By: Connor Hanson – Staff Writer
From being a conference MVP and an All-State quarterback his senior season of high school, to watching from the sidelines last year, and now the starting quarterback for a 6-0 Dayton Flyers team in his first year of eligibility, redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Jeske has seen a lot of change in his past three years of football.
Jeske has played contact football since the fourth grade and hasn’t looked back.
“My junior year I started thinking about playing sports in college,” the Glen Elyn, Illinois, native said. “I also played basketball and had to decide which sport I wanted to play, and during my senior year I decided that I would go forward and play football in college.”
Jeske and the coaching staff decided for him to redshirt his freshman year, as most freshmen do.
“It gave me an opportunity to get bigger, stronger, faster, adjust to the speed of the game and to learn the offense better,” Jeske said.
Eric Evans, the Flyers’ second-year quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, came in the spring of 2014 and did not have a hand in recruiting Jeske; however he did work with Jeske when he showed up to camp his freshman year.
“I saw a player who had talent and would develop into a good player for us, at the time I didn’t know how quickly, but I thought that he was a talented player that we could work with,” Evans said.
Head coach Rick Chamberlin also saw Jeske grow and become more comfortable as he learned the ropes last year. Jeske played his freshman year on the scout team and learned the opposing team’s offense week to week in order to give the defense the best look possible.
“We saw a young man who enjoyed playing football, did what we asked of him, and who gave us great effort, which is so important, that’s the only reason we play well on Saturdays,” Chamberlin said.
After not seeing the field for an entire year, Jeske was determined to work hard in the offseason to get a chance to get back on the field.
“Coach challenged all of us quarterbacks and told us that we could all be the starter, and I continued working with the mindset that I wanted to be the starting quarterback,” Jeske said.
However, Chamberlin did not see Jeske competing for the starting job right away.
“We thought he needed more physical development, and he got better through the winter as he got bigger and stronger,” Chamberlin said. “We also saw improvements in both his agility as well as arm strength.”
Jeske was sitting as the third quarterback on the depth chart when he showed up to camp this summer. However, with his determined mindset, it only took a week for him to rise up into the number two quarterback spot.
“In every single competition and every single practice I kept noticing him in positive ways,” Evans said. “He kept showing up, competing, making plays and standing out to us.”.
Another area where Evans saw Jeske grow during practice was Jeske’s leadership skills, which helped solidify him as the team’s backup quarterback by the end of preseason camp.
Jeske then competed for the starting job during training camp until the starting quarterback was named. Even after he was told he would be the backup to redshirt sophomore Blake Bir during the week of preparation for the season opener against Robert Morris, Jeske remained unfazed and accepted his role on the team.
“You never know when your number is going to be called,” Chamberlin told Jeske that week. “So you better prepare as if you’re starting.”
Evans also ended up talking to Jeske before the Robert Morris game and reaffirmed what Chamberlin said.
“I told him going into the first game that he’s our number two coming into this game but that he has to treat every game like he’s going to play and he’s going to be the starter, because we might call on him at some point,” Evans said.
Jeske would hear his number called in the second quarter of the Robert Morris game after the Dayton offense failed to find much success. He threw for 162 yards and ran for another 48, and ended the game with two total touchdowns and an interception in the Flyers’ 27-24 win.
That was enough for Jeske to secure the starting spot, a spot he hasn’t relinquished through the team’s 6-0 start.
Although he has had his ups and downs, Jeske’s confidence has not wavered.
“He’s the same quarterback whether he throws a pick or a touchdown,” Evans said. “When we played against San Diego, he threw an interception in the red zone, and the very next throw was a 55 yard touchdown.”
Through his determination and willingness to get better, Jeske has transformed himself from the third string quarterback he was a couple of months ago to the starting quarterback that has helped the team begin the season 6-0 overall and sit in first place in the Pioneer Football League standings at 3-0.
Jeske ran for a touchdown and added a touchdown pass in the Flyers’ most recent victory, a 44-14 road win over Valparaiso. He finished the game 17-for-28 with 159 yards with those two touchdowns and one interception.
For the season, Jeske has completed 57.1 percent of his passes and scored nine total touchdowns to go along with five interceptions.
“It’s awesome, the success we’ve been having has been incredible, and we are going to shoot to keep it going,” Jeske said. “We’re confident, but we know we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Photo of Alex Jeske scrambling out of the pocket during the Flyers’ 31-27 victory over Kennesaw State on Sept. 26 by Multimedia Editor Chris Santucci.