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Saraland QB K.J. Lacey is already winning at Texas

Saraland quarterback K.J. Lacey fires a pass during the 38-17 win over Mountain Brook for the Class 6A state title last December. Lacey committed to Texas on Saturday. (Call News file photo)


After committing to Texas on Saturday, Saraland quarterback K.J. Lacey showed he is intent on being a leader and winning the starting job, football games and even in the chow line.

The four-star prospect — who drew offers from most of the top programs in the country — found himself celebrating his decision at a pool party in Austin, where he and the other recruits were challenged to a wing-eating contest.

“The first one to eat seven wings won,” Lacey said. “I was the first one to eat seven. I did it quick.”

Lacey is used to achieving things rapidly. He led the Spartans to a state championship last year as a sophomore, using his nearly instantaneous release to complete 64% of his passes for 3,177 yards, 40 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions.

Earlier in the weekend, Lacey, who turned 16 in January, winnowed his choices to Auburn, Alabama, Texas, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Oregon and Oklahoma.

During a visit to Austin, he became the first commitment for coach Steve Sarkisian’s 2025 recruiting class and gave the Longhorns another highly rated quarterback along with All-American Arch Manning, who signed last December.

Lacey (6-1, 175) — who is ranked No. 47 nationally in the ESPN Junior 300 for the class of 2025 and the No. 5 quarterback by the 247Sports Composite — said he was attracted by Sarkisian’s offensive-minded reputation, which he believes will help him reach the NFL, and the way Sarkisian’s staff made him feel comfortable.

“I liked the communication,” Lacey said. “I’ve been in contact with Texas every week about two or three times a week. They reached out to me the most. And I love what they’re doing offensively with coach Sark. They told me once you leave Texas, there is no doubt the NFL scouts will find you because they run all the stuff they do in the NFL.”

Saraland coach Jeff Kelly said he wasn’t surprised by the decision, noting Longhorns quarterbacks coach A.J. Milwee developed a strong relationship with Lacey.

“I think the University of Texas and specifically coach Milwee did an amazing job of recruiting him and making him a priority,” Kelly said. “He came down and spent some time with K.J. in the spring and watched him practice. He did an outstanding job of building a relationship with him.

“Also, coach Sarkisian, with his reputation of recruiting and developing quarterbacks and putting them in a great situation to be successful, was a draw for K.J. … I’m excited for K.J. He’s a thoughtful and methodical guy and I’m proud of him.”

Lacey said his first visit to Texas in mid-April was a turning point.

“I loved everything about it,” he said. “It was one of my best visits by far.”

Lacey said his two finalists were Texas and Alabama and helping the Longhorns regain their place as a national power appealed to him.

“Rebuilding Texas is something to be a part of,” he said.

Lacey said he felt natural pressure to commit to Alabama or Auburn but his parents made it easy for him.

“The majority of my family was Alabama and Auburn,” he said. “But my parents said, ‘Whatever you want to do.’ That was the easiest part, that they’re with me.”

Lacey’s recruiting profile was elevated nationally in the aftermath of the Spartans winning the Class 6A state championship last December.

“You could see it coming when you look at his ability and what he did last year,” Kelly said at the time. “The guys who make those decisions understand his potential. … K.J. at his best has got one of the quickest releases I’ve ever seen. Between the time he makes the decision to throw the ball to it leaving his hand, it’s next-level fast.”

QB Country founder David Morris, who works with Lacey, said last December Lacey has the potential to be one of the best quarterbacks to come from the state.

“He can throw it as good as a lot of guys in college right now,” Morris said. “His arm is NFL (caliber) right now in terms of pure arm strength. He is 100 percent can’t miss. He’s as good as this state has ever seen and he’s not done developing. He’s ahead of his years from an anticipation and a pure arm standpoint. … He’s not even a once-in-a-decade player. I’ve been doing this since 2004 and, at this age, there’s never been one like him.”

Whether or not Manning is in Austin when Lacey enrolls early in December 2024 doesn’t matter to him.

“Arch is two years ahead of me,” Lacey said. “It wasn’t a big factor.”

Kelly said Lacey will savor competing for the starting job regardless of who is already there.

“When you go to a place like Texas, there are good players there every year and you have to compete with all of them,” Kelly said. “I don’t think (Manning) enters into the equation a whole lot. K.J. is confident in who he is as a player and regardless of who is out there, he’s going to go out and do his thing.”

Lacey’s decision eliminated many other Power 5 programs which offered him, including Notre Dame, Miami, Florida State, Pitt, Mississippi State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, TCU, Colorado, West Virginia and Michigan State.

Texas and Oklahoma will leave the Big 12 for the SEC beginning in the 2024 football season.

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