Commentary

Hits keep coming from Jay Arnold

Watch List DE battles on the gridiron, in the MMA octagon and on the wrestling mat

Originally Published: March 20, 2012
By Damon Sayles | ESPN RecruitingNation

ROCKWALL, Texas -- A quick glance at the Twitter profile page of Jay Arnold gives a perfect description of him -- in less than 140 characters, of course.

"Just your average athlete/philosopher/comedian," Arnold's profile reads. "I like to read, eat, train and win. But I am second."

The profile, if nothing else, shows Arnold's humility. Ask many college scouts, and they'll tell you the 6-foot-4, 255-pound, ESPNU 150 Watch List defensive end from Rockwall-Heath (Heath, Texas) is far from average. Most of the opposing athletes would agree -- in everything he does.

[+] EnlargeJay Arnold
Damon Sayles/ESPN.comWatch List DE Jay Arnold is not only a standout on the football field, but in the MMA octagon as well.
Along with being one of the nation's top defensive ends of the 2013 recruiting class, he is an accomplished wrestler, a champion in mixed martial arts and a major contributor in track and field. All of this is done while maintaining a 3.5 GPA.

"I think I'm most proud of the score he got on his SAT," said Renee Arnold, Jay's mother. "He got a 1910, and that's as a junior. That was my proudest moment."

Outside of sports, Arnold is described by his mother as a goofy, 17-year-old kid who shines in the classroom and shows respect to all. As an athlete, he's the guy who looks to dominate all opponents but helps them up after knocking them over. Arnold is a nice guy by nature who happens to know when and where to turn his mean streak on and off.

As a football player, Arnold finished with 44 tackles, 13 sacks and three caused fumbles and helped Rockwall-Heath advance three rounds deep in the Texas Class 4A Division I playoffs this past season. He is currently balancing BCS offers from Texas A&M, Baylor, Northwestern, SMU, Tulsa, Purdue, Ole Miss and Wake Forest, in addition to major interest from several other schools around the country.

Arnold took a trip to the greater Chicago area and made an unofficial visit to Northwestern last weekend. Additionally, he's made junior day appearances at Baylor, Texas A&M and Ole Miss. Schools such as Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have yet to offer but consider him a high target.

"I'm just honored by the whole process," Arnold said. "Being recruited not only from a football perspective but also from what I do in the classroom, it feels good to know that they are not worried about me qualifying."

"His recruiting trip to Northwestern was really all about him," said Mike Arnold, Jay's father. "Northwestern doesn't do a big junior day, so it was his time to be with the coaching staff and meet some of the players. He had time with [area recruiter] Coach [Matt] MacPherson and [defensive line] Coach [Marty] Long, and he almost got an hour with Coach [Pat] Fitzgerald. It was pretty neat."

Arnold has been a big-time varsity contributor for Rockwall-Heath since his sophomore season, when he was named newcomer of the year for the district in 2010.

As good as Arnold is on the football field, many know him for other athletic accomplishments. The MMA world considers him one of the rising competitors in his weight division. Arnold won the expert heavyweight division of the North American Grappling Association Championships in Dallas as a sophomore last May. A student of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and submission grappling, Arnold -- a blue belt -- defeated Michael Thompson -- a black belt -- in the NAGA finals.

"I didn't figure out he was a black belt until after we talked," Arnold said. "We were talking, and he said he'd been training for five years. At that point, I'd only been training for about two-and-a-half years. I beat him with a triangle choke.

"When it comes down to it, [MMA] is the ultimate competition. It's a one-on-one competition where you really find out who's the tougher guy and who's worked on their skills the most. It's a grueling competition, and it's something that really tests your limits. It helps you find out more about yourself and helps you realize who you are as a person inside."

Arnold said the added flexibility and discipline he's received from MMA training have transferred over to football, in addition to wrestling and track and field. It has helped him become a quicker, more elusive athlete. Few players his size can run the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds. An even fewer number of players his size can touch the palms of their hands to the floor while standing up.

"At first, he was like me, tight as a drum," Mike Arnold said. "He started doing jiu-jitsu, and it involves a lot of different movements and stretching. I've seen him now sit on the floor and put his foot behind the back of his head."

As a wrestler, Arnold competes in the 285-pound division for Rockwall-Heath's team. There are several times throughout the season that the 245-pounder lines up against athletes 20 and 30 pounds heavier than he is.

One of his favorite wrestling opponents is another ESPNU 150 Watch List player, Lake Highlands (Dallas) offensive tackle and Texas commit Kent Perkins. The two have wrestled three times, and Arnold has scored two victories -- one of those coming in an eight-second pin. Arnold's victories are even more impressive when reminded that Perkins is 6-5 and 285 pounds during the wrestling season, 295 during the football season.

Arnold said that if things do not work out with football after college, he'd like to try MMA full time, possibly balancing it out with whatever he chooses to do as a profession. For the time being, Arnold's focus is simple: help Rockwall-Heath win a state championship, choose a solid college and become a well-rounded student-athlete.

The best part about Arnold is that no matter how good he gets -- at any of the sports he participates in -- success never will be good enough in his mind.

"He's got a goal, and that's what drives him," Renee Arnold said. "He knows if he wants to perform at the next level, he has a lot of work to do. That keeps you humble. When you see all the people in front of you, you can't help but be humble."