Editor’s note: The Runners Rising Project is proud to present this article written by Jared Sackett, Kicker for UTSA’s Football team. Jared, from Fort Worth, Texas, attended Timber Creek High School (Keller, Texas) and was recruited by UTSA as part of the University’s 2017 Recruiting class. Early in his career at UTSA, Jared earned recognition as a Freshman All-American in 2017, setting a school record 19 field goals. In Spring 2019, Jared transferred from UTSA to the University of Arkansas, where he then transferred to the University of Southern Florida in Spring 2020. In late 2021, Jared re-entered the transfer portal and returned home to UTSA. Jared has graciously shared with us, in his own words, his journey back to San Antonio and the Roadrunners. Follow Jared on twitter at @JaredSackett42.Follow @TwitterDev
If there’s one thing that I can say for certain, it’s that it sure feels amazing to be a Roadrunner. The opportunity to come home to San Antonio and be welcomed back with open arms is not something I take for granted – I know what it means to have the privilege to represent UTSA as a student athlete. I missed this city while I was gone – but my endeavors afforded me the chance to grow. New perspectives allowed me to figure out who I was, who I am – and where I want to be.
During my time as a student-athlete in Tampa I was blessed to train and compete with Spencer Shrader, the current kicker for South Florida. I spent two years working with Shrader, who is one of the most athletic, dedicated, and well-rounded players–and for that matter–individuals, that I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He holds a high moral standard throughout every aspect of his life, and I truly admire him for it. Our friendship is one of the things I’m bringing home from Florida, and I can honestly say that I am a better person because of it.
In 2020, Shrader and I battled for the starting spot week to week, which resulted in both of us seeing the field. As the saying goes, “Iron sharpens Iron,” and we continued our competition through the offseason. When the offseason ended and the season of 2021 opened, Shrader ultimately won the job, and he really had an incredible year. But as happy as I was for his success, I mentally struggled. For as long as I can remember, I had always been the guy. I had thought the 2021 season was going to be my final season, and I watched it from the sidelines. This seemed like an anticlimactic end to my football career, especially after it started with so many magical moments on the gridiron.
I do not regret any decision or path my life has taken. The choices I’ve made have allowed me to learn from many different people from various walks of life. One individual that I had the pleasure to work with was USF’s Special Teams Analyst Will Gilchrist. Coach Gilchrist recognized I was homesick and struggling, and he made it a point to connect with me. I feel as if there are few people, let alone coaches, in this world that can positively impact the lives of young athletes the way he did mine. He took time to have many encouraging conversations with me. Coach Gilchrist saw that I was at a proverbial fork in the road, and he helped me rekindle the fire as I continued to put my pads on and lace up my cleats. He helped me realize that I needed to take a step back and remember why I loved to compete. Coach guided me towards finding my passion again and by the time the 2021 season came to a close, I was healthier and kicking better than I ever had before. He shared a brief sermon with me that helped create the drive to find purpose, to be a better athlete, better teammate, a kinder person, and to never stop competing.
Due to the NCAA’s ruling that the 2020 season did not count towards eligibility, I was fortunate to enter the transfer portal. I hoped for the chance to play one last season and to begin a graduate program. My journey has been a unique one, and I wouldn’t have done justice to myself or those who have helped me along the way if I didn’t take time to reflect and appreciate the lessons. I knew that I wanted to go someplace that I could be successful, but most importantly, happy. This will be my last season as a student athlete, and I knew I needed somewhere that would allow me to maximize the short time I have left.
My time in the transfer portal was full of phone calls, emails, and anticipation. After so many conversations with coaches, confidants, mentors, and family, all the discussions start to blend together. Except for one. There was no fake recruiting scheme or long interview-like conversation. As soon as I picked up the phone, a familiar deep Texas accent said, “Jared, how ‘bout you come home brother.” I knew right away where I wanted to be.
On November 29th, 2021, I committed to coming home. I traveled all over the country and to 3 different schools in pursuit of the elusive dream of a NFL opportunity, but no place compared to UTSA. I knew if I had the opportunity, I would not hesitate to come back home. I am beyond excited to be able to come back to the city, school, and fanbase that I love.
I have enrolled in the UTSA Carlos Alvarez College of Business and am working at earning an MBA. To be able to pursue my education while playing sports has been a dream of mine ever since I can remember. I am forever grateful to UTSA for not only giving me that opportunity once, but twice during my collegiate career. Since this bird has landed, the coaches and players have exceeded my expectations of the incredible culture that was built here. I intend to continue to grow and excel for the UTSA Roadrunners and become an alumnus so I can call this place home for the rest of my life.
I say this with the utmost pride – Go ‘Runners!