I love to compete.
I was born a competitor and I have always thought of myself as someone who would do whatever it takes to win. My career has been filled with ups and downs, but overall, my defining characteristic is resilience. Overlooked, undersized, injuries, it didn’t matter. I know who I am and what I am capable of, and I wanted to prove myself at every level that I belonged on the field.
Back in my high school days in Salinas, California, I was a three sport athlete. I needed to be playing something year-round. Basketball, baseball, and of course, football, were the outlets for all of my competitive energy.
Baseball was a big passion of mine, but when it came down to it, it didn’t have that extra competitive edge that football afforded to me. Through all of the throwing and strength that I had built up in my arm, I naturally transitioned into the quarterback position, and really benefitted from the different angles and velocity that baseball had gifted to me.
During my junior year of high school, a couple of D1 programs were interested in bringing me in to their schools. But being a young kid and not fully grasping how the recruiting process worked, I didn’t follow through with a lot of the coaches and admin that reached out to me. My senior year turned into my make or break year which built up a lot of pressure for me to be at my best for collegiate scouts.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t perform to my full potential, and our team suffered because of it. I ended up with no formal D1 offers, but being the competitor I am, I knew that my career in football wouldn’t end simply because I wasn’t asked to be at a certain school. The drive in me to become my best self and best athlete lead me to junior college where I continued to develop as a quarterback.
My time in JUCO helped me refine my skills and prepare for my next opportunity which came at the University of Redlands. It’s a relatively small NCAA Division III school in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), but to me, it doesn’t matter where you’re at. Wherever you go, you always have an opportunity to prove yourself and show that you have what it takes to compete at a high level, and I did exactly that.
In my junior year campaign, I put up 1600+ passing yards with 20 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions and lead us to the playoffs as the #25 team in the national rankings for NCAA DIII. I was incredibly proud of how we had performed that year, and I could really feel myself building some momentum for a career in football. I was riding high rolling into my senior year, but that’s when things started to head the opposite direction. I was in and out of the starting lineup all year long due to injuries, and wasn’t able to play at 100% all season. I gave everything I had and worked my butt off, but it stung that I had to end my time at Redlands not being able to compete at the level I wanted to.
I still had the option of transferring for a graduate season, or so I thought. Somewhere in the moving of schools and rules of eligibility, a 5th season of college football was not an option for me like I thought it would be, and thus my hopes of trying to get more tape and work on my resume for a career in this sport was put on hold.
After considering my options, I was blessed to continue my football career in a couple of different arena leagues. I played for both the Champions Indoor Football and National Arena League, and with any indoor league, it’s important to accrue film and to improve your abilities as a player.
Indoor football as a whole is a completely different beast, and it really helped me develop my game at another level that maybe some other leagues wouldn’t have been able to do. With the field being so much smaller, I got to work on anticipation and timing with my receivers, but the big thing for me was accuracy. We didn’t have much room to work with it being such a smaller field than outdoor football, so putting the ball on the money each time was key to success in those leagues.
I enjoyed my time during those stints, but I was looking to branch out and find something where I could really put my stamp on a league and further build my resume to climb the football ranks.
That’s when Coach Jenks reached out to be about Fan Controlled Football. He mentioned it was another arena league opportunity, but nothing like I had seen before. A couple of my buddies and former teammates, Bones Bagaunte and Kamalie Matthews, had already been a part of the league and only had good things to say. I thought, why not give it a shot? After all, it was another chance to compete at a high level and further build out my football resume.
I was a bit skeptical at first with everything being ‘fan controlled’ and was not sure what to expect with the fans dictating the play on the field.
I will say I am VERY glad I was drafted by 8OKI and their fans because that was a huge advantage for me as a player week in and week out. I loved being able to connect with, and talk directly with, the fans before and after games to see what happened, what went wrong, and what we could improve on as a collective. We would discuss play calls and strategies, and for the most part, that was what lead us to a crazy season and an eventual playoff birth.
My goal coming in to FCF was to perform at the highest level I could, but with so much talent around me, I wasn’t focused on any individual accolades. I wanted to help the team I was drafted to reach its full potential, and as long as I did my job the best I could, then I was going to be satisfied.
8OKI as a squad was stacked, and they really amplified my play on the field with how talented they were. Boykin and Pat Smith were my guys during the season, and without those huge targets, I don’t think I have the success that I ended up having. Malcolm Ballard coming in and helping us establish a run game made everything a whole lot easier for me, and helped us get a couple of extra wins.
When the regular season came to an end, I knew there was a lot of talk about best players in the league, on both sides of the ball, and I was just glad that I was in that conversation. I knew I had played my heart out and given everything I had to showcase my talent, and at the end of the day, deep down, I felt like I had played like the Offensive Player of the Year.
It was an honor to be given that award, but even more special for me was a vote that happened with just the players.
No fan votes, no campaigning, no discussions with fans in the Discord, and I was still voted the OPOY and MVP of the league. Getting that respect and praise from your peers is a special thing, and showed me that my time in football is still not over.
I’m not sure what happens next, but I do know that FCF has given me a rejuvenating love for the game. I am continuing to work hard for whatever comes next, and can’t wait to see where this next chapter takes me. I’ll never forget it, so Power to the fans!
Jared November 19, 2022
Going to the XFL! Congrats!