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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Heart of a Buckeye, The Jacob Jarvis Story, Part 3

 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)

Jacob’s day starts bright and early every morning at 5 AM. As part of Jake’s morning routine, Jake’s stepfather has a devotional with him while he is in his EZ Stander (Jake stands in it an hour each morning and evening to help maintain his strength). This week, Chad and Jake are discussing the fruits of the Spirit from the Bible, particularly self-control. Along with self-control, Mr. Studebaker is trying to instill in Jake the importance of integrity. “Integrity is doing what is right when no one is looking.” It’s a lesson not just for Jake, but for all of us.

At Ohio State, Coach Meyer tries to cultivate a feeling of family, love and brotherhood. One of the ways he accomplishes this is through regular team meals. If folks can put down their devices for even just a half hour a day, and look each other in the eye; imagine the fellowship and bonds that could be forged over time.

When Jake and his stepfather attended that first practice in 2013, Coach Meyer invited them to also be a part of their post practice team meal. At one point, Chad had to run to his car while Urban watched Noah and Jake. Here was the CEO, and most powerful person at the head of The Ohio State Buckeyes football machine, taking time out to invest in two youngster’s lives. Jake said Coach Meyer spent 20 minutes explaining the biblical roots of their names, and the stories and meanings behind them. As Chad said, this was Coach Meyer’s expression of love to Noah and Jake.

Jake with Coach Meyer

Coach Meyer would be the first to tell you he is not perfect. He, like all of us, struggles with the battle to walk with integrity every day. It’s a choice we all make and the battle never stops. A dear friend remarked, “Urban Meyer was God’s gift to Jake, and Jake was God’s gift to Urban.”  Yes, Coach has done wonders for Jake’s confidence and growth, but Jake has had just as big of an impact on Coach.

In 2008, the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) joined forces with Parent Project MD to support Coaches to Cure MD. Parent Project MD is the largest nonprofit organization in the United States, devoted entirely to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Coaches to Cure was developed to raise national awareness of Duchenne MD, and to help raise money to find a cure.

One Saturday of every season, AFCA coaches will wear a Coach to Cure armband to help raise awareness for Duchenne MD. As a member of AFCA, the Ohio State University football team has worn a patch for Coach to Cure ever since its founding.  Coach Meyer admits that he wore the patch every year but didn’t know really what it was for. It wasn’t until he met Jake and his family that the patch on his arm became more than just a symbol, it became personal.

In 2014, Coach Meyer and the OSU football team donated $10,000 to Parent Project MD. They have continued this every year since.  Coach Meyer has taken it a step further. Now every student athlete on the football team at the behest of Meyer, are encouraged to pay it forward and give part of their stipend to help fight Duchenne MD.

Former OSU cornerback and current NFL Denver Bronco Bradley Roby was one of the first OSU athletes to reach out to Jake and take him under his wing. Former OSU captain and current Denver Bronco Jeff Heuerman would also develop a friendship with Jake during the 2014 championship season that lasts to this very day. Unbeknownst to many, whenever Jeff would go out for pre-game coin flips he would consult Jake who always calls tails, for as we all know, “tails never fails.”

Jake with one of his best friends Jeff Heuerman

On September 27, 2014, Jake would join his best friends on the field as honorary captains and be a part of the coin toss in person. Doran Grant, Michael Bennett, Curtis Grant, Jeff Heuerman, Jake and his brother Noah all locked arms and strode out together as a band of brothers, going on to win 50-28.

Jake and his brother Noah headed out for the opening coin toss against Cincinnati

In addition to the captaincy, Chad and Jake had been present at almost every key moment in the historic 2014 season. They were both present at the pre-season practice where Braxton Miller tore his shoulder labrum. They were stunned as Braxton was taken off the field, leaving the prospects of a championship season in doubt.

They were both present at the OSU Michigan game November 29, 2014 when JT Barrett was bent over backwards, fracturing his lower leg, and putting their national title hopes once again in doubt. OSU’s 2014 season mirrored Jake’s own life. Facing early adversity with the season ending injury to Braxton, and the loss to Virginia Tech, the team lost their Heisman candidate quarterback right before the Big Ten championship. OSU entered the playoffs with an unproven third string QB named Cardale Jones; even Jake didn’t believe Cardale could lead us to victory over the vaunted Alabama Crimson Tide.

After dispensing of the Crimson Tide, Ohio State would go onto face the Oregon Ducks. Coach Meyer extended an invitation for Jake and his stepfather to attend the National Championship game in person. Ohio State went on to win 42-20 and capture the inaugural CFP national championship, going down as of one of the most memorable championship runs in all of sports.

Obviously, Jake had a lot of emotions that night. Having gone through his own personal trials of losing the ability to walk, and suffering the scorn of his peers, Jake was asked what he was thinking at that very moment when the confetti dropped and he was basking in the glory of the championship. Jake said, “I was raising my arms and praising God.”

The national championship in 2015 was a mountain top experience for jake. Coming off the high of that historical season, Jake returned to class at Olentangy High school imbued with confidence and with a renewed sense of purpose. Now his peers respected him, and he has formed strong friendships with many of them.

2015 and 2016 were also special years for Jake for another reason; Jake is a devout Cleveland Cavaliers fan and a huge fan of Lebron James. Longsuffering and full of self-doubt like most of his fellow Cavs fans, could they do the impossible? Facing a 3-1 deficit to the Golden State Warriors, Jake had lost hope. A story book comeback from impossible odds, however makes victory that much sweeter. Jake wept as the Cavs did what no team had done before them They came back from a 3-1 deficit, ended the curse, and made Cleveland an NBA championship city.

Jake is a junior at Olentangy High school, home of former Buckeye great Joshua Perry. A fellow Brave, Joshua has developed a special bond with Jake, spending time with him and his family and mentoring him. He has spoken at Jake’s high school events and to his Fellowship of Christian Athlete events, often sharing a meal with Jake.

Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Joshua Perry and Jeff Heuerman aren’t just with Jake during the good times. Like a brother, they are by his side when he is facing adversity too. Jeff even took the time out from a busy schedule to visit Jake in the hospital when he had an infection.

Photo courtesy of

Throughout all this adversity, Jake maintains a quiet Christian witness, preferring to let his life speak for itself; and serving as an inspiration to others, while ultimately pointing them to Jesus Christ. On April 17th, 2017 at Ohio State’s annual spring football game, Jake’s witness was shown to the entire nation.

As the clock ran down, and the Spring Game was about to end, Jacob Jarvis entered the game in his power wheelchair. JT Barrett handed the ball off to Jake. Jake said he had his entire run planned in his mind beforehand. He juked and jived his way to a touchdown, while his teammates mobbed him in the end zone. Unseen by most of the cameras, Jake did what one of his personal heroes Tim Tebow always did after scoring a touchdown; he prayed and offered thanks to the Lord Most High, giving Him all the glory. Thousands of people all around the nation on television and on the internet witnessed Jake’s crowning moment.

Often in life though, it’s not the big moments in life that shape your destiny. It’s the small, cumulative decisions you make over time when the cheering has stopped; but there is beauty in the commonplace.  

Jake knows he has an even tougher road ahead. He has begun to lose the strength in his shoulders, making it difficult to raise his arms overhead without help. Despite these challenges, Jake has not given up hope. He wants to study sports broadcasting and open a restaurant called “Jake the Snake’s.”

With the help of his loving family, his steadfast faith, and his deep abiding friendships, Jake will persevere; and come what may, he will praise and give God the glory, the entire way.

Nicholas Jackson

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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