Jaelen Vazquez’s sophomore season was filled was more frustration than fanfare and fuel him to show people exactly how good he is.
The Cardinal Hayes offensive lineman rebounded to turn in a stellar junior campaign that earned him a Division I football scholarship. Vazquez recently committed to play at Old Dominion University, picking the Monarchs over Stony Brook and Delaware. The school’s coaches loved what they saw on Vazquez’s highlight tape and he was impressed by the Norfolk Virginia school during his visit last month.
“I liked their majors, their facilities,” he said. “Their community was welcoming. I had to think about it a few weeks and I made my decision.”
Vazquez didn’t begin playing football until he was freshman at Hayes and was starting on the varsity as a sophomore. His playing time and production were limited because of a spider bite on his leg that blew up to the size of a softball and became infected, according to Cardinals coach C.J. O’Neil.
“It was pretty nasty,” the coach said.
The set back motivated Vazquez to have a big junior campaign. He responded by helping Hayes win its first CHSFL Class AA championship since 1981. Sophomore running back Timothy Poindexter ran for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns behind him and the offensive line.
“It kind of opened people’s eyes,” Vazquez said.
What sets him apart is the athleticism he displays with his 6-foot-3, 265-pound frame that can still add another 20-pound of muscle, according to O’Neil. Vazquez, who will also play defense for Hayes next season, can run a 40-yard dash in 5.0 seconds. That time that is still capable of dropping. It is that speed that allows him to do things most kids with his frame can’t.
“You aren’t going to get many kids at Jaelen’s size as athletic in space as he is,” O’Neil said. “If you see his film you will see him moving out and catching linebackers and safeties and putting them on their butts out in the open field.”
It’s those skills that make him a perfect fit for head coach Billy Wilder’s offense at Old Dominion. The Monarchs, who went 8-4 last season, want to spread the field and play fast.
“Their offense is a fast moving pace and tempo and I’d be a fit at that position,” Vazquez said.
He never thought he’d get to this point, considering he’s only be playing for three years. Vazquez is happy to have the decision over with so he can concentrate on his senior season. Hayes, after winning the crown, will move up to the AAA league this fall.
“It fells great,” Vazquez said. “It does feel like a big relief, but I’m glad with my decision. I can’t wait.”