Northmont (Ohio) High School football coach Tony Broering had chalked up the pass as an incompletion when Jestin Jacobs beelined for the football, leaped and came down with the interception.
“I couldn’t believe he got it,” Broering said. “It was one of those ‘wow’ type plays you don’t see very often.”
In the opener last season, Jacobs displayed the athleticism that separates him from others and led more than 20 schools to offer him scholarships before he chose Iowa on May 11.
“He is a vicious hitter and he has such a burst when he attacks the line of scrimmage or when we send him on a blitz that he is really hard for guys to handle and deal with,” Broering said. “He is a special athlete for sure.”
Broering realized Jacobs was different when he broke free for 3 touchdowns as a wide receiver in a freshman game in 2015. He didn’t see an offensive playmaker, though.
Jacobs was long, with a frame capable of carrying added weight. Broering thought Jacobs was a potential Division I-level defensive back or linebacker. He told Jacobs as much after the game.
“That was amazing to know coach believed in me,” Jacobs said. “I just wanted to play varsity and it didn’t matter to me how I got onto the field.”
Broering knew the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Jacobs was the perfect player for the Thunder position at Northmont, which is located in Clayton, just north of Dayton. It’s a rover-type of spot that helps out in everything from the pass rush to run support to coverage.
“It does a little of everything and J.J. is capable of doing a little of everything,” Broering said.
Jacobs likes the position because it plays to his strengths and lets him attack opposing offenses in ways he couldn’t in a more traditional position.
“I”m long and versatile and that can help you in a lot of ways,” Jacobs said. “It helps at linebacker, safety and coming off the edge. The more ways I can help out the better it is for the team.”
Jacobs played on varsity as a sophomore and broke out as a junior, recording 74 tackles, including 13 for loss.
His quickly drew attention and offers piled up, including from Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Northwestern and Iowa State.
“When guys watch him work out they can’t believe how high he can jump, how far he can jump, how long his stride is, how fast he is,” Broering said. “His wing span is so long. He is really what you are looking for.”
The Hawkeyes made Jacobs a priority. They were one of the first Big Ten teams to visit him last winter and kept in contact with him and Broering. Iowa jumped to the top of Jacobs’ list after an unofficial visit to Iowa City during his spring break.
“We loved the coaches,” Jacobs said. “We got a good feel for the program. Then after that they still made efforts to come to my school. That was almost daily and it just felt like it was the right decision. I didn’t want to wait.”
He committed on May 11 and will bring a level of athleticism to the linebacker position that Iowa has lacked recently. The Hawkeyes haven’t told Jacobs which linebacker spot they want him to play.
He wouldn’t mind rotating between multiple spots. He has a knack for it and it’s a way as any to highlight his biggest strength.
“I will play wherever they want,” Jacobs said, “but I do like moving around because it showcases my versatility it’s a way I can make plays.”