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Stetson QB can hardly wait
Jonathan Jerozal is confident the wait was worth it.
For somebody who loves football as much as he does, it couldn’t have been easy for the former Canyon High quarterback to go a full year without playing a single down.
Then again, Jerozal knew what he was getting into from the start when he decided to join the upstart college football program at Stetson University in Florida.
“It wasn’t that bad because I knew that the games were going to come eventually,” Jerozal said. “I just has to work. It just took a little longer than usual, but it was great. It was a great learning experience this year.”
After Jerozal’s senior season at Canyon in 2011, the record-breaking quarterback received an offer to play at Stetson, which didn’t technically have a football team at the time.
The plan was in place, however, for Stetson to resurrect its football program to compete at the Football Championship Subdivision level. This fall, Stetson will field an intercollegiate football team for the first time since the 1956 season.
In the spring of 2011, the university announced its plan to reinstate football as a non-scholarship program.
The recruiting process began immediately, and Jerozal’s offer to play came early in 2012.
In three years as a varsity starter at Canyon, Jerozal became the school’s all-time career passing leader in yards (8,176), touchdowns (77) and completions (542).
From there, he decided to take a leap into a brand new program when he signed his letter of intent on Feb. 1, 2012. At the time, he said he was OK with playing for a new program because he felt he had a good opportunity to play.
He, like every other players recruited last year, had to agree to redshirt last year since the team wasn’t scheduled to play until 2013.
Last summer, the team made up of entirely freshman held a full preseason camp as if it were the real thing. But at the end of the road, all that waited were a few intrasquad scrimmages — no games.
“I think we’re all chomping at the bit, both coaches and players,” said Stetson football head coach Roger Hughes. “I will give our players a lot of credit. They stayed focused and worked hard even though there wasn’t that, what I call a reward, at the end of actually playing games.”
Since then, it’s been more time in the weight room, more film sessions and more practices in the spring. The grind has gone on for a year while countdown clocks around campus keep track of how many days until the season starts and the $4 million stadium renovation reaches its home stretch.
Jerozal, listed at 5-foot-11, 188 pounds, said he can sense a buzz of anticipation around the small northeastern Florida town of DeLand.
“It’s a really good vibe for all the players and the school and the whole town,” he said. “Everybody’s just waiting to get back into it and personally, I’m ready to get back into it.”
The countdown has reached 39 days before Stetson takes the field in Aug. 31 for its season opener against Warner University, and Jerozal’s hope of being able to play right away is shaping up as a very realistic possibility.
Based on last year’s practices paired with the recently held spring drills, Hughes said he’s narrowed the starting quarterback job to Jerozal and one other player — Ryan Tentler out of Chicago.
“I think how hard they work this summer, who is going to come in and work hard and who’s going to be ready is going to be the difference,” Hughes said of the competition.
In order to leap ahead of Tentler in the race for the starting job, Jerozal will have to prove he can quickly make decisions in the spread option offense, which is vastly different than the system Jerozal ran at Canyon.
Jerozal mostly played under center in high school, whereas he’s now being asked to operate out of the pistol and shotgun formations.
Tentler came in with experience running a spread option, which gave him a leg up early.
“After never having any competition through youth and high school, last year was a wonderful, wonderful thing that he was handed some adversity,” said Jonathan’s father, Ray.
But Jonathan has handled the changes well with his notorious work ethic.
While back in the Santa Clarita Valley, he’s been doing agility and speed training with Valencia graduate and New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen, along with former teammate Max Archuleta and a few other local football products.
On Saturdays, he trains privately with his longtime quarterback coach Angelo Gasca, and he also occasionally works out with wide receivers at College of the Canyons.
“I don’t think there’s anything more he could be doing to get prepared to get back there to win the job and to play again,” Ray said.
Jonathan returns to Florida next week for the start of fall camp. Soon after, Stetson will play its first official football game in 56 years. It could be Jonathan Jerozal’s first college football game of his life.
By Dan Agnew, The Signal