Jan. 24th, 2013

fatesfolly: (character)
The first Fall that I dated John, he was always keen on seeing the Va Tech football games. Later, I found out that a co-worker's son played for them. Well, kinda played for them... it seems that the coach would rather play certain other kids over selecting Jake to play in key plays... even though Jake made the tackles and stopped the yardage just as good as his competitors on his own team.

That year, Jake had had enough. He had gone to Tech from a high school in Fredericksburg to play for a team he had supported and loved and here they were not supporting him. The next year, he transferred to the University of South Alabama in Mobile. The team was one in transition and he'd definitely get playing time. For the next 3 seasons (loophole in the eligibility rules and transferring.... I can explain if you care), he led the team in tackles and often led the conference, too. Last year, he was named the equivalent of best male player of any sport at USA. NFL scouts started attending the little school's games. And despite their poor scoring record, the scouts still came to see Jake make the other school's offense stop.

Jake graduated in December with enough graduate level classes to have 2 classes shy of an MBA. He hired an agent and started aiming for the NFL draft in April. Online prognosticators had him at everything from a solid draft pick to borderline, mainly because of the small school he came from. Throughout his college career, he went largely unscathed, injury-wise and he kept his nose clean. He was a good student and a good man.

Somewhere in there, I friended him on Facebook. He sweetly accepted my friend request. I watched while he dated a local girl and I saw his occasional posts on mundane things. After he got the agent, they moved him from Mobile to Atlanta to train for one of the regional combines, the several day-long test of physical strength and agility, mental acuity, and speed. Two weeks ago, he received an invitation to play in the NFLPA Bowl in California. It's not the Shrine Bowl which hosts the big names, but it's the Shrine Bowl's little sister. Players at the next level down hailing from small schools mainly play in it. John and I tuned in on Saturday to watch and Jake got 4 tackles.

He returned to Atlanta on Monday and it was then that he heard that he was a late add to the Senior Bowl in Mobile. The Senior Bowl is reportedly on the level with the Shrine Bowl. Big names may or may not play, but the scouts are there and it's another chance to showcase your abilities in a game situation. Jake was thrilled to be returning to his home stadium where he had played for the last 3 years, and also the host venue to the 2013 Senior Bowl.

Monday night and Tuesday, his facebook page was filled with congrats  from friends and pictures he posted of the swag Under Armour gave to the players. He was so cute, yet still humble and excited.

Last night, I wanted to show John the pictures so we surfed over to his page and saw the bad news... in practice yesterday, he ruptured his achilles tendon. From his posts, he was upset, but still optimistic and positive. John learned today at work from Jake's dad that he's enrolled back in school to get those two classes he needs for his MBA, he's got surgery scheduled for next week to repair the tendon, and he hopes he'll be fit in time for the NFL's mini camps this summer. He'll miss the draft, but there's still a chance.

I really like that he switched gears so fast from yesterday's big (surely painful) injury and disappointment over losing the chance at the big leagues in the draft to registering for the needed classes and looking forward to mini camps. This kid is 23, but that's the emotional maturity of someone twice his age.

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