SEALY, Texas -- Ricky Seals-Jones never thought the last time he'd walk off the gridiron as a high school football player would be this soon.
Seals-Jones and his Sealy (Texas) High School teammates had high hopes for the 2012 season, visions of a state championship for a program known for them, having won four before.
Injuries marred Seals-Jones' and the Tigers' season and things didn't go as they planned, as the Tigers missed the postseason after dropping their regular season finale to rival Bellville (Texas) High School on Nov. 9. But on Monday morning he got quite the pick-me-up, as he was given his U.S. Army All-American Bowl jersey during a ceremony at his high school.
"It's amazing," Seals-Jones said Monday. "It feels great. Hard work and dedication does really pay off. To be awarded or honored to play in this game -- it's a huge game -- it's just great. Not too many people get the chance to have this."
Since his season ended Seals-Jones -- the No. 1 athlete in the country -- took a break and focused on getting healthy. While he fully recovered from the dislocated kneecap he suffered on Sept. 6, he then suffered a sprained ankle in his first game back on Oct. 26 and wasn't 100 percent through Sealy's final two games.
"It was pretty painful but I had to do it, grind out, grind time," Seals-Jones said. "We had to make the playoffs. That's part of the game. You have to go through that pain...I just tried to play through it and help my team win."
Doctors told him to stay off of the ankle for more than a week, and he has. He said he'll return his second sport, basketball, when he begins practicing again on Wednesday. He's also turning his attention back to recruiting, with a trip to College Station, Texas, planned to see Texas A&M take on Missouri on Saturday at Kyle Field.
"Saturday I'm going to go to A&M and Missouri," Seals-Jones said. "My mom wants to go back there. I guess she likes it there. So we'll go there and see what goes down there."
Seals-Jones visited on Oct. 20 for the Aggies' game against LSU and then followed that with a Nov. 3 trip to Baton Rouge, La., for LSU's showdown against Alabama. LSU and Texas A&M are Seals-Jones' final two schools and after an enjoyable visit to Aggieland in October, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound ESPN 150 athlete enjoyed his trip to see the Tigers.
"Baton Rouge was something else," he said. "Death Valley was something else. The fans are crazy. It was fun. My parents had fun and it was just great being there."
Seals-Jones said he talked to special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey, who has been recruiting Seals-Jones for LSU, when he was in Baton Rouge. He didn't get a chance to talk to head coach Les Miles that day but did talk to Miles over the phone the week following the trip.
"We talked a little bit and he wants me to get back up there and check out another game and talk to my mom and my dad and just go from there," Seals-Jones said.
In recent weeks, Seals-Jones has worn maroon Texas A&M gloves for Sealy's final two home games. He said that fans shouldn't read into it and he said the same on Monday when he wore an LSU-like purple shirt and a purple-striped tie for his Army All-American ceremony.
"That was the only good dress shirt I had that was ironed and everything," Seals-Jones said. "I just threw this on. My dad had this tie and it's the only tie that went with it."
Both trips to LSU and Texas A&M recently were unofficial visits and Seals-Jones' trip back to Kyle Field on Saturday will also be an unofficial. He said Monday that he plans to take official visits to both schools after the season is complete.
"That's what both coaches want," Seals-Jones said. "They said that's the best, when they can show me everything and bring out the red carpet and everything. So I'll probably wait until their season is over with and go see how it is."
Will a decision come after those officials? Seals-Jones is mum on his timetable for a decision.
"I don't know, I've got to keep y'all on your toes, man," he said with a laugh. "I don't really know yet. I'm going to keep y'all guessing."
So while Seals-Jones contemplates his future, he did shed light on what factors will be important to him in his decision.
"Academics, the school environment," he said. "When you're there, you've got to feel like 'I like this place, I love this place, I want to be here 24-7.' You've got to have that feeling. Have fun meeting all the teammates and just having fun with them. You've got to be there [at least] three years, right? So you've got to have fun while you're there and get your grades. Mom is always on top of the grades so you've got to get those."
While the football season hasn't turned out like Seals-Jones would have preferred, he feels he learned something from it all.
"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "You can't mope about it or be down about it. You just have to keep moving forward. Like coach always says, 'The sun comes up and goes down every day.' So you've just got to go with it...You just have to move on."