Standing on the New York City sidelines in plain clothes for the 16th annual Empire Challenge, Jaiquawn Jarrett was more than just a friendly face. The former Fort Hamilton star, four-year Temple standout and Philadelphia Eagles soon-to-be rookie safety was a symbol of a world of possibilities, of what can happen when talent, fortune and relentless work ethic is mixed together.
“It makes me feel like anything is possible,” Fort Hamilton defensive end/outside linebacker Rasheem Stroud said.
Jarrett, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound hard-hitting safety, attended the game to show support for the city, particularly his Fort Hamilton brethren Stroud, Brandon Reddish, Ivan Foy, James Howell and Kevon Foster. With the NFL engaged in labor talks, the second-round pick of the Eagles has worked out with many of the Tigers, offering encouragement and helpful hints.
“It means a lot,” Reddish said. “He was in this position before.”
He’s the same guy, Stroud said, as humble as he was when he couldn’t get a scholarship offer his senior year and just as hard a worker. When asked if he was going to be honored at the game, Jarrett had a sheepish grin, saying he was nobody special, though there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Jarrett, the first player ever drafted out of Fort Hamilton, has spent a lot of his time in Philadelphia recently working out at Temple with the football team and Eagles teammate Jason Avant in hopeful preparation for his first NFL Training Camp.
“I’m anxious to get started and meet some of my teammates and get some camaraderie going,” he said.
He felt the need to come back home for the annual rivalry game he was a part of four years ago. Though he only had a few tackles in the game, the Empire Challenge was a valuable experience. It tested his ability to learn a playbook quickly and mesh with new teammates.
“This game is all about how fast you can learn, how you compete,” said Jarrett, a 2010 Pro Football Weekly All-American and two-time first- team All-MAC honoree, Jarrett had 74 tackles, two interceptions, two break-ups, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery his senior year. “I played in the game, so it’s special to come back and see how it has evolved.”
New York City lost the game, 17-14, but that didn’t change how Jarrett sees his Fort Hamilton teammates – who won the city title this spring – and in particular the Syracuse-bound Reddish.
“Brandon is gonna be one of the best players to come out of New York City,” Jarrett said. “If he gets the coaching, the training he needs, he’s gonna be the next big thing out of New York City.”
For now, that honor belongs to Jarrett – whether the affable NFL player likes to admit it or not.