With the departure of Dominique Harris and Alex Joseph, safety Jaiquawn Jarrett must step up.
Every year, Temple’s football team hits the figurative reset button. As a new set of players comes in and graduating seniors depart, a new set of leaders has to emerge. Senior free safety Jaiquawn Jarrett will try to become part of that new set of leaders with this year’s team.
“We had some key seniors that left last season, and we need some seniors to step up and replace them and bring the younger guys along so that we can follow in our footsteps,” Jarrett said. “I see myself as an individual that can lead the team because I’ve been here for so long.”
Jarrett has seen a lot of action on the field. He has played in every game of his collegiate career and, as of this season, has been a starter at free safety for three straight seasons. Last season, Jarrett had the second-most tackles on the team with 76 and grabbed three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. For his efforts, he earned a spot on the first-team All-Mid-American Conference defensive team.
“That gives him an excellent platform, and he’s doing a good job leading for us,” coach Al Golden said.
Jarrett said he will try to model his leadership style after his former teammate Dominique Harris, who used to patrol the defensive secondary with him.
“Dom Harris is like a big brother to me,” Jarrett said. “He’s been a mentor to me, and everything that he does, I try to do the same thing. Him and Alex Joseph have set examples of what to do and what not to do. It was a great experience playing next to them. They’re outstanding players and great people, so everything they do is inspirational.”
“He has learned a lot from those guys in terms of leadership,” Golden added. “He has a chance to be a really special player in terms of his toughness and the way he’s developed his toolbox – his tackling, his range and his playmaking ability.”
On the field, Jarrett’s best strength is his tackling, as he led the Owls in that statistic four times last season. He can also opportunistically force turnovers. In one of his best games last season, he intercepted Ball State junior quarterback Kelly Page twice and recovered a fumble in the team’s 24-19 win against the Cardinals on Oct. 10.
“All of the success I’ve had is because of [defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Mark] D’Onofrio, the defense and my teammates,” Jarrett said. “D’Onofrio draws up the plays to put me at the right place all the time. Just about every play he calls is the right call.”
Off the field, Golden said he values Jarrett’s performance in the classroom as well as how he relates to other players on the team.
“He can connect across socioeconomic and racial backgrounds,” Golden said. “He connects with everybody on the team as people off the field, so that’s No. 1.”
In Jarrett’s freshman year, he won the special team’s Most Valuable Player award, which tabbed him early as an unselfish player.
“We thought he was going to be a good player,” Golden said. “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.
“He’s eliminated all distractions off the field, and every time he’s in here, he’s working on his game,” Golden added. “It’s nice to have somebody with that kind of maturity. As a coach, I can talk to him about his game instead of, ‘Why did you miss a class or why did you miss a workout?’ or about why he isn’t studying or making poor decisions socially.”
As Jarrett grows into a leadership role with this year’s edition of the squad, he said he will look to build on Temple’s appearance in the EagleBank Bowl.
“I think the bowl game was a good thing because it helps us see what we want to do,” Jarrett said. “We don’t just want to settle for making it to a bowl game. We want to win a bowl game.”
Brian Dzenis can be reached at email@example.com.