COLUMBUS, Ohio — Joey Velazquez has never set small goals for himself. And why would he? The 6-foot, 208-pound athlete has been a star on both the diamond and gridiron as long as he can remember. He’s a star outfielder and pitcher at Columbus St. Francis DeSales, ranked as the top baseball prospect in Ohio’s 2019 class by Prep Baseball Report, and starred all over the football field for the Stallions as well.
Running back, receiver, linebacker, safety. If you needed him to do something, you could consider it done.
“I’ve always, ever since I was a little kid, thought I was going to be like Bo Jackson and play both sports in college. I’ve always prepared myself and had that mindset that I would play both,” Velazquez told Land of 10. “I’ve always been working toward that and making that my goal.”
Velazquez has been committed to Ohio State’s baseball team since September 2016, despite offers coming in from around the country. However, despite high billing with a bat in his hand and a legitimate chance to be drafted by a major-league team next spring, he’s never given up the dream of being one of those guys.
You know the ones — the athletes so rare that we can usually identify them by one name. Bo. Deion. Thorpe. The kind of players who have the talent to excel at the professional level in two sports have their highlights played back for decades after they hang up the cleats.
Velazquez is not in that group yet. He has years of work ahead of him before that becomes a conversation. He knows that. However, on Tuesday, the Ohio prospect took his first step toward achieving his dreams.
Velazquez lands his first football offer — from Michigan
“[Michigan] has just offered me today for the first time for football and baseball. I was just in the coaches office and looking at my Hudl when they called. … They told me they were looking at my film and thinking about offering me and asked if I was still interested in playing football. I said of course and just explained that I wanted to keep my options open.
“Then, Coach [Jim] Harbaugh came on the other end and told me that I could play both football and baseball. I couldn’t be any happier,” Velazquez gushed. “I love playing football and it’s a dream come true to play Division I football. When I got that news I was just like — I was walking on cloud nine. It was unreal.”
During his conversation with the coaching staff, Michigan told Velazquez that they view him as fitting into their viper position — a hybrid of outside linebacker and strong safety that’s received attention after the play of Wolverines Jabrill Peppers and Khaleke Hudson.
For the Stallions, Velazquez excels on both sides of the ball. During the 2017 season, he was second on the team in rushing yards (356), rushing TDs (7), receptions (17), all-purpose yardage (495), tackles (50), interceptions (2) and kick return yardage (148). He led DeSales in deflected passes with 4. Although he’s somewhat of a Swiss Army knife in high school, Velazquez sees specialization in his future.
“I would play anywhere a school needs me, but I definitely prefer playing defense. I love hitting people,” he stated.
Velazquez has some impressive numbers to bring to bear whether he plays football or baseball. He benches at 390 pounds, squats at 570 and deadlifts at 600. It’s not just strength, either. The kid has speed, too, running a reported 4.54 40-yard dash and 6.84 60-yard dash as a high school junior.
Ohio State-Michigan rivalry never stops
After growing up in Columbus, it goes without saying that Velazquez is well-aware of the high-profile rivalry between the Buckeyes and Wolverines. He acknowledged the awkwardness of landing a Michigan offer after spending 18 months committed to play at Ohio State, but it did nothing to dull Velazquez’s excitement about the news.
“I did grow up an Ohio State fan and do root for the Buckeyes. It’s a little weird,” he laughed. “But I’ve had friends and cousins [Wolverines defensive backs coach Mike Zordich] that coach at or go to Michigan. I’ve always thought it’s kind of awesome to think about, you know. The chance to play Division I football anywhere is just a dream come true.”
The Ohio State football program also is interested in the local prospect, and Velazquez intends to work out for the Buckeyes during one of their June prospect camps, he said. Should Urban Meyer extend an offer to Velazquez down the road, it might be too difficult to say no to the idea of staying at home and keeping his commitment intact.
“[A football offer from Ohio State] would be really ideal and make everything work out a lot better,” Velazquez admitted. “It’s hard to think about if that also happens. If that happens and making everything work out perfectly with the coaches and all that, that would really be the biggest thing.”
What’s next for Joey Velazquez?
Of course, it’s entirely possible that an even more attractive opportunity comes around. Given the MLB’s gargantuan draft process that results in the selection of more than 1,200 players, Velazquez has a real chance to be drafted to the pro ranks.
MinorLeagueBall’s Michael Cook reported that 146 high school prospects signed with MLB teams (out of 312 who were drafted) during the 2017 draft process. Given Velazquez’s stature as one of the top 100 baseball prospects in his graduating class, the chance he’s drafted is a possibility that must be considered.
“That would be something else. Coming out of high school to the draft, that would be unreal. That would definitely probably be the number one choice, depending on where I go or when I get drafted and all that,” Velazquez said, also noting he could still choose to attend college if he were drafted. “Obviously, getting a college education is most important. … I still have to consider my future and sit down with my parents and talk about what’s best for me and what has to happen for me to be successful at the next level.”
The next step for Velazquez will be continuing to sort out the thoughts, feelings, and options for college athletics that lay in front of him. He’s built long-lasting relationships at Ohio State after years of being recruited by baseball coach Greg Beals and his staff.
He has the option to attend Ohio State — his local program, his childhood favorite and one of the most high-profile universities in the country — and go to school alongside his sister, an Ohio State student who also works in the Buckeyes athletic department.
Now, Velazquez also has a chance to pursue his dreams of being a two-sport star and etching his names into the annals of Big Ten history at Ohio State’s rival. Michigan is an elite university in its own right and offers many of the same perks that he could find in Columbus. Chasing legends named Bo and Deion — coincidentally, Velazquez plays summer ball for Bo Jackson Elite — while achieving childhood dreams is an intoxicating image for a young athlete.
Velazquez will begin his two-sport recruitment by making an unofficial visit to Michigan on April 21, alongside 4-star defensive tackle and high school teammate Rodas Johnson. The trip was planned before the Wolverines offered, but now the dynamic has changed.
The world is at Joey Velazquez’s feet right now. He just has to figure out which step to take.