Never highly sought after but now in the driver seat of his future, Jeremiah Haydel is geared up and ready to take on the NFL with a full head of steam.
Haydel declared for the draft on Nov. 30 following a successful individual season with the Bobcats, which earned him a spot on ESPN's All-America Team among other top football prospects. The four-year Texas State wideout played in a total of 44 games, steadily showing improvements each year.
"I have learned a lot...this program was not much of a winning program, but I think throughout those hard times it helped me mentally get right and fight through adversity and not give in," Haydel says. "I could have given up or transferred, but I fought through those times because I knew those times would make me the person I am today; it would make me mentally strong and prepare me in life."
Texas State has never been a major player in college sports but, thanks to Haydel, fans of the Bobcats got a chance to see the school gain more national recognition this past season. Haydel's one-handed catch on Sept. 5 against Southern Methodist University made it to SportsCenter's top 10 plays, while his 91-yard punt return against the rival University of Texas at San Antonio was plastered all over social media.
Haydel was not always the flexible wide receiver and jaw-dropping kick returner fans viewed him as during his senior season. Going into his freshman year at Texas State, from Alief Taylor High School in Houston, he was a two-star recruit and ranked as the 379th wide receiver in the nation.
“Just to see where I’ve come from and all the hard work I’ve put in, all the mental reps I’ve taken, I know I wasn’t the heaviest recruited guy out there, but I know at the end of the day I put my head down and worked," Haydel says. "I’m still getting better.”
The feeling is still surreal for Haydel, who says he never believed playing at the professional level was out of reach.
“I probably would’ve told you no, but in my mind, I would’ve said, 'Why not?'" Haydel says. "I have that kind of confidence that I can do it. The answer is ultimately, yes, that I can do those things.”
That confidence and work ethic was on display as he totaled 40 receptions for 408 yards, made it to the endzone six times and made plays as both a returner and pass-catcher during the COVID-19-impacted season.
Statistically, he showed signs of improvement every year, but his end goal was never just to have a good season. Instead of looking after himself and chasing numbers, Haydel says he was willing to play whatever role benefited the team most.
“A lot of people don’t want to buy into roles, but I’ve been a guy who’s always been disciplined," Haydel says. "I think me playing my role, it made me think of others and not about myself. I think that really helped me throughout my time at Texas State and will help me in my future NFL career.”
While there are players who have moved on from San Marcos to professional leagues, they are few and far between. Haydel, on the other hand, says he is preparing to make the most out of every opportunity and defy the odds.
“I’m a guy who wants to win and wants to bring versatility to a team," Haydel says. "I bring value to the team. I’ll do whatever it takes for the team to win. I’m going to be the first guy to clock in and the last guy to clock out. I’m going to do everything I can for an organization to be successful.”
Lifelong Bobcats fan and Texas State alumnus Tom Madden says Haydel's impact on the program was tremendous, adding that he "brought the excitement of his successes on the field to a national level."
"He made people start talking about Texas State football and Texas State University — not only in Texas but throughout the country," Madden says. "This is the legacy every athlete wants to bring to their school, and it is a testament to his four-year tenure.”
Other alumni, like Gabriel Ramirez, says it was an honor to watch Haydel grow as a football player during his time at Texas State.
"He leaves behind a legacy that says you can come from anywhere, any small program or small city, and make something out of yourself," Ramirez says. "He did just that.”
Even with 1,169 yards from scrimmage, over 1,300 yards as a returner and 11 touchdowns to show, Haydel says he still has more to accomplish.
“I’m trying to prove that I’m just as good or better than those guys that are four and five-star recruits," Haydel says. "I’m still working to perfect my craft; I’m getting better. I know they’re probably doubting me and that’s ok. I’m ready, and I’m hungry.”