DETROIT, MI – There’s this thing about champions that makes them champions, see. Some would argue that champs are born that way, that they come out of the womb making game winning shots and collecting rings. But nah. That’s not how it happens, at all. Real champions have one thing in common: they know.

They know that there is a road to winning and that there is a process that must be adhered to, first. They know that there will be losses and it is in those losses that success can be found. They know that there is a difference between who they are and what they are. And somewhere, deep inside of themselves, there is some thing, some voice that makes them keenly aware of their own ability to win.

Champions take winning personally, but only in the way that encourages providence. For them, winning is more about the inevitable materialization of passion gone not so strangely awry. It’s that way with all th champs we know—Kobe, Ali and oddly enough, Kendrick Lamar.

And so it is for young Jaye Patrick, starting Wide Receiver and Tight End at Western International High School in Detroit who at 17 years old stands at 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs a highly defined 215 pounds. He knows.

He knows already that there is an infinite groove, not just in sports, but in life. Already. How profound is that? At first glance, JP seems like the typical jock, with little more than a head full of plays.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

This kid, with the innocent face and reserved demeanor, is introspective, thinks before he speaks, and chooses words very carefully. He’s not the kind of athlete who lets popularity go to his head or has some pretty young thing doing his math assignments. No, that’s not Jaye.

Jaye is conscientious, full of integrity and molded aptly by the influence of his dad, Jaye Sr., a notable athlete back in the day, and the support of his mom who from what I gather is his first example of a “ride or die”. He’s fortunate in that regard. Having both parents on your team, plus double the positive influence is a luxury not afforded many where he’s from.

I can go to both of my parents and talk about anything, I can have any kind of conversation with them. If I’m listening to Kendrick I can go to mom and dad and have a full conversation about what I heard in the song. Both my parents support anything I do whether I’m playing sports or not. That helps me out a lot. I see the plus to my parents being supportive.

In Jaye’s world, being a part of a team is less about winning and more about solidarity, fraternal order and being impeccable with one’s word.

We have a pretty good team. There are a lot of new guys this year so I don’t know yet what makes us special on the field. But, what makes us a good team is that it’s a brotherhood. To me, sports are so important. Football, being part of a team, it plays a major role because it gives you additional family, and for some, that’s all the family they have.

What helps too, is Coach Dre. I can call him and talk about anything, any time of the day about any thing. That’s important to me. If I played for a coach who didn’t give the same effort as I do, I wouldn’t feel obligated or passionate about the game. It’s a respect thing. It’s like, when I step on the field I make Coach Dre a promise to work hard, do my best. I don’t want to let him down. He knows what I’m capable of so I try to go above and beyond, for both of us.

Passion. It’s what fuels dream makers, doers and yes, champions. It’s the most important ingredient in any recipe. And it, according to Jaye is 100% important because if not, you’re wasting your time. If you don’t have passion, you don’t have anything. I mean really, why do it?

Jaye Patrick would have you believe he’s just a normal teenager who loves sports, and music. Currently, Kendrick Lamar is his favorite artist with To Pimp A Butterfly in heavy rotation. Why? Passion.

Kendrick is so different from everybody else. The way he raps it’s like plotting, it’s like in a plot form. He tells a story. Music is something I’m passionate about. Right now, for me, it’s all sports and music. Both of those things take up most of my day. Music gives me like an extra push, like throughout my day. When I listen to Kendrick, a lot of feelings come up. It’s like I feel it, I feel what he’s saying. His music makes me feel positive and like I gotta make it out. I can’t waste my life.

And that’s what it is for young boys who grow up in places like Detroit. They gotta make it out. And most times, sports or music is the only way they can see that happening. For Jaye, it’s both, plus more. Know why? Because, he knows. Maybe he doesn’t quite understand yet exactly how he knows, but he does. He knows that for him, it can’t just be sports and that being inspired by a truly gifted artist will only get you so far. He’s got a plan, and it’s a good one.

I want to be an architectural engineer because growing up I always liked the structure of stadiums and I thought to myself, “how can I make that better?” I used to draw outlines of how my ideal stadium would look if I built it so I would create a blueprint.

Playing professional sports is one of my main goals but all my eggs are not in the same basket. I can do both professions because there’s an off-season. It might take me a little longer to do architecture because I’ll be playing football but I believe I can do it. I believe I can do it because I manage time pretty well and I don’t really rush on long-term things.

I wanna end up at a good college with a good football team, a winning program and a good architectural school.

These days Jaye is looking forward to graduating in 2016 from a high school that at first, due to its diversity, thrust him into culture shock. He seems totally unaffected by the fact that someone might know his name although he doesn’t know there’s. He wouldn’t say he’s a celebrity though. He’s modest, and cool. He’s one of those young cats one wouldn’t mind as a tag along. He’s no trouble, stays out’ the way.

I’m no celebrity, but I do think I’m a role model, somebody someone would look up to. My reputation is based on how I carry myself, not what I do. I carry myself in a way of respect. I know when to joke and when not to joke around.

Let’s be clear though. Yeah, yeah, yeah, good kid, architectural engineer, music, etc. But he’s an athlete at heart. He plays both basketball and football, is passionate about both. He was a Forward on Western’s basketball team when they won the state championship, but football, that’s his game.

Football is my favorite. It just became my favorite. I just figured out I was better at football. I take it more seriously. I started taking it more serious because I saw the potential I had. I still play basketball, but football…

He loves it. He loves it mostly because he says it’s more mental than physical, it’s a mind game. Everything about it challenges his intellect more than his brawn. It’s skill plus preparation plus gumption. He takes everything he is onto the field, and uses it to his advantage.

Jaye’s biggest challenge right now is getting his first athletic scholarship offer. He’s a little anxious but, as previously stated, he knows. He knows that staying positive is key. He’s knows the offer he wants is coming. He knows because he’s had an impressive 756 yards, 11 touchdowns and 56 catches in 7 games. Whoa.

So for now, he’s chillin’, most likely with headphones on blaring music that leans more toward smooth hip-hop than trap. And since sports take up roughly 70% of his day, it’s hard for him to imagine doing much of anything else. It’s what keeps him grounded, that along with his parents and a strong relationship with God.

Soon, we’ll see Jaye Patrick walking onto somebody’s field with the confidence of Muhammad Ali. Except, he’ll be quiet with it, unassuming, humble. When we see him and all that passion tucked neatly beneath a helmet and jersey we’ll say to ourselves: the Champ is here.

539082_10151844575038627_174614362_n  Written by Traci Ricks




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