Eagles’ 2nd Round Pick had a Long Journey to the NFL

I had the great oppurtunity to talk to Jaiquawn Jarrett, the Eagles’ second round draft pick and former Temple star. I got to ask him a few questions about what he will bring to the Eagles’ defense.

            He sat upstairs by himself with his family the floor below. He wanted peace; he wanted to watch the draft alone. The phone rings from a 215 area code and his new head coach is on the other end. As Troy Vincent walks across the stage with the card in his hand alongside Commissioner Roger Goodell he knows his name is about to be called. The anticipation was over for him, but his family on the floor below had no idea. Jaiquawn Jarrett was the Philadelphia Eagles’ second round draft pick and Jarrett’s family began to cheer and scream, rumbling the ground below him. “The sound of joy was just a great moment,” says Jarrett about his experience of being drafted.

            Jaiquawn Jarrett’s roots are in Brooklyn, primarily a basketball city. Jaiquawn was an aggressive child and loved the idea of a contact sport like football. “It was just being more aggressive and I liked to hit people when I was younger so it was easier for me to be more physical in football than basketball.” Jarrett brought this love of contact to Temple as the last athlete to be offered a scholarship by Coach Al Golden.

            While at Temple, Jarrett matured into a starting safety that brought pain to any ball carrier in his path. A four year starter, Jaiquawn’s maturity and discipline made him one of the most NFL-ready defensive backs. In 2007, Jarrett’s first season, Temple’s defense ranked 49th in the nation. While this may not seem so impressive, it is a remarkable increase from the 118th rank only one season before. The Owls made another improvement the next season, coming in at 46th in the nation. It was apparent that the defense was becoming the heart of the Temple football team. And at the heart of any defense stands the safety. Jaiquawn’s senior season marked the best season for Temple’s defense, coming in at 17th on the national rankings. In Jaiquawn’s four years at Temple, the defense improved from the 118th spot all the way to the 17th in the national rankings. While this can’t all be contributed to one player, Jarrett’s leadership of this defense was clear and the team rallied around him.

            The two-time first-team All-MAC player made his play known on a national stage after leading Temple’s defense to one of the biggest turnarounds in FBS history in such a short span. His most memorable play summarizes his career at Temple as a big hitting safety that could play all over the field. On September 18th, 2010, the Owls faced off against the UConn Huskies at Lincoln Financial Field. UConn running back Jordan Todman received the ball on a run to the outside, he was surrounded by Temple players and was about to fall down. Jaiquawn wouldn’t let him go that easily. Jaiquawn came slicing in, lowering a huge shoulder into Todman’s facemask. Jarrett immediately jumped up, unfazed. During his four years as a Temple Owl, Coach Golden said that Jarrett was the best tackler he has ever coached. Jarrett’s textbook wrap-up tackles are evidence of why Coach Golden would give Jaiquawn such praise and the nickname “The Clinic”.

            Jarrett contributes his toughness to his mother, Audrey. She is a correctional officer at Riker’s Island, New York’s main jail complex. Certainly, a woman working with some of New York’s worst criminals must be tough, and she passed this toughness to her son. Jaiquawn also sees his mother and his area where he grew up as big motivators in his football career. “I think I did open a lot of doors for a lot of opportunities for kids to get looked at for the next level to go to college,” says Jaiquawn, the first player from his high school to make the NFL. He is being looked at as a role model for young athletes from the Brooklyn area. Considering his success at Temple, it is certain that NCAA scouts will begin to look towards the Brooklyn area not only for basketball stars, but for football players as well. 

            The Eagles second round pick remembers growing up seeing ex-Raiders and Oilers defensive back Jack Tatum on ESPN in old football highlights and says he styles his play after him. Tatum was often considered to be a dirty player whereas every one of Jarrett’s bone crunching hits is respected. Jack Tatum had the nickname “The Assassin” on the field and he certainly played like he was trying to kill someone. While Jaiquawn doesn’t have the type of nickname that Tatum did, he definitely brings the same mentality to the game but in a much more disciplined style.

            “A real physical, tough player. Smart and disciplined. I’m going to give it everything I got every time I’m out there,” states Jarrett on his style of play. You can tell that this safety played with a chip on his shoulder throughout his career after being the last player to be offered a scholarship by his coach. “I always feel like I have something to prove.” Jarrett is never satisfied and is always trying to learn something new. Coming in, Jarrett is looking forward to learning from current Eagles safety Kurt Coleman, who has already reached out to Jaiquawn, welcoming him to the team.

            Jarrett comes into a defensive backfield which will be wide open for competition if the Eagles don’t reach an agreement with Quintin Mikell. Many are already calling Jaiquawn the heir to Brian Dawkins and with Jarrett’s toughness and hard-hitting mentality, it is nearly impossible to not draw some comparison. Both Dawkins and Jarrett stand at exactly 6’0” and Dawkins plays at 210 pounds while Jarrett is currently at a shade over 200. Also, at their respective combines, each safety ran a subpar 40. Dawkins’ 4.65 and Jarrett’s 4.62 may be looked too far in to but as Jarrett says “on the football field I play much faster than what a 40 time can tell you.” Now if only Jarrett wears that signature black visor that Dawkins did, it will be a true blast from the past.

            Jarrett is projected to play a slightly different position in the NFL than Dawkins did. Nate Allen plays where Dawkins did and Jarrett will compete with Kurt Coleman for the starting spot at Mikell’s old post. Jarrett, who is a relentless competitor, will not stop fighting until he is the starter. When he becomes the starter he will keep fighting and keep learning to become one of the best. During his introductory press conference, Jarrett told the media that he will continue to learn and the day he stops learning is the day he will hang up the cleats.

            That is far off in the future and it is exciting to see that type of an attitude from a player fresh out of college. Eagles’ fans have a treat to look forward to for the foreseeable future. Jarrett is just as excited to take the field in midnight green.

            When asked how it felt to be a Philadelphia Eagle, Jarrett simply said “The greatest feeling in the world.”

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