Playing football in any capacity is tough enough, but when playing the quarterback position, the bright lights are pointing directly toward you every week.
For junior quarterback Jayden Diaz, his seamless fit into the Knights’ lineup has the entire team looking forward to the future.
The Diaz family has been involved with the Arizona College Prep football team for quite a few years. Joel Diaz, a brother of Jayden’s brother, is now playing at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, CO. Joel played safety for the Knights, and the torch was passed from one brother to the other.
Diaz has been a part of the Knights football program ever since he stepped foot into Arizona College Prep High School as a freshman. He started at the junior varsity level, but bounced back-and-forth between varsity and junior varsity over time. He played the quarterback and safety positions during his first two years in high school.
“My freshman year I played as a floater between JV and varsity. Mostly playing receiver for varsity and quarterback and safety for JV. I didn’t do much on varsity. In the off-season I did track, and really put in work to become a better player,” Diaz said.
His track and field background turned out to be a highly beneficial move for him, and he gained a staggering 15 pounds of sturdy muscle and strength. By his sophomore year he was ready to be a full-time varsity player. He was a six-foot varsity wide receiver and safety, and his game improved exponentially from his freshman year.
Going into his junior year, he received an opportunity that would end up being fruitful for him. There was a vacancy at the quarterback position for the Knights. Diaz won the job.
Myron Blueford, head coach of the Knights, has had to adapt to an entirely different style of football. He went from having a dominant passing quarterback, to having one that is not afraid to turn his football cleats into sprinting spikes every once in a while.
“Our previous quarterback for four years was a pocket passer not running all over the place, but our current quarterback is a track kid who can run like the wind,” Blueford said. “It’s just trying to figure out how our offense is going to be. It is the first time he's played quarterback for us and he played receiver for us last year, so we knew going into it that it was going to be a little bit of a feeling out process.”
The fact he has been able to fit in so seamlessly has been remarkable, and his numbers reflect a quarterback who has been playing with an abundance of confidence. On the season he has a 60% completion percentage, and he has thrown for 1,047 yards. He also is averaging an astonishing 53.3 rushing yards per game, and has seven7 rushing touchdowns this season.
It is no secret that this current Knights football team is very young, and they are still trying to solidify their overall team chemistry. With a few transfer players coming in late in the season, and a lot of players still trying to fill in certain voids on the team, the season has been far from easy to say the least.
Jerron Salazar, a junior wide receiver, has been a recipient of quite a few passes this season, and he's been really impressed with the way Diaz has been able to step up for this team in so many ways during times of adversity.
“He’s always had that leadership with him, and ever since summer it’s been shining brighter and brighter, and he’s been doing a great job for us. The thing that impresses me the most with Jayden is how fast he adapts and how fast he just picks up any and everything you throw at him. He's truly something special to watch,” Salazar said.
With another year ahead of Diaz, Arizona College Prep is looking to be in prime position to be a competitive squad for a long time. They have a player that has made every sacrifice necessary to put this team in position to compete, and he has the mindset of a battle-tested leader on and off the field.
“My role on the team kinda goes with being the starting quarterback. I have to be positive in all situations and not really show weakness during games or practice, but I also need to keep our guys on track and be an aggressive teammate. I try my hardest to make everyone the best players they can. I just love this team,” Diaz said.