The New York City area is loaded with great athletes, but it has never been a college football recruiting hotbed. Temple's Jaiquawn (pronounced JAY-kwahn) Jarrett is one of the few top 2011 NFL Draft prospects from one of the five boroughs (Brooklyn).
Asked why this is the case in a recent phone interview, Jarrett postulated that New York is known as more of a basketball city. He would have played hoops or track -- he ran the 100 and 200 meters for Fort Hamilton High -- as well as football, at a prep school if Temple hadn't offered him a scholarship.
|Jaiquawn Jarrett is the type of defensive back NFL teams covet. (US Presswire)|
It didn't take long for Jarrett to earn the scholarship he was awarded. He played every game of his true freshman season, starting six games at free safety, making 61 tackles, one for loss, an interception and five pass breakups; he also was the Owls' special teams MVP that season.
As a sophomore, he started all 12 games, leading the team with 88 tackles (1.5 for loss), three interceptions (four others broken up) and three recovered fumbles. He was voted first-team All-MAC by league coaches in 2009 when he finished second on the team with 76 tackles (two for loss) and led the Owls with three interceptions. He also broke up seven other passes.
Jarrett's play the past three seasons shows he is the type of versatile defensive back NFL teams covet. He makes quarterbacks pay for mistakes downfield, flies up to the line in run support and can even line up opposite a slot receiver in man coverage.
Scouts will appreciate seeing Jarrett's No. 5 jersey come downhill before the snap to help against the run.
"The coaches tell us during the week what to read. So I react to what they've told us, whether it's a run read or pass read," he said.
As for his man cover skills, he stated he's "working on that right now ... so I can get better now and take that at the next level."
His all-around game is also mirrored in his response to whether he prefers to make the big hit or go for the interception when a receiver in his sights.
"I'd like to do both. I like to make contact but if I feel I can make a play on the ball, I'll do that first."
Jarrett also took a bit of a chance when going to Temple. The Owls' football program was endangered as they were dropped from the Big East after the 2004 season because of non-competitiveness (they averaged two wins a year from 1991-2005), playing as an independent in 2005 and 2006 before joining the MAC.
Coach Al Golden arrived in 2006, and thanks to the recruitment of players like Jarrett, revived the program. The team earned a spot in the 2009 EagleBank Bowl -- its first postseason appearance since 1979 -- after a 9-4 season.
At this year's MAC media day the Owls were voted as the favorite to win the league's East Division because of their 2009 performance and the return of 16 starters.
"I think that's every team's goal, to win the conference championship," Jarrett stated. "And it was an honor to be chosen but it doesn't mean we're going to win it ... many teams are chosen to win it but they lose it. We're just taking it one day at a time in camp."
Jarrett's humility will shine through in eventual face-to-face meetings with NFL teams.
"I just do what the coaches ask," he says, adding that he will play special teams for the fourth straight year because he 'just wants to help the team win'."
That doesn't mean he's a wallflower on the practice or game field, admitting he is willing to, "get on [teammates] if they're not in the right place."
Jarrett knows if his teammates are in the right place because he puts in the time in the film room. In addition to studying his opponent each week, he studies himself "to see what I can do better ... I also watch other safeties, like Ed Reed (the Baltimore Ravens' perennial Pro Bowl safety), to see how he reacts to certain plays, against runs and passes."
"We thought he was going to be a good player," Golden said in an interview with the Temple News this spring, "but we didn't think he was going to be a four-year starter or an all-conference selection. Nobody works harder, and he takes care of business, and he's a testament to what we always say, and that is both successful players and organizations both have the presence to win and the absence of problems, and he has no problems to speak of off the field."
Another coach Jarrett respects is former Penn State and NFL linebacker Mark D'Onofrio, Temple's defensive coordinator who was a teammate of Golden's in Happy Valley and worked with him at Virginia before being brought to Philly. The senior safety says that "every day I learn something new from him." In fact, he notes his coaches talk to him and his teammates every day about "life skills, going to class, getting our degree ... football doesn't last forever."
Jarrett's ability to tackle in the open field and be a ball-hawking safety and support against the run are combined with a humble attitude. That's why he's a potential top-100 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Chad Reuter is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout, distributed by The Sports Xchange. Email Chad a firstname.lastname@example.org.