BLAIRSTOWN, N.J. — Jayson Oweh, only 20 months removed from putting on football pads for the first time, begins his college career at Penn State in June. A member of the Nittany Lions’ highly praised 2018 recruiting class, he’ll enroll with limited time remaining before the season, which will be his third as a participant in the sport.
Well under way with a workout plan provided by the Penn State staff, Oweh will be aiming to make an immediate impact.
“This first year, I don’t want to redshirt,” he told Land of 10. “I want to get some decent [playing] time so I know what to work on [next] offseason. I want to get some significant time.”
If you think the 6-foot-5, 244-pound defensive end has big plans for 2018, allow Oweh to describe his long-term goals.
“Down the road, I want to be one of the greats — be the best defensive end the school has had,” he said.
Oweh, who prioritized basketball when he transferred to Blair Academy from Rutgers Prep (Somerset, N.J.) in 2016, is all-in on his football future. He’s worked with a personal trainer during the past year, attended camps across the country, and erupted for a dominant senior season that silenced doubters.
Oweh collected 13 sacks in less than five full games last fall. Perhaps more important than that statistical production, his comfort level in the trenches increased.
“That season was very validating because I worked so hard on my craft prior to it,” he said. “The game was just a little slower than it was my first year, so for me to beat the offensive line like that and get sacks was fun.”
His 2017 season-opener featured 4 sacks and 11 tackles. Following that game — a 44-21 victory over Haverford — Oweh estimated efforts to reach his full capabilities remained at “less than 50 percent”.
Blair Academy coach Jim Saylor, who played alongside Penn State coach James Franklin at East Stroudsburg University (Pa.), witnessed his potential-packed pupil blossom.
“It all started to become natural for Jayson,” Saylor said. “Instead of thinking about things, he just did them.”
Oweh, who has added more than 10 pounds of muscle since his spring 2017 emergence on the national recruiting stage, paid close attention to lessons handed down from collegiate defensive line coaches. Discussions with Larry Johnson (Ohio State) and Sean Spencer (Penn State) were especially enlightening, as he worked under the direction of both men at camps last summer.
“I’ve been pretty confident that I can play at a high level for a while now, and [last] offseason of training and hard work just solidified things,” Oweh said. “I’m way more knowledgable, technically sound, and I have way more of a motive and passion.”
Tutelage from Spencer continues after Oweh elected to sign with Penn State on Dec. 22, the final day of college football’s inaugural early signing period. Aside from fellow finalist Ohio State, his scholarship offers included Alabama, Florida, Michigan and Notre Dame.
Every coaching staff had a sales pitch. Every coaching staff was enamored with Oweh’s proverbial “high ceiling.”
“We’ve heard first-round [NFL] draft pick, multi-million dollar contracts,” Saylor said. “Instead of academics and best fit, some coaches were talking about five, six years down the road and the money he could potentially make. That’s when things got a little crazy — when you’re comparing him to guys who have gone No. 1 and talking about where he could be picked in the draft. Those comparisons are great, but education was the main focus Jayson and his parents always wanted.”
Oweh set out to identify engineering programs of interest and that’s what he plans to study at Penn State. A high bar is set for his academic ambitions, and the same can be said for anticipated progression on the football field.
Considered one of the most impressive all-around athletes among incoming freshmen across Power-5 football, Oweh finished the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds at a Nittany Lions camp last July. This rare and raw physical foundation blends with a willingness to learn, and the result is a player who can accomplish tremendous things as he evolves.
“Jayson really could’ve played anywhere on the field for us,” Saylor said. “He played some wide receiver and tight end. We could’ve put him at running back in our triple option. If we needed him at linebacker, he would’ve done that. We could’ve even played him at cornerback because he was probably the fastest kid on our team. He’s just a one-in-a-million athlete and he would’ve done whatever it took to help the team.”
Oweh will return to State College on April 21, attending the Blue-White Game and reuniting with fellow members of Penn State’s freshman class. Among this 23-prospect collection, six enrolled in January and they’ve provided indications of what awaits for Oweh and the others this summer.
“Just know that when you get there, these [recruiting] stars don’t mean anything,” he said. “No one cares what you did on the high school circuit, or in camps, or anything like that. You have to prove that you’re down for the team and ready to work. Don’t expect to get anything easily because you have to work.”
Immediately after his conversation with Land of 10, Oweh began to walk toward the weight room. It was approaching dusk on a Friday, a time when many high school seniors gladly enter chill mode.
“I’ve got to put in this work. June is coming and I need to be ready,” he explained.
For Oweh, an arduous journey toward becoming “one of the greats” at Penn State has begun.
Watch our Friday conversation with Oweh: