Respect, reliability and character are terms that tend to come up in conversation when talking about Jacob Potthoff. These three traits have allowed him to be successful in multiple facets of his life and continue to lead him to success at Illinois Wesleyan University as a freshman receiver and a Pre-Physical Therapy major; Jacob recently was selected as the Week 4 Scout Player of the Week for the Titans. Potthoff’s voyage took him through St. Mary’s Fighting Irish Football and on to the Marian Central Hurricanes where he was a 2-year varsity starter as well as being a member of the Hurricane’s Lacrosse team. What is more impressive about this young athlete are the accolades he has received in the classroom as a: Member of High Honor Roll (4 years), National Honor Society Member, East Suburban Catholic Conference Scholar Athlete, Don Penza Character Award winner and the Burlswarth Character Award winner. I sat down with Jacob to talk about the importance of what he does when no one is watching even though it seems many have noticed the compass pointing to the positive path more times than not.
So tell me about you football journey… How old were you when you started and any fond memories: “I started football on bantams as an eight year old. I remember I was so excited to play because I knew that my dad had been a coach and I had been begging my parents to play football. The year before my parents had signed me up for soccer and before the first game, I asked my parents what plays we were going to run and if I could go out and hit people. My fondest memories have to be from my heavyweight season. That team was fun to be a part of; we went undefeated in the regular season but lost to Lake Geneva in the semi-finals. That team was the beginning of what would be Hurricane football in those 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. Those guys are some of my best friends and I am glad we got to play together for so long. I still wish we could go out and run the Golden Dome drill in practice one more time.”
IWU Titans are 5-1 overall and ranked #18 in the nation…what’s it like coming into so much team success: “It is really exciting coming into so much success at IWU this season. Being at the top of a Top 5 Division 3 conference is very special. There's a really good culture here that Coach Eash has implemented. The team chemistry is remarkable, everyone gets along for the most part and I feel comfortable with everyone form the freshman to the seniors. We are in the driver's seat at this point in the season and our goal is to go 1-0 every week. If we do that we will reach our goal of a CCIW championship”
What are you most exciting experience you have had since starting the season down in Bloomington: “I would have to say the most exciting experience I have had since starting the season would be beating #12 Wheaton and beating Carthage in double overtime. Those two games have defined our season and showed the country what the Titans are all about. Overall, it’s exciting being a part of this team. Football is a big deal here similar to hurricane football. Sometimes it feels like the whole city is behind us. The alumni that come back tell us how proud they are and how important Titan football it to them which really lets you know how deep the Tradition of Titan football runs.”
What advice can you give the Marian Central Hurricanes, as it was a bit of a rough season…any insight to those graduating seniors: “My advice to the Hurricanes would be to keep their heads up. It was a tough season, but that happens. I know we were a young team this year and it is good that those younger guys have a year of experience in the ESCC. the fact that they held their own as young as they are is something to be proud of. Now, they just have to go into the off-season, hold each other accountable in the weight room, classroom, and socially. When those kids were sophomores and I was a senior I could see the talent that they had and I think they will have a bounce back year next year. To the seniors, my advice to you is to enjoy every moment. It was a tough year but if you went out there and left it all on the field then you do not have much to be disappointed in. You worked with what you had and that takes a lot of courage. As the season ends, enjoy all the lasts and hang out with your friends as much as possible. I have made a lot of friends at IWU but I miss my friends form home a lot.”
How did you spend your last summer before you officially become a college student: “The summer before coming to Wesleyan I spent most of my time working and training for the season. If I was not working or training, I was hanging out with my friends. I tried to spend every free moment I had with them because I knew how much I would miss them. We are all really close and some of us have been friends since our St. Mary days. I also made time to spend time with my mom and dad. Being the last kid to go off to college I knew it would be a tough transition for them not having me at home.”
What is one thing that you learned in youth football, that you still commit to and/or practice on the college football field: “One thing that I learned in youth football that still sticks with me today is having mental toughness. I only had two winning season at St. Mary's so those losing years were tough. I learned to work hard and trust the process even if things are not going your way. I think mental toughness is a unique trait that can help beyond sports because you will have tough times in life and whether or not it gets better depends on your attitude and your mental toughness.”
What was the best/worst part of going through the process of finding a college; especially when you want to play sports: “The best part about choosing a college and especially in the recruiting process is that everyone wants you to come play for them and they make you feel like you're the man. Getting to visit all those schools was really fun. The hardest part was choosing one and having to say no to the others. The worst part was having to call the other coaches that recruited me to play and tell them that I had chosen not to attend their school. You develop so many relationships in recruiting that it is hard to cut those off. However, I felt comfortable with my decision and being here at IWU for three months I know I made the right choice.”
What do you think is one thing you will miss about High School Football: “The one thing I miss about high school football is everything about Friday Night Lights. I miss the locker room, wearing the jersey on game day, the drum line walking the Hurricanes in, and going out there and playing with your best friends. There is nothing like it.”
It has to be a learning experience fighting for a spot on the roster and playing with the scout team, what can you say about playing your role to help a team be successful: “Freshman year on a college team is definitely a grind. You have to earn your stripes and start at the bottom of the totem pole. Nothing is given to you and you have to earn everything you have. I know my role right now is being a scout team receiver for our starting defense. It is my job to make the defense better and give them the best possible look so they are prepared for the opponent. It may not seem like it, but that is a win-win situation. The defense gets a look, and I get to go against the best players in practice. Getting the coaches to notice you is definitely the goal and I think I have begun to do that. Through making plays in practice and JV games and also being voted by the coaches scout team player of the week, I am beginning to try and make a name for myself here. I know my role and I know with perseverance and trusting the process, my opportunity will come and I will be prepared for it.”
From athletics, academics to clubs and causes, you kept very busy at MCCHS, do you still have time for all the activities and solid GPA with a rigid football schedule: “A big part of college is time management. Football is a big part of my life on campus; we are active 6 days a week for about two and a half to three hours a day. I have had to use my free time to study and take care of business in the classroom. I think I have gotten a good system in place to where I am getting my work done and staying on top of things. In college, it is on you to study and be prepared because there is not a lot of homework like in high school. You have to space out studying and not wait until the night before the exam. If you use your time wisely, college is easy to figure out.”
Character has always been synonymous with your name Jake, what does that mean to you and why has it always been something you have found important: “What character means to me is choosing the difficult right over the easy wrong and what you do when no one is watching. I have found that doing what is right even if it is not what everyone else is doing or what is cool, that it will pay off later down the road. I know that when I am out in public I represent my family, my school, and me. The last thing that I want to do is reflect poorly on them and let them down. I feel that being respected for character is a great compliment because it means that I am reliable and reliability is a valuable trait in college and in life."