GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Most high school football players would jump at the opportunity to attend IMG Academy, a private boarding school and training facility in Bradenton, Fla.
However, that moment was bittersweet earlier this year for 4-star linebacker Jaleel McRae. He transferred to IMG Academy on Jan. 7, but his mother, Regina Chatman, recently had eye surgery and it’s been a difficult recovery process.
“My mom and dad, we never really together, so I was the man of the house growing up,” McRae said. “My sister is off to college at FSU, so my mom has been at home by herself since she had surgery. The process has been really tough.
“The surgery has taken away her appetite, so she’s not really eating right now. She’s been in and out of the hospital. So when I came over to IMG, I had to ask myself, ‘Do I really need to be here?’ ”
It’s a question McRae still struggles with, but ultimately he decided to remain at IMG, which is a three-hour drive from New Smyrna Beach. McRae will return home this weekend to spend time with his mother.
“I want to take care of my mom now, but I also want to take care of her in the future,” McRae said. “This move to IMG was a business move because college football is a business and you have to treat it like that. So I thought about the long run, and if I make it to the NFL, I’ll be able to take care of my mom. When I get home Friday, I’m going to love on her as much as I can before I come back to Bradenton.”
Another reason McRae wanted to stay at IMG was to get his body in tip-top shape before college. He tore the ACL in both knees as a freshman and sophomore at New Smyrna Beach High School, but has recovered from those injuries.
After bouncing back as a sophomore and recording 72 tackles, McRae tore his right ACL in January 2017 and was full speed by July. He finished with 48 tackles last season before transferring to IMG.
“When I got hurt my freshman year, I was on the ground and I asked God, ‘Why are you doing this to me now?’ Later on in the process I thought back and told myself to never question God again. There’s a reason behind everything,” he said. “Then it happened to me again. But without that first injury, I wouldn’t have rehabbed the second one so fast.
“My knees feel perfect now. I know they’re getting stronger here. IMG is definitely getting me right. I’m putting on a lot of muscle weight and I’m getting big. It’s just crazy to think about how far I’ve come. Now I’m at one of the top high schools in the country having a great time and getting my knees strengthened by top-notch trainers. It’s a blessing.”
The 6-foot-2, 232-pound McRae is ranked the nation’s No. 7 outside linebacker and No. 113 overall prospect in the 247Sports composite. Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Texas A&M are some of the top schools for the former Gators commit, who plans to be an early enrollee.
The post Ailing mother motivates Jaleel McRae to handle ‘business’ at IMG Academy appeared first on SEC Country.
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