[Note -- This is a piece written by The Gazette's Michael Bonner, who profiled Decorah's Josey Jewell when he was named the Gazette/KCRG prep football player of the year in December.]
DECORAH — The MVP plaque laying on the table in the Decorah High School main office features the name of Josey Jewell. A trophy stands behind the plaque. A gold football player, striking a poorly constructed Heisman pose tops the wooden monument on the table.
It’s one of many laurels scattered on the platform memorializing accomplishments of the Vikings’ athletic teams. There are crystal vases, photo plaques and other wooden awards, but the one that towers above them also boasts the plastic golden football player.
On its base, gold letters signify the football team’s accomplishment: 2012 3A state champions.
The player that stood the tallest on the team is the same player whose name appears at the base of the plaque, on the MVP trophy — Josey Jewell.
The senior can add one more award to that pack — The Gazette/KCRG All-Area Player of the Year.
Jewell led the Vikings in rushing, receiving, scoring, tackles, interceptions, interception yards and punt returns. He completed the only pass he attempted, intercepted a pass and recovered two fumbles. Offensively, defensively or on special teams, Jewell created havoc for opposing teams, including one of his best performances in a 49-21 victory in the state championship against Bishop Heelan.
“It’s hard at some points. You’re tired, you’re working hard at every play,” Jewell said. “But it’s rewarding, all the players out there, everybody was really good this year, it was nice to be a part of the whole team and contribute a couple different ways and help everybody out.”
Next year, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior hopes to help another football team. But it won’t be at 195. Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa contacted Jewell. The three schools have interest in him on the defensive side of the field, but at a weight closer to 225.
Jewell has at least a year to bulk up with a strong possibility of red-shirting his freshman year. It could be the first time since seventh grade that a healthy Jewell will watch from the sideline.
“There was a kid who was a little bit faster than me,” Jewell said. “So he played at running back. Coach called him ‘lightning in a bottle.’ So he had him play quite a bit.”
Five years later, the angst in his voice is still noticeable. It’s the same tone he uses when discussing doubters who said he won’t be able to compete in Division I.
“I’ve seen on the Iowa preps and stuff, looking at those things. I probably shouldn’t but I’ve just been reading them,” Jewell said. “I’ve just been reading them and I don’t know, it just makes me be more determined and work harder to get to that area to prove them wrong.”
As a freshman, Jewell dreamed of running out of a tunnel at a Division I stadium to the roar of the capacity crowd. This year, he came close to accomplishing that dream, walking out of the tunnel at both Kinnick Stadium and Jack Trice Stadium.
“Oh it’s pretty cool. You don’t hear it right away, all the noise,” Jewell said. “Then all of a sudden it’s like everybody is cheering and it’s a good feeling to know that you could be on that field and be … a part of that.”
Jewell attended the Iowa State-Iowa game at Kinnick and Tulsa-Iowa State game at Jack Trice. The next step for him is to jog out of a college football stadium’s tunnel wearing the uniform of the home team.
He’s dealt with the naysayers throughout his football career. He wasn’t “lightning in a bottle,” but when it mattered he carried the ball. He wasn’t good enough to play Division-I football, but schools came calling.
And even now, with three programs showing interest, some still question his size. He’s answered every question along the way.
He’s never had a problem avoiding tacklers or taking down runners on the field. As he walks away from Decorah, he’s not about to let people off the field stop his dream.
“I always thought I wanted to play D-I football. Everybody was like no you won’t. You won’t be good enough. You have to be really good for that. That’s not you,” Jewell said. “I was like, well I’m just going to have to work hard. I guess it’s kind of turned out.”
Scouting snippet (from Rivals.com)
The Possibilities: One question coaches may have with Jewell is what position he will play in college. In high school, he rarely came off the field, starting at linebacker and fullback and playing on most of the special teams units as well. As a senior, Jewell finished with 100 tackles, 13 TFL, and 6 sacks on defense to go along with 1,314 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on offense.
"Iowa says linebacker or fullback," Jewell said. "UNI says linebacker or maybe a nickelback type of position. I'm thinking it will probably be linebacker, but I'll have to put on about 20 or 30 pounds."
What Iowa said . . .
Recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson: “He's a guy Reese [Morgan, Iowa D-line coach who recruits Iowa and the plains] has felt very strongly about through out the process. When Reese feels strongly about a person, that holds high regard in our minds. He knows these kids inside and out. When Reese really went to bat for [Jewel], coach [Kirk Ferentz] took that into account and offered him a scholarships."
What Rivals.com said . . .
Midwest recruiting coordinator Josh Helmholdt: “He's going to have to be a development guy. They added him late, getting a body in the fold they feel they can develop. I always tell fans that you have to trust your coaches. Not only do they know they're scheme, but they also know their coaching staff and what they can get out of kids and what kids respond to their coaching staff. Josey is a guy the coaching staff looked at and said, 'This is a guy we feel we can develop for our program. Those guys have certainly panned out and played well. You look at Mark Weisman, he was a walk-on. I think that's what you're looking at with a Josey Jewell."
What I think (FWIW, obviously) . . .
Jewell has Reese Morgan in his corner. Huge plus. Love what Josh Helmholdt said about coaches offering a scholarship and knowing what they can get out of a kid and how the kid will respond to the staff. Jewell is a four-sport kid, so he probably hasn't spent a lot of time in the weightroom. I see a lot of squats in his future. If he ends up at fullback, could he be a Brett Morse? No, Morse didn't do a lot with the ball, but he was an effective blocker in his last two seasons.