everybody. My family is able to make trips up there, friends, coaches.”
Underwood played basketball and football at Plainview. He was a standout defender in both sports, helping the Bears’ football team make a second-round state postseason appearance in the 2020 AHSAA Class 3A state playoffs, while later helping push the boys basketball team into the Elite Eight round of the state postseason.
“(Underwood) is one of those guys who comes in early and stays late,” Plainview football head coach Nick Ledbetter said. “Even when his season was finished and he finished football and basketball, he’d still come in and work hard. He’s achieved his goals because he’s worked hard.
“He meant a great deal to us in the season we had last year. His ceiling is so high. He has a lot of ability that he was unable to achieve last year, so I’m excited to keep up with him in the future.”
Underwood said he will likely play as a linebacker with the Pioneers and said getting to share his signing day experience with family and friends meant everything.
“Having my boys here with me, along with my family, it’s pretty great because they’ve been the ones supporting me for my whole life,” he said.
Tusculum is an NCAA Division II school located in Greeneville, Tenn., and competes in the Mountain Division of the South Atlantic Conference. The football team played five games this spring, going 4-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play.
Before settling on Tusculum as his collegiate landing spot, Underwood said he considered West Alabama, Mississippi College and Valdosta State.
Underwood and his family visited Tusculum in March and the coaches talked about him playing a hybrid-linebacker position.
“I’d be able to cover but also come downfield and run,” he said. “They liked me for my athletic side, being able to do a little bit of both.”
Underwood said he has interests in biology and exercise science and plans to take a premedical professional route at Tusculum that will allow him several career options.