National Signing Day is not even forty-eight hours old, and I have already found my favorite incoming freshman, Tulsa running back Joshua Jacobs.
The Tulsa World long form tells Josh's story, which is all too common among student athletes: broken home, poverty, bad neighborhoods, food insecurity, periods of homelessness and transient living. Josh's story, however, has a bit more hopeful transition.
Rather than leaving the neighborhood, he is determined to come back in some shape or fashion and help rebuild; rather than pouring his efforts into just a weight room, his school decision was made on the strength of the engineering programs. Jacobs' decision was made based on what school offered him the best education, as well as the best opportunity to come back and complete those long-term goals -- be that as a professional or a professional athlete.
“Why not build the community I live in?” he said. “The people I see every day. The people that actually support, and I know, care for me.” As he prepares to leave Tulsa and move to Alabama in June, his goal will be to give back when he comes back. He would like to mentor young kids when he returns home. If his career becomes prosperous, whether through pro football or engineering, he would like to give back to McLain to fund classrooms and books. Perhaps, one day he could help build a recreation center.
The story is as wonderful as it is inspirational. I wish my head were screwed on half as tight now as Joshua Jacobs' is at 18. This is the flipside to the cynical arguments that scholarships and playing opportunities exist solely as an NFL d-league. This is the purer side of college athletics, where making the most of an opportunity, earning a degree and dreaming larger than one's self matters more than the bright lights, ESPN talking heads, and morons like me with a keyboard.
There aren't a whole lot of 18-year olds who set up their career paths as a senior in high school in order to return a decade down the road to make a better life for others...to make a difference.
I'd dare say Jacobs is already making that difference.