Neither of those significant milestones could have been reached, though, without the loving devotion of Susan Hicks, who's spent the last 18 years turning her now 6-foot-3, 235-pound Palmyra Area High School linebacker son into one big mama's boy.
No, not a mama's boy in the derogatory sense. Anything but. Rather, a mama's boy in the sense of a young man who's deeply appreciative and respectful of the sacrifices his mother has made to help him reach his full potential as an athlete and person.
Susan Hicks, you see, is a single mom, having raised Jon and his older sister Jennifer on her own for the last 18 years after she and her children's father, Rick, split up when Jennifer was three years old and Jon was just three months out of the womb.
She had help from family, friends and many of Jon's Palmyra coaches, most notably his middle school coach back in the day, Carl Diener, and the Cougars' varsity head coach Chris Pope. But the biggest reason Hicks has earned a spot in one of the country's most prestigious high school football all-star games and is set to continue his football career at UConn in the fall - and major in kinesiology - is Susan Hicks, a woman who's been as successful at the daunting task of being a
"It has to be tough, especially with not one, but two children," Jon said following the Pennsylvania squad's morning practice at Lower Dauphin High School on Wednesday. "And I'm a handful for her sometimes - she knows that, I know that. But she's a strong woman. She's dedicated, she's motivated, she's a great role model for me and my sister, and just an overall strong woman."
A strong woman who would sometimes deprive herself of sleep after
A strong woman who made sure to be at as many of her children's athletic events as possible, sometimes traveling to catch both events at different venues on the same night. And she did so without regret. Talk to Susan for just a few minutes and it becomes undeniably apparent that there is nothing she wouldn't do for her kids.
"I've been to every single event in their life," she says of Jon and Jennifer, who played basketball at Palmyra and is now a senior-to-be at Indiana (Pa.). "I got to go to everything. It all worked out."
That strong woman felt her heart practically burst with pride when her son publicly thanked her when he signed his national letter-of-intent to attend UConn. Though Jon does have some contact with his father - something Susan says she has encouraged - his eagerness to tell others of his mother's role in his development meant the world to the woman receiving the compliment.
"After all we've been through, it was a wonderful feeling to have him say that," said Susan, who also received a public shout-out from her son when he was named to the Pa. Big 33 team. "It was very heartwarming to know your son appreciates everything you've done for him."
"You watch anything, like ESPN, and you always see the athletes thank their mom," Jon said. "Everyone knows that the mom is most important to the son. It was just a little thing I had to do to give props to my mom and let everyone knows that she's been there for me. She's made me the man I am today. She's everything to me."
In some ways, the young man her son has become doesn't surprise Susan at all.
"I never had a problem with him," she said. "He always stayed focused on what he wanted to do (as a football player). He'd say, 'You wait, Mom, I'm gonna show you.' And he did."
He certainly did, turning himself into a highly-regarded, well-recruited middle linebacker who was on the radar of many a college football program long before he helped the Cougars to their most successful season in four decades last fall.
Sometimes, though, Susan isn't sure she recognizes the imposing, intimidating, hard-hitter chasing after ballcarriers and quarterbacks with a vengeance.
"Jon is very quiet and laid-back," Susan says of her son's off-field demeanor. "You'd never know it was the same kid on the football field. It's like, 'Where did he come from?' I'm just so impressed that he's stayed so focused throughout his life."
That life is about to change dramatically for both mother and son. In a little over a week, Jon will depart for UConn to take some summer classes while beginning preparations for his freshman football season.
Susan, naturally, is a bit apprehensive about the prospect of saying a temporary goodbye to her son.
"It'll all really hit me when I take him to UConn," she said. "We have developed so many friendships in Palmyra. The football team has been like a second family to us."
But the son she's raised into a man knows that, however difficult the transition may be, the time has come to strike out on his own a bit.
"I'm real excited," Jon said. "We're ready, we've got everything in the garage, packed and ready to go. Mom's gonna miss me, but it's about time I get up there.
"It's definitely gonna be way different, being six hours away from home and everything. It's gonna take some adjusting to get through, but that's the life of an athlete."
A life that single mom Susan Hicks helped make for her son.
Notes: Kickoff for Saturday's game is set for 7 p.m., with PCN and the NFL Network slated to broadcast the Pennsylvania-Ohio clash...Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is this year's honorary chairman...Ohio has won the last three meetings, including last year's 50-14 rout.