Everybody's All-American: Union Standout Jerome Janet says he 'Loves' Being Recruited
Wednesday, August 16th 2000, 12:00 am
News On 6
By Sean Mossman, kotv.com
Ask yourself what your perceptions are of the following person. Heâ€™s a 17-year-old, high school football star. Heâ€™s not just a star, some people call him the best player in the state. He has multiple pieces of mail from the best college football programs in the nation in his box every day. Some nights, his phone rings off the hook with college coaches and reporters at the other end. Finally, he hasnâ€™t worked out with his teammates all summer.
The young man described above has a name, itâ€™s Jerome Janet (last name pronounced zhu-nay). If your idea of Janet is that he sounds like kind of a jerk, then you couldnâ€™t be further from the truth. In fact, Janet breaks the mold of the stereotypical star athlete.
â€œYou kind of fear that guys like him will get that prima donna senior attitude, but he hasnâ€™t done anything like that in the past and I donâ€™t expect him too now,â€ said the Union wide receiverâ€™s head coach Bill Blankenship.
Janet doesnâ€™t strut around the field like the big man on campus. Although youâ€™d probably excuse him if he did, almost every college recruiting service in the nation calls him a Top 100 prospect as a senior. Janet is also different than other people in his situation in another way. He doesnâ€™t act like the product of divorced parents; which is the reason heâ€™s missed summer workouts until now. For all those things you can thank his mother and father, who have always just let Janet be himself.
Janet didnâ€™t play football until junior high, the year after he moved to Oklahoma from the Oakland area. There were no expectations put on him by playing Pop Warner from the time he could walk. Now the young man with the blonde-tipped dreadlocks is in a very different situation, he has enormous expectations heaped on him as a team leader and on of the nationâ€™s elite players.
â€œI just block it all out and donâ€™t pay any attention to it,â€ said Janet. â€œWhen Iâ€™m on the field Iâ€™m only thinking about that next play.â€
Janet thrust himself into the limelight as a sophomore, playing alongside current Georgia wideout Michael Johnson. Unionâ€™s starting tight end got hurt and the Redskin's were forced to use four wide receiver sets. Janet says the early exposure to varsity competition was good for him.
His shining moment on the field came last season in the 6A state championship game. Jerome scored the first and only touchdown of the game for Union in a loss to rival Jenks. He did so in dramatic fashion with a one-hand, leaping grab that people in the stands that day still talk about.
â€œA lot of people saw the one hand grab, but the ball was overthrown,â€ said Blankenship of the circusâ€“style catch. â€œEven though it looked like he was going full-speed all the way, he found a way to put it into another gear and go find the ball.â€
Balnkenship says itâ€™s that â€œextra gearâ€ that makes him different than any other player heâ€™s coached. â€œHeâ€™s probably the only guy who has the speed to do the things he does,â€ his coach said. â€œHe has the height to make big plays, but heâ€™s still a true speed and finesse kind of guy.â€
Janet is modest to extremes about his own talent. He hasnâ€™t measured himself in a while. The last time he checked he was about six-feet tall and 180 pounds. He hasnâ€™t clocked a forty-yard dash time in nearly two years; after his sophomore season he turned in a blazing 4.49 seconds. He doesnâ€™t go to summer camps on college campuses like so many of his peers. He prefers spending that time at his fatherâ€™s house in the Bay Area.
Donâ€™t get him wrong, he doesnâ€™t take his talent for granted. Janet just said he thinks thereâ€™s more important things in life, like enjoying it. This latest odyssey into the world of big-time recruiting gets that same kind of treatment. Janet says heâ€™s sees it as another chance to have fun.
â€œI never thought I would do this, but now that I have itâ€™s turned out to be fun,â€ Janet said of the recruiting process. â€œI really do think itâ€™s fun. Itâ€™s a long process, but I like it.â€
Before having played a single down of his senior year Janet could have his college education paid for, but chooses to not commit. At least a dozen schoolâ€™s have asked him to make them his choice already, but he is waiting.
â€œHeâ€™s sitting here already with at least a dozen firm scholarship offers, and three or four years ago that was unheard of,â€ said Blankenship. â€œIt is much harder on kids these days.â€
Janet says heâ€™s putting off his decision for several reasons. Heâ€™s waiting, because he likes the idea of visiting all of those campuses. Heâ€™s also waiting because his parents situation makes his choice more difficult. He has a mother, father and younger sister to think about. â€œIt makes it a little more difficult, because I kind of want to go to school out in California, but I kind of want to stay here so my sister can stay at Union instead of having to go to a new school,â€ said Janet.
His sister is a sophomore at Union, but would have to transfer if Janet went out of state. Thatâ€™s because their mother would likely move to be near her son and watch his college career up close. Thatâ€™s a lot of added pressure on Janetâ€™s decision, but he says itâ€™s not coming from anyone but himself. â€œMy parents donâ€™t really tell me where to go to school, but they really help me find the academic strengths of every school,â€ he said. â€œThey just want me to be somewhere I can get the best education.â€
You get the sense after talking to Jerome that the clichÃ© is sincere. Heâ€™s already well over NCAA minimums on his standardized tests and carries better than a 3.0 grade point average. Both of which make him more attractive to colleges. Of course itâ€™s how Jerome performs on the field that will ultimately tell where he lands in college.
â€œAll I want to do right now is make the playoffs and win a gold ball,â€ he said. His coach thinks that attitude will make his receiver even more attractive to college coaches. â€œYou can have all that hype, but if you donâ€™t win enough games then you become a question mark because youâ€™re not a winner,â€ said Blankenship.
As far as where Jerome will play next year, well, it truly is up in the air. There are twelve schools in the hunt now with more on the way. The next goal is to narrow those choices down to five schools. Thatâ€™s the limit of colleges a recruit can visit during his courtship. As with most everything, Jerome says heâ€™ll look to his role models for help on that list. â€œIâ€™m still trying to narrow it down to which schools Iâ€™d like to go visit,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s a lot of work, but Iâ€™ll have my family help me decide which five to visit.â€
Janet says there really arenâ€™t any front-runners among those schools looking to land his services. Five minutes alone with him leads you to believe heâ€™s telling the truth. When you mention his boyhood favorite UCLA, his eyes light up. When you mention the possibility of reuniting with his good friend Danny Morris at Kansas State, his eyes light up. His coach talks about powerhouses like Georgia Tech and Southern California. In the end, it very well could be none of the above.
Right now Janet swears none of it matters to him. His only thought is about catching passes for the Redskins and hoisting a certain gold trophy. Thatâ€™s nothing like the picture you had in your mind.
Sean Mossman is a writer-producer for kotv.com. Questions, comments and story ideas can be e-mailed to email@example.com; or call 732-6228. Story ideas should include a name and phone number.