It was almost as if he was destined to be in Connecticut. Upon trying to leave and head back to Orlando following an official recruiting visit to UConn, Reggie Jean’s flight was canceled due to weather.
UConn fans can rest easy, however. Jean intends on traveling to the Bradley International Airport in Hartford numerous times in his future after committing to the Huskies on Friday morning.
It wasn’t his main incentive, but it also didn’t hurt that Jean, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive tackle, had a Winter Garden Foundation Academy teammate already committed to UConn.
Once on the Storrs, Conn., campus, Jean fell in love with the school and eventually followed fellow defensive lineman Donovan Branch by committing to the UConn program.
“On the visit I’ve just been overwhelmed from that start because it really felt like home to me,” Jean said. “Donovan committing, that’s a huge plus, too, because I’ve known him since sixth grade.”
UConn head coach Randy Edsall made a huge impression on both Branch and Jean, and that ultimately led to swaying the two players’ decisions.
“I just got done talking to coach Edsall. He was pumped up,” Jean said. “I’m just glad [recruiting] is over and now I can finish up me senior year.
“It’s been kinda tough, as far as talking to all the colleges ... it was so much pressure on me and so now I’m done with it and I’m really glad it’s over.”
Jean, who averaged seven tackles a game last season and had eight sacks and 20 tackles for loss, traveled to Storrs with his parents Eric and Marie Jean, thinking he would probably commit during his visit.
“I was thinking I’d commit because I did my research and all that and I’d been thinking about committing, so when I got here it just sealed the deal,” Jean said. “My parents, they were wanting me to commit and they kept asking me during the visit, ‘Are you going to commit? Are you going to commit?’
“They’re really excited. They’re really pumped up.”
Jean, Branch, fellow senior Bryan Thomas and junior Edward Byrd are proud of what they have established at Foundation, helping build the Orange County private school into an annual state contender.
“I love it,” Jean said of Foundation. “No one really talks about Foundation Academy, but from my experience we have a bunch of good players doing well at colleges and it opens it up for everyone else who is looking to come to Foundation.”
Joining Branch at UConn will make things even more special for Jean.
“It feels great. I’ve known him for a long time. ... In college we’ll have the opportunity to stay in the same dorm and stuff like that,” Jean said. “It just feels nice knowing that someone is going to the same college as you.”
The last piece of the senior-laden defensive line, Thomas continues to go through the recruiting process and has offers from Power 5 schools such as Virginia Tech, NC State, Pittsburgh, Maryland and West Virginia.
All three players were recently selected Top 5 at the UCF Big Man Camp and they also qualified for the state weightlifting finals in the spring.
Jean and Branch would love to make it a Foundation trio at UConn.
“That’s the plan,” Jean laughed. “But Bryan is still looking at other schools right now. I understand if he doesn’t come here, but it would be nice if all three of us went to the same college.”
The Foundation program, led by former head coach Brad Lord, who is now the school’s football operations and athletic collegiate placement director, has become an annual recruiting stop for college coaches.
“Coach Lord really put me out there in front of colleges and he did all the stuff in the background, like talking to colleges about me, giving them my transcripts, showing them my film,” Jean said. “He played a really huge role in getting me this opportunity.”