Jaden Sheffey (left) playing for George Fox University. (Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer)
I ran into Jaden Sheffey at the Tacoma Dome last March -- right before the coronavirus lockdown. We were both there to watch the Woodinville Falcons girls basketball team play in the state tourney. (His sister Veronica is the team's point guard). We talked for a few minutes, and he mentioned how he was looking to join the Colorado Buffaloes. We chatted a bit more and then said goodbye.
I went back to my seat and pondered. Back in 2016, Sheffey had transferred from tiny Cedar Park Christian to Woodinville. And now here he was, looking to crack the Pac-12!
Fast forward to a few days ago. Sheffey announced on Twitter that he was transferring from George Fox University to the Washington Huskies as a walk-on quarterback.
We spoke on the phone. I congratulated him and asked what happened.
"It was a crazy time," he said. "I was talking to [Colorado] to find out if I could get on the team. I heard from the recruiting coordinator at U-Dub (Justin Glenn). He told me there was interest for me being on the team and all I needed to do was get into the school. I did all that I could to apply and get in. There was a lot to do."
Sheffey completed his undergrad degree this spring. He took 22 credits and finished with a 3.5 GPA. "The UW worked out better," he said. "I get to stay close to home and stay close to my family. When (Glenn) told me there was interest, I was like man, this is surreal. All my life I've been working for this. Both my parents attended the University of Washington and my dad has been taking me to the football games since I was four years old."
When Sheffey arrived at Woodinville in 2016, he said people weren't shy expressing their thoughts. "When I made the switch from 1A to 4A, a lot of people told me, `Oh are you going there to be the JV quarterback?' I was like `What? No! I'm going there to make an impact on varsity."
Ever since Jaden was in 8th grade, his dad woke him up at 4:30a.m. to work out. "Nobody else my age was getting up at that time," Jaden said. "But you know, my dad taught me how to work hard and be prepared. Because that's what separates you from your competition. Both my parents taught me that, to expect the best from myself."
Sheffey won the Woodinville starting job right away. As a junior, he guided the Falcons to an 11-1 record and the state quarterfinals. The following season, he helped lead Woodinville to a 13-1 record and the State Championship game at the Tacoma Dome. His two-year record as a starter was 24-2.
He ended up signing with George Fox University. As he arrived on the Newberg, Oregon campus, he quietly thought: "Man, I wish I could have gone D-1. That has always been my dream since I was a little kid."
But he quickly immersed himself at George Fox. In his debut game as a freshman, his first pass from scrimmage was a 74-yard touchdown in a 35-3 win over Howard Payne. In his sophomore season, he threw for 1,577 yards with 15 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
"I was content where I was and satisfied with the friends I made," Sheffey said. "I truly was thinking about staying there for all four years. But I know for myself, I put so much into it. I felt like I had more to contribute in terms of a high level of football. And so with me finishing my undergrad at George Fox, I knew that I've only got one chance to do this. I'm going to shoot for the stars and try to make it big. Working hard in the classroom and working hard on the field. And thank the lord I was able to make it to where I wanted to be."
Now, here he is making the rare leap from Division-III to Division-I. It's a move that'll raise eyebrows from skeptics. In a certain sense, he's the unknown kid from Cedar Park Christian all over again.
"But now, my outlook has changed," he said. "I don't [feel] the same weight of what other people think of me. It's still in the back of my mind, you want to prove doubters wrong. But as I've grown as a person, I know that someone is always going to be unhappy or someone is always going to doubt. You can't control what other people think or say. In terms of going for your dreams and goals, you have to just have to do what's best for you. People are either going to support you or not."
"It's going to be a competitive challenge for sure," he continued. "I'm going to be in an underdog position, which I'm used to. In the quarterback room there at UW, it's a new system, it's Pac-12 football. The defenses are good. I'm not coming in saying I'm going to be the starter. I'm not saying that at all. I know what the competition holds. Honestly, I'm very excited to be on the team. My goal is to contribute however I can."
Sheffey's competition will be fellow QBs Jacob Sirmon, Dylan Morris and Ethan Garbers. Once upon a time, Sheffey's Woodinville Falcons were 2-0 against Sirmon's Bothell Cougars. Sheffey also led Woodinville to a 45-24 win over Morris and Graham-Kapowsin in the 2017 playoffs.
"I've known Sirmon since seventh grade," Sheffey said. "Obviously we competed against each other on the field in league play. I competed against Sirmon and Morris at certain showcase camps and training clinics. I know those guys fairly well. I know Sirmon better than I know Dylan. Those two are both great competitors and good quarterbacks. It will be good to go against them."
The coronavirus saga has left doubt as to whether there will be a 2020 season. But should football come to fruition, Sheffey will get his shot.
"Am I going for the starting job?" he asked. "Absolutely -- I'm always going to compete for that. But my mentality is that I'm just thankful to be here."