HOUSTON, Miss. -- Recruiting in the Southeastern Conference already had plenty of stories. Chris Jones might have raised the bar.
The 5-star defensive end from Houston (Miss.) High School chose Mississippi State over Ole Miss on Wednesday morning on National Signing Day.
It wasn't as easy as picking up a hat though, and the regular SEC suspects aren't involved. Trade Alabama and LSU for Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Ole Miss came into the picture heavily two weeks before signing day after Jones (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) made two late-night secretive visits to Oxford that stirred Rebel fans.
The twists and turns continued all the way into signing day as Jones said he didn't make a final decision until 6 a.m., three hours before hisnews conference.
"To tell you the truth I considered flipping. I was 80 percent on flipping until this morning I talked to both coaches," Jones said. "I felt like Mississippi State was the best fit for me."
His mom commented to reporters minutes before Jones said that, that her son was "not too close" to signing with Ole Miss.
No surprise. The last two weeks of his recruitment were full of conflicting reports.
It got more interesting and more intense as signing day neared. His recruiting trail took several strange turns in the past two weeks.Jones took two trips to Ole Miss, one an official visit two weeks ago, the other an unofficial visit last weekend.
Both were mystery visits. Jones told some reporters before the official visit to Oxford that he would actually be in Starkville on Mississippi State's campus that Saturday.
Instead, he arrived after midnight in Oxford on the Rebels' biggest recruiting weekend. He joined the nation's top recruit, Robert Nkemdiche, as well as the nation's top wide receiver, Laquon Treadwell and No. 2 safety prospect Antonio Conner and spent the weekend at Ole Miss.
All three other guys signed with Ole Miss, giving the Rebels a surprising Top 10 recruiting class.
A Twitter feud between the rival schools exploded after the visit leaked, Mississippi State fans refusing to believe he was in Oxford.
That was until Treadwell tweeted a photo of the four players in Ole Miss suits and helmets in the Rebels' indoor practice facility.
A sleepy-eyed Jones said Wednesday morning he got two hours of sleep and prayed and thought about his decision Tuesday night.
"I just felt like Mississippi State was the better program for me," Jones said. "Even though Ole Miss does have a wonderful program and I love Coach (Hugh) Freeze to this day."
The next weekend, Jones followed his Friday night high school basketball game with another secret trip to Ole Miss.
The turns continued Saturday morning. Jones reportedly met Ole Miss personnel before he went back to Houston, some 60 miles from Oxford, to meet with Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, assistant coaches and Jones' family and friends for lunch at a local church.
Jones told media he had not been in Oxford.
"I tried to handle it in the most appropriate way, but it kind of got out of control," Jones said. "I'm glad it's finally over with."
After lunch, Jones and a friend were seen in Starkville at Mississippi State's basketball game against LSU. After telling the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion Ledger he was returning to Houston after the game, Jones was again spotted in Oxford, confirmed by ESPN.
Jones again told the Clarion Ledger he was not in Oxford, though photos of him surfaced from the Sigma Nu fraternity house on Ole Miss' campus.
During the confusion, a photo leaked of Jones' mother meeting with Freeze. On Sunday, both Jones' parents were back in Starkville by the afternoon, reportedly meeting with coaches.
Jones told ESPN late Sunday night that he had received death threats from both fan bases, a possible reason for his secretive travels.
"I have no regrets. If I could do it all over, I would," Jones said.
Jones committed to Mississippi State last June as an unknown commodity with good size. He quickly went from unknown to the No. 2-ranked player in the nation by one recruiting service.
He averaged 11 tackles per game his senior season and led his high school team to its first-ever playoff win. His stock shot sky high after big performances in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic and Under Armour All-America Game.
For the Mississippi team in Montgomery, Jones earned team MVP honors with eight tackles, a sack and three tackles for loss.
In St. Petersburg for Under Armour, he had three tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss, along with a pair of forced fumbles. He nearly blocked two punts in the game.
The offers started pouring in, Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss among them. Jones said he met with both Alabama and Auburn at his home.Florida planned a visit but he turned away the Gators because he knew he wasn't going that far from home.
"I think it is a lot of drama, I think the media created a lot of drama with Chris," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. "And he learns, as you do with young kids their first time dealing with all this stuff. But like I said, all along he said hey Coach, I'm coming to be a Bulldog. And I trusted him from day one and he never wavered on that with me."