TOUGHNESS was the thing Eagles coach Andy Reid talked about, in justifying taking Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round instead of the third or fourth, where the safety from Temple had been projected.
Asked about that toughness this weekend, during his visit to NovaCare, Jarrett was quick to explain it.
"She always made sure to discipline us," said Jarrett, who is one of three children of Audrey Young, a Rikers Island corrections officer. "If it wasn't physically it was mentally. She made sure that if we weren't doing something right, that she spoke to us, and let us know why it's not right, and what we need to correct. So my mother was very disciplined in my life."
Young has worked at Rikers 21 years, commuting from Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. In interviews, she has painted an understandably bleak picture of the place, but it must not be all bad - she has made a career there, and Jaiquawn has graduated from Temple with a criminal justice degree. Before the draft, he told the New York Daily News he might follow in his mom's footsteps after football, or even sooner, if the current lockout persists.
But his mom made it very clear to Jaiquawn growing up that she never wanted to see him on the other side of the bars.
"I told him the horror stories," Young told the New York paper. "It's degrading and humiliating. I told him if he ever gets locked up, I'm not going to see him. I'm not going through that."
Asked about that on his trip to NovaCare, Jarrett said: "She never threatened us. But she let us know that if we were ever to get caught, or if you go to Rikers Island, don't expect me to bail you out; just know that I would rather not love you still."
Young and Jarrett are happy to see him land with the Eagles, where she can get down to watch him play, in the same stadium where he starred for Temple. (They might have been even a tad happier to see him land even closer to home with the Jets, who had shown strong interest, but nobody was saying that in the immediate aftermath of the draft).
Taking a guy universally projected for the third or fourth round in the second round seems to run against the way Howie Roseman has run the Eagles' draft since becoming the team's general manager last year. But this was not a strong safety draft, and the Eagles felt they would be taking a big risk if they tried to wait for the third to get a guy they clearly see as a future starter, probably at strong safety. He is neither big (6-foot, 198) nor fast (4.54-4.65 in the 40) for the position, but he is known as fierce hitter.
"We had a high grade on Jarrett. We took him where our grade was," Roseman said after the draft. "Really, when you talk to people around the league after you make these picks, nobody's saying, 'I can't believe you took this guy there,' they're saying - there's a lot of interest in the player.
"You've got to think about how you'd feel if you lost them . . . is it worth it to miss that guy? In this situation, we wanted the player. I think he's a great fit for this team, I think he's a great fit for this city, and I think he's going to bring a lot, on and off the field. I think people are really going to like him as a Philadelphia Eagle."
Jarrett is the first player from Brooklyn's Fort Hamilton High to be drafted into the NFL. He had no scholarship offers coming out of there and was close to enrolling in prep school for a year when a player flunked out of Temple, opening a scholarship there.
"I kind of keep that with me; being that I'm from Brooklyn, I really didn't get recruited coming out of high school. So I do walk around with a slight chip on my shoulder," he said. "Not cocky, but confident in myself, knowing that I have a lot to accomplish and a lot to prove when I get out there." *