Jaiquawn Jarrett saw the Philadelphia area code on the incoming call, looked up at the television screen to see the Eagles — who the Temple safety worked out for several times — on the clock and one thought popped into his head.
“It’s about to happen,” the Brooklyn native thought.
“It” was a lifelong dream ready to be realized.
On the other end of the phone was an Eagles representative informing Jarrett the team was going to select him with the 54th overall pick in the NFL Draft on April 29. Moments later as the pick was officially announced his mother Audrey Young’s Bed-Stuy home erupted.
“I feel like I’m still dreaming, like I’m walking on the moon,” said the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Jarrett, who became the first Fort Hamilton football player ever drafted. “But my family is making me understand it’s a reality. It’s starting to sink in. I’m an NFL player.”
Young, a corrections officer, said: “It was a shock, seeing him on screen. We were yelling and screaming and everything.”
Jarrett has come a long way from his days as a two-way star at Fort Hamilton. Stuck without a Division I scholarship offer following his senior year, he landed at Temple late in the spring only after the Owls lost a recruit.
“I look back on that every single day and thank God,” Jarrett said. “He kept me level-headed and made sure I stayed patient, stayed focused, stayed on the right track.”
As February became March, March became April and then May, college coaches began coming to Fort Hamilton, but not for Jarrett. They were there to recruit for the following year. Through it all, the senior never stopped working, spending his days running on the track and lifting weights.
“If you’re trying to build a champion, this is the kind of kid you want to pick,” former longtime Fort Hamilton coach Vinny Laino, who has since retired. “Jaiquawn is the whole package. The Eagles are really getting their money’s worth.”
He started nine games as a freshman when Temple’s starter went down because of injury and steadily improved every season, appearing in every game of his collegiate career. 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.
“You can’t find a single thing negative about this kid here,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “[Temple coach] Al [Golden] will tell you that this is one of the two kids who helped turn that football program around at Temple. What a compliment that is to him. … He said this kid here is one of the primary leaders of that crew that helped turn that program around.”
He ran a sub-par 4.65 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, which scared a few teams away. But Jarrett impressed the Eagles in workouts with his football instincts, ability to change directions quickly and hard hitting.
The Eagles, in fact, watched Jarrett work out several times and he spoke extensively with new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and defensive backs coach Mike Zordic after a pre-draft visit. On Friday Reid mentioned former safety Brian Dawkins when discussing Jarrett.
“It’s not fair to compare him to Brian Dawkins but they’re the same stature, size, same speed,” the coach said. “And they both will torch ya. Different personalities, different guys, but I don’t think you’ll want to run up the middle on either one of them. They‘ll blow you up.”
High praise for any defensive back coming out of college, but particularly for Jarrett, who wasn’t even sure he was going to play Division I college football. Now he’s on his way to the NFL.
“I feel blessed,” he said. “I’m so grateful to have this opportunity.”
— Zach Braziller