INDIANAPOLIS – Former Plymouth Rockie Jake LaFree will soon be a resident of Philadelphia as he’s decided to head for Temple University to get his graduate degree and extend his football career for at least one more season.
LaFree, a kicker at the University of Indianapolis for the past four years, will graduate this spring with a degree in finance and while looking for a graduate school the opportunity to play one more year of football presented itself.
“Last year in the fourth game I had a break in my fibula, so I got a medical red shirt year which would be this coming year,” said LaFree. “I was looking at the graduate program at UIndy. I had to take the GMAT (test) and when you take that you can send the scores to eight or nine different schools for free so I figured why not? I sent one to Notre Dame, IU, Temple different graduate programs to see what was out there in a better masters program.”
“As the spring went on I felt my leg getting stronger and started kicking a little bit,” said LaFree. “One of my dreams has always been to kick at a Division I school so I went in and quit the team here and got my name on the transfer portal and took a chance on myself.”
“I (direct messaged) one of their (Temple) coaches and by Friday I had a scholarship offer,” he said. “That’s really the way it works though at any level. You gotta knock on the door and at least let them know you’re interested.”
It was a welcome turn of events for LaFree who thought he’d likely never play again.
“Honestly last year was a disappointing thing,” said LaFree of the broken leg that ended his season. “At that point I thought that was the way it was all going to end and that would have been a bad way to go out.”
That was when events began to go another direction. For LaFree. The choice was an easy one.
“I didn’t want to look back 40 years from now and feel like I had a chance and didn’t take it,” he said.
While Temple did offer a scholarship LaFree is also aware that the offer works differently for kickers.
“How it works as a kicker is you walk on in the fall, and if you win the spot you get the scholarship,” he said. “If you don’t you pay tuition so I’ll have to win that spot in fall camp. (The pressure to perform) is no different than any time though. It’s all like game ten in the regular season. Everything counts. You just treat everything like a game and you’ll be alright.”
The PHS grad said that his time in Indianapolis was a great experience.
“I liked the small town feel of the school (UIndy) with the big city just 10 minutes away,” said LaFree. “Of course the scholarship money didn’t hurt. And the thing is that Division II football is very competitive. We (UIndy) are also usually at least top 20 in the nation so there’s a very high level of athletes, a high level of coaching. It was a great fit coming out of high school for me.”
“We played against a guy at Saginaw that’s the starting safety with the Cowboys now. His name is (Jeff) Heath, he is a great athlete,” he said. “I played with two guys that are on NFL rosters now. Our wide receiver Reece Horn (Miami Dolphins). He was a great receiver, and Ruben Holcomb who’s on the practice squad with the (Tampa Bay) Bucs right now.”
“Those guys were great leaders and had an unbelievable work ethic and you’d see them out in front in the weight room and it made you want to work your way to that part of the room,” said LaFree.
The smaller college feel was also a way to work through the initial shock of college life, when you’re a football player.
“In high school you might think you work hard but in college it’s a whole different ball game,” said LaFree. “You’ve got team meetings, practice, film, weight room and you still have to get your work done, you have to show up in class and keep your grades.”
This could be the final year on the gridiron for LaFree, but, well, who knows.
“Playing in the NFL is always the dream. I remember writing an essay in grade school about being a pro football player,” he said. “Really I’m just focused on this season and getting better every day.”
He will have to solve one problem before he gets to Temple.
“Temple is an Under Armor school and I’ve been an Adidas guy since I can remember,” he said. “I ordered a pair of (Under Armor) cleats so I can start working out with them but they haven’t gotten here yet.”