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Top JUCO recruit Hooks signs with Ole Miss football

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Meadowcreek graduate Lavon Hooks who currently plays defensive line for Northeast Mississippi Community College trains for the upcoming season with technique coach David Irons Sr. at Sweet Water Park in Lawrenceville on June 14.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Meadowcreek graduate Lavon Hooks who currently plays defensive line for Northeast Mississippi Community College trains for the upcoming season with technique coach David Irons Sr. at Sweet Water Park in Lawrenceville on June 14.

A hectic couple of days for Lavon Hooks is finally over.

The former Meadowcreek and Brookwood standout, a standout defensive tackle at Northeast Mississippi Community College, officially signed with the Ole Miss football program Thursday morning after a crazy conclusion to his recruitment.

"It was a lot of stress, a whole bunch," Hooks said. "I wanted to go somewhere I knew I could make an immediate impact and play on a big stage, and go some place that would make me happy and make my family happy."

Hooks, a four-star recruit ranked No. 15 nationally on ESPN's top 100 JUCO recruits, toiled over his decision in recent days. He initially scheduled an announcement Wednesday morning, then postponed it to Wednesday afternoon. He decided late Wednesday to sign with Ole Miss, then made it public and sent in the papers Thursday.

Hooks took official visits to Washington, Baylor, Arizona State, Ole Miss and Nebraska, but dropped Baylor and Arizona State from his list of five finalists and replaced them with Auburn and Mississippi State, two places he visited unofficially.

Ole Miss, Auburn and Mississippi State were his final three choices, and he tried to sign with Auburn, but an issue with an English class couldn't be worked out.

"There was a class the institution didn't accept, so I couldn't get admitted to Auburn," said Hooks, who added the class in question wasn't one he took at Northeast Mississippi. "The SEC accepted it, but the institution didn't. Ole Miss and Mississippi State accepted it."

The 6-foot-4, 295-pounder was named the most valuable defensive lineman in the Mississippi Association of Community/Junior Colleges this past season, when he made 51 tackles with a region-best 9.5 sacks. He also ranked second nationally with 20.5 tackles for losses.

Hooks was a two-sport standout at Meadowcreek and Brookwood, when he was closer to 240 to 250 pounds, and signed with Marion Military Institute (Ala.) for basketball out of high school. He decided after a semester there to give football another try and a chance meeting with local athletic trainer David Irons, whose sons David and Kenny played at Auburn, only fueled that desire.

"I've seen a whole bunch of football and he reminds me of Leon Lett," Irons said. "Leon Lett was a basketball player first and then he became a superstar with the Cowboys. He just had that natural athletic ability … Lavon never missed a workout all summer when he was with us. The next thing you know, we had ourselves a monster. The kid has a tremendous upside."

Hooks gives a huge recruiting boost to an improving Ole Miss program, which also hopes to land another defensive lineman from Gwinnett County — Grayson senior and the nation's top recruit, Robert Nkemdiche. Nkemdiche's older brother Denzel, a second-team All-SEC selection this season as a freshman, is a starting linebacker at Ole Miss.

Hooks said he also knows current Ole Miss defensive lineman Cameron Whigham, a Shiloh grad who he used to play against in high school.

"(Ole Miss) is on the rise," Hooks said. "They've got great coaches and players that want to win."