For wide receiver Rakim Jarrett, playing football for Maryland was an opportunity to put on for his home state.
Born in Palmer Park, Maryland and going to high school in Washington D.C., Jarrett surprised many when he flipped as a 5-star recruit from LSU to play for the Terrapins. He served as a valuable option for their offense in his 3 years there, catching a total of 119 passes for 1,552 yards and 10 touchdowns in that span. The 3-time All-Big Ten Honorable Mention now looks to accomplish his next dream: playing in the NFL.
Jarrett spoke with Windy City Gridiron about what it meant to be a Terrapin, his alignment versatility, playing in a crowded wide receiver room in college, and more.
JI: Looking back on your college career, what did it mean to you to suit up your in-state team and perform as well as you did?
RJ: It was great. It was everything I ever dreamed of, to stay home, have all the people that supported me coming up and support me in college [as I prepare] to take next step to the professionals. It was great; it meant the world to me.
JI: Growing up watching guys like Stefon Diggs and DJ Moore suit up for the Terps, how does it feel seeing their success and knowing you’re gonna have a chance to shine like they did?
RJ: It gives you hope, even with Chig [Okonkwo] and Nick Cross. I played on the same team as them. It just gives you hope that they were here doing the same things you were doing, [and] now, they’re pros doing it. It means it’s possible; it’s not impossible to go out there and succeed.
JI: You played alongside other potential draft picks this year like Dontay Demus Jr. and Jacob Copeland. What did working with those guys do for your game?
RJ: Just seeing, day in and day out, their work ethic. That’s probably the biggest thing. Like, “okay, these are two other pros. If I’m not doing the same as them, I need to be doing even more to stay where I’m at”. It was just the work ethic, the energy we brought to each other, wanting to get better, and taking notes from each other, literally. It was great working with those guys.
JI: I know you guys are going through the same pre-draft process right now. Are you staying in touch talking about your experiences?
RJ: Yeah, I was actually just working out with Demus not too long ago, earlier [on Friday]. We talked about it a little bit, but nobody really knows, no players really know anything. We just ask about business, but other than that, we really only know ourselves.
JI: You’ve taken plenty of reps inside and outside during your time at Maryland, working the field and the boundary in the process. If you had to choose, what’s your favorite alignment to run routes out of?
RJ: I like lining up outside, but I think I’m more comfortable inside. I mean, they’re both more of the same to me.
JI: What is it about the slot that makes it appealing to you?
RJ: It’s more so feel. You’re running [against] inside ‘backers, safeties, so you’re not just beating a man, you got zone coverage. You got to negotiate your way through a whole defense. I think that’s the most interesting skill. You can’t really teach that.
JI: Another thing I’ve noticed about you is your value you bring on special teams. Even being a star receiver at Maryland, can you speak to the importance of playing on special teams?
RJ: In college, it’s all about adding value to yourself, whether it was running back, running on kickoff, kickoff return, anything that you could do to try and make a play or make a name for yourself, and help the team win. On special teams, with me being one of the better guys on the team, coaches wanted to see that for myself, and also wanted me to do it, to go out there on special teams and make some plays, and it’s fun! It’s not often a receiver gets to tackle people.
JI: How do you spend your free time outside of football?
RJ: Right now, I live in D.C. I’ve never lived in D.C.; I was always around, but I’m kind of living the tourist life right now: walk around, try different foods. Nothing too crazy. Other than that, I like to travel a lot, when I have free time.
JI: What do you like the most about living in D.C.?
RJ: I’d say the food. You have all these different types of restaurants. That’s probably the best thing in D.C. for me. I’ve already seen all the monuments and all the statues and historical stuff.
JI: Let’s say I’m an NFL general manager. What would I be getting if I drafted you to my team?
RJ: You’re getting a playmaker. First down, third down, I’m a guy that can go get the ball, play inside and outside and even in the backfield, so the versatility speaks for itself. My ability to create after the catch is one of my strengths of my game, whether it’s a big pass or a short pass. Give me the ball, [and] I think I can score on the field. That play-making ability, also that special teams value, whether it’s returning, covering...I’m precise in my work; I know what I’m doing. I want to perfect everything. I think you won’t have to worry about the off-the-field. You don’t have to worry about any late-night calls that I’m doing this or that. I think that all speaks for itself, what I bring to the table as a player.
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