How a UConn football walk-on got a scholarship


The UConn football team had just completed a tour on Saturday when coach Jim Mora gathered his players around him.

“Where’s Jacob Flynn?” Mora shouted.

Flynn’s teammates suddenly started chanting “Sweet” and “Sweet Feet”.

When Flynn arrived at UConn in 2019 as the preferred backup from Southington High, where he caught 44 passes for 816 yards and 11 touchdowns his senior year, he impressed on individual drills with his outings and running runs. of execution.

Former wide receivers coach Aaron Smith, now in the Army, originally gave Flynn the nickname.

Soft feet.

Flynn and John Bechtel, a linebacker from Warren, New Jersey, had no idea what was about to happen until Mora called their names inside the Shenkman training facility over the weekend.

As Flynn walked through his teammates and stopped in front of his coach, Mora said, “You all know what’s going to happen.” The players, who were already slapping the red-shirted second on the back, erupted within 15 seconds of jumping up and down, shouting and shouting.

It was like he had just been awarded something worth, oh, about $100,000. Which, given that Flynn still has three years of eligibility, was exactly what happened.

Seconds later, the players had Flynn and Bechtel on their shoulders. It was every passerby’s dream. After all the toil, sweat, bump-and-bruise workouts — not to mention education bills — the two had been put on an athletic scholarship.

The financial facts of the matter are obviously essential. This is the bottom line. The video’s raw joy for what the two guys had won, however, is what made it so memorable for the nearly 40,000 people who had seen the video on Monday.

Yes, raw joy.

As soon as the players settled in, a phone was handed to Flynn. Voices told him to call his mother.

“I was totally unprepared,” Flynn said. “All the emotions, I didn’t know what to think. I was trying to collect my thoughts. It was all just a blur.”

He dialed Ann Flynn’s number.

“Hi, mom,” he said.

“Hi Mom!” another voice sounded behind Jacob.

“Who is this?” Anne said.

“It’s me, Jacob.”

“And Coach (John) Allen and Coach Mickey (Grace).”

“I got a scholarship,” Flynn said.

“You’re playing with me,” Ann said.

“No it’s me. Jacob.”

“Are you serious? Oh my God, are you serious?”

Jacob Flynn buried his face in his left hand.

The video has ended.

“I tried to stick together,” he said. “Then my mum started crying. Shit, I started crying. Your parents do so much for you, to be able to give a little back…it was really emotional.

Flynn was an All-Class LL state selection at Southington. He was sure he wanted to play football in college. He said he had no idea where he was going.

“I’ve had some interest from schools,” Flynn said. “I visited a few schools. I went to some camps. Nothing came out. »

There were no real scholarship offers. He said he was looking for the best financial fit, staying close to home and where he had the chance to play. These were Stonehill, Merrimack and UConn. Storrs meant in-state tuition, but in case you don’t have kids, plus room, board, and everything else, that’s over $33,000 a year.

“I knew coming into UConn I was not only going to have to work my butt off, but I was going to be challenged in a big way versus whether I was going to DII or FCS,” Flynn said. “You have to think you can do it. If you don’t think you can (play FBS), then you probably shouldn’t.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I went to a practice for my visit, but you can’t really talk about the speed of the game and how the guys are playing you until you actually come out and play.

He played at 175-180 pounds in high school. Three years later, he is playing at 195 pounds. He is considerably stronger.

Mora was brought in after last season in an attempt to restore pride to a program that a decade ago was seen as on the rise. When asked what he thought the new coach and his team saw to reward him with a scholarship, Flynn said: “I just tried to work hard every day. When they started advancing me, every chance I had to catch the ball, I think making the most of my opportunities was the most important thing.

“Not playing and being on the scout team the first three years (UConn canceled their season in 2020) and then the coaching change kind of gave me an opportunity to start fresh,” Flynn said. “It allowed me to prove myself once again.”

When asked the same on Tuesday, Mora said: “He’s a consistent player. He works hard every day. He is a reliable pass receiver. He’s not afraid to take a hit after catching it. He is a hard worker with a great attitude. He is a player that the other players respect, that they encourage, that they shoot. If you haven’t seen the video of when we announced he and John got the scholarships, it was just… I got goosebumps. I get goosebumps every time I watch it, because it was just pure joy.

“And I…never even said they got a scholarship. All I said was, ‘You all know what I’m going to say,’ but I never said it. But what’s great is that I didn’t have to. With these two guys, the way they went out every day, you know, and fought for it. You know, I was an extra at the University of Washington and I got a scholarship my freshman year. So I just have a deep appreciation for guys that are in that. And it was really, really cool to see how their teammates reacted.

Although Flynn was listed as appearing against Purdue last year, he did not play in a game for UConn. In fact, he hasn’t played since Southington started his 2018 season with three catches and 170 receiving yards against Glastonbury and ended in a heartbreaking 28-21 Class LL loss to Fairfield Prep.

The stock market means everything. The video reminded us of that.

“I’m still close to a lot of high school teammates; they contacted me,” said Flynn, a finance student. “My younger brother (John) plays at Southington and I’m close with his friends. I go to a lot of Southington stuff when I get home. I’m in the team when I can. They were really happy for me too.

His parents went to Storrs later Saturday to visit him. With boot camp, they hadn’t seen Jacob in a while. It was time to party. Michael and Ann had covered about half the cost of college, and the other half was funded by loans.

“My sister is here at UConn and my brother will also be going to college,” he said. “So charging the rest of my college is great to be able to help out.”

The best part is that Jacob Flynn earned it.

So does he think he’ll get Saturday in the season opener at Utah State?

“I hope so,” he said. “I haven’t been in a game for so long. It’s definitely going to be a bigger atmosphere than high school. I will feel excited, anxious – everything.

[email protected]; @jeffjacobs123


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