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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Heart of a Buckeye, The Jacob Jarvis Story, Part 1

I’d like to first start off by thanking Jacob’s parents, Chad and Tracy Studebaker, for graciously welcoming me into their home and allowing me to spend time learning about such a special young man and his family. Jake is not just a son - he’s an older brother as well. Thus, I will be telling his story within the context of his family. While being a member of his own family, he is also a member of the Buckeye Family - near and dear to the heart of Buckeye fans throughout the world.
Jake’s story is one of faith, family, football, and lifelong, endearing friendships. My goal is to give a glimpse into Jake’s heart and to tell his story that at times is full of great joy, but also great adversity. Jake is bound to a wheelchair because of his muscular dystrophy, but if you spend just one moment with him and see the light in his eyes, you will see that he is standing up on the inside, with the heart of a Buckeye.

Jacob showing off his 2014 championship ring

We sat down in his Buckeye room full of Buckeye regalia and grand memories. Jacob Jarvis was born on Dec. 21, 1999 in Columbus, OH deep in the heart of Buckeye country.  It’s natural to expect that Jake was a Buckeye fan from birth, but that is not the case. In fact, Jake’s biological father was a fan of That Team Up North. While many of us were born, bundled in Buckeye garb, Jake was brought up from birth wearing Maize and Blue.
This early Michigan influence during his formative years would follow him into his youth.  Jake became a big fan of Michigan QB Denard “Shoelace” Robinson. He also carries his father’s love for the Cowboys to this very day. Before we get into how Jake developed such a great passion for football, let’s first take a look at Jake’s family and their journey.
Jake’s step-father, Chad Studebaker, and his mom Tracy Jarvis met when Jake was just 27 months old. Chad was raised in the United Methodist Church, while Tracy grew up attending Catholic Mass. As a compromise and on the invitation of a close friend, they decided to visit Discover Christian Church in Dublin, Ohio. DCC is a non-denominational bible-believing church whose motto is to love God, love others and make an impact in the world. Drawn to Discover’s down to earth and loving culture, they both made the decision to follow Christ, and went on to be baptized as an outward expression of that faith.

Jacob, Noah, and his parents, Chad and Tracy Studebaker

Unbeknownst to them at the time, their faith would soon be tested. Tracy had always suspected that there was something different about Jake as a child. Jake was delayed in his developmental milestones, walking a bit later than most kids his age. It became even more noticeable when he played youth soccer in Westerville and wasn’t keeping up with the other kids. Jake’s mom and his grandmother noticed he was demonstrating some evident differences in running form compared to the other boys his age.
Concerned by this, Jake’s parents took him to their family pediatrician Richard Kern in Gahanna. Jake was then referred to Dr. Jerry Mendell at Columbus Children’s Hospital, where he was then diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. It was at this moment when Jake was only 4 years old, that their family’s world was turned upside down.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most severe type of muscular dystrophy. Symptoms of voluntary muscle weakness usually begin around the age of four, and progressively worsen over time. Muscle weakness starts in the upper leg and pelvic muscles, and progresses to the upper arms and shoulders, eventually affecting the head and neck. Heart and respiratory muscles are impacted by DMD as well. Children with DMD lose the ability to walk generally between the ages of 10-14 and life expectancy is currently estimated to be in the low to mid 20’s.  With advances in medicine and excellent care, this has been extended into the 30’s, and in rare cases even into the 40’s.
After Jake was diagnosed with DMD, his family got plugged in with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and began regular visits to Dr. Mendell at Columbus Children’s Hospital. For the next 3 1/2 years, Jake had checkups with physicians, pulmonologists and physical therapists. At around the age of 8, Jake was approved for a very select drug trial of PTC-124 (now called Translarna) at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, under the supervisory care of Dr. Brenda Wong. Mr. Studebaker believes this rare Phase-2 drug trial extended Jake’s ability to walk by two years.

Jake watching a recap of the 2014 National Championship with Urban Meyer and his daughter Nicki

As Jake’s muscular dystrophy progressed, so did his passion for football.  As any step-parent would attest to, one must have a delicate balance when raising a step child. You want them to love the same things that you do, but at the same time, you are blending families - you quickly learn to pick your battles.
Jake really wanted his step-father to take him to an OSU game, but his words to Jake were, “I’m not taking you to a game until you can watch a full game at home on TV.” For a while Jake was only half interested, until around the age of ten when a switch turned on.  Jake became captivated with ESPN, the Big Ten Network, and anything else he could watch about football. Mr. Studebaker related that to this day, he doesn’t need to read up about the coming opponent, because Jake knows all the stats, and scouting reports of the best players on the opposing teams.

Jake not only has a deep love for football, he has a visible passion for life. As Jake professed to me, he is introverted, so while he may be quiet on the outside, he is anything but quiet on the inside. As Jake’s love for football was steadily growing, a quiet, but vibrant faith had taken root and was growing in the heart of Jake.
Jake has attended Discover Christian Church with his parents ever since he was in preschool. As many folks know, children don’t always take ownership of their faith, and make it their own until later in life. This all changed however, at a church camp in his early teens. That faith that had begun as a mustard seed was now beginning to grow.  After the camp, Jake wanted to express to others what he now firmly believed on the inside, that he wanted to follow Jesus Christ. Jake went on to be baptized in front of his parents, grandparents and his church family two weeks later.

One of Jake's best friend's Joshua Perry presenting Jake with a donation
Matthew 7:24-27 says, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” Jake was now beginning to gradually build his life on this rock, preparing his heart to withstand the many storms to come.
Urban Meyer and the Ohio State football program often talk about things being testimony, and not just theory.  As Jake’s muscular dystrophy was progressing, and Jake began to lose the ability to walk, Jake’s faith was going to be tested more than it had ever been in his life. His faith was about to become testimony, and not just theory.

Jake with his good friend Urban Meyer
Jake confided that his eighth-grade year was one of the toughest times in his life. Unknown to him at the time, he was about to have a providential encounter with a man that would change his life and propel him into the annals of Buckeye history forever.
Nicholas Jackson

Click here to continue with Part 2 of the Jacob Jarvis story.

Copyright 2017 Nicholas Jackson - All rights reserved.
Nick is a 1997 graduate of Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio where he received his B.S in Biological Sciences. He went on to receive his Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy at Andrews University in Dayton, Ohio and then his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. He has been published in the Newark Advocate, The Granville Sentinel, and the St. Louis Metro Voice; and professionally in the Journal of Acute Care Physical Therapy. Nick has also been a guest host on 88.9 WLRY and 880AM WRFD

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  1. Heart touching. I have read Jake's story previously but this refreshes and brings new insight. Thank you.

    1. Thank you! I wanted to go deeper than other sports sites had gone. To really know Jake as a person.

  2. I look forward to the next part. Great article!Go Buckeyes and beat the Sooners!

    1. Thanks for reading Roger! Can't wait until Saturday!

  3. I haven't had the opportunity to meet Jake. But as we say down here in Texas, Jake is good people.

    1. You would love him and his whole family. Just really neat people.