Jay looking to bounce back from injury

J.K. Jay, 6-foot-7, 280 pounds
ESPN 150 Watch List offensive tackle
Christ Church Episcopal High (Greenville, S.C.)

Over the past year, J.K. Jay (Greenville, SC / Christ Church) has experienced some extreme highs and lows.

The South Carolina native committed to his dream school, Clemson, in April 2007. Jay, an athletic offensive tackle from a small high school, seemed set for his two remaining prep football seasons, which would be followed by a career at the school his grandfather use to take him to watch games as a child. Jay described his decision to commit early as a relief, but tough times were still ahead.

During a scrimmage in early August, as the team prepared for the 2007 season, the Clemson commit was driving a defender off the ball when a defensive tackle feel onto his left ankle. The big man hit Jay just right, breaking his ankle and ending his junior season before it even started.

After an offseason of hard work, he was in shock at the turn of events.

"I was real heartbroken," Jay said. "I couldn't play my junior year and be there for my team."

Jay had a difficult time dealing with the injury and the resulting inactivity. Still, he took comfort in knowing no matter what he would still be a part of the Clemson; he had formed a good relationship with Coach Brad Scott and knew his scholarship was safe.

"It was real tough being around the team after games," he said. "Whether they won or lost it was heart breaking."

Jay worked hard in preparation for the '07 season, and to have it taken away like that was tough. With time, however, he learned to turn a negative into a positive.

"I tried to be a leader from the sidelines the best I could and I made the best of the situation," Jay said.

He always had love for the game, but being forced to sit out opened his eyes even more to what he was a part of.

"I definitely found a new love and appreciation for every aspect of the game, whether it be for practice or just being able to train and run," Jay said.

"I learned to study film better and pick-up tendencies … I'm also a lot tougher mentally knowing I can do anything after going through that. That was probably my worst fear, not being able to play a whole season because of an injury."

Fully healed, the ESPN 150 watch list prospect eagerly awaits spring ball in May and even two-a-days this summer, which he never thought he would say. He looks forward to his first contact since the injury. Mentally, Jay is ready to go, having tested the ankle in noncontact drills and during baseball season.

One year after accepting his offer to play at Clemson, things seem to be back on track for Jay. He is now an Under Armour All-American and prepared to hit the field to try to help his team to state as a senior.

His junior season may have been a tough one, but looking back it may not have been the worst situation for Jay.

"I thank God every day for that injury because it made me a whole lot better person," Jay said.

Jay's Scouts Inc. Evaluation
Jay is an athletic offensive tackle. He has the physical structure and agility to play guard as well as tackle. Greatest asset is quick hands. Comes out stance and immediately gets hands on the defender. Really does a good job of keeping defender away from his body. Proper first step coming out of stance is effective in getting good body position on base block as well as reach block. Needs to keep a wider base once contact is made; tendency to straighten up. Could get more knock back on drive block by snapping hips while delivering a blow with the hands. Good athlete that plays lighter than his weight just needs to be more physical. Runs exceptionally well and could adjust to playing offensive guard at the next level. Would be impressive pulling and trapping. Has the hands and long arms to be a really good pass defender but must work on staying low and sinking the hips. Likes to spend time in the weight room which is crucial in order to improve leg strength. Displays good initial effort on every play must work on going till the whistle blows especially if the ball goes away from him. Athletic ability to be an outstanding crossfield and downfield blocker; must take the mental challenge. Jay shows very good mobility and has a lot of upside. Potential to excel by working on the little things in terms of technique and by gaining upper and lower body strength. Has a great attitude and should develop into an excellent lineman at either position

Craig Haubert is recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. Drop Craig a line in his mailbag.