Yulee wants ’757′ showdown
HUNTINGTON — When asked if it was a normal week for him, Marshall University linebacker Jaquan Yulee’s eyes got wide and a big smile went across his face.
“Pretty much, pretty much,” Yulee said with a laugh.
Yulee tried to mask his excitement, but he couldn’t. Oct. 13 has been circled on his calendar since the 2018 football schedule came out in the spring.
From an approach standpoint, coaches want all games to be viewed equally. However, this one understandably carries a lot of weight for the Thundering Herd redshirt sophomore.
When Marshall (3-2, 1-1 Conference USA) takes on Old Dominion (1-5, 0-3) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Norfolk, Virginia, Yulee will be back return to the 757 area code. That area includes Yulee’s hometown of Chesapeake, Virginia, which is 15 minutes from Foreman Field, where the game will take place.
It isn’t just about playing in front of hometown fans. It is also about silencing the critics from his area who never thought he would make it in college football.
“To be honest, knowing I get to go home this week and play in front of all the people that I grew up with is amazing, but it’s also amazing to show everybody that said I wasn’t going to be anywhere at the next level,” Yulee said. “I want to let everybody know that I’m still here and I’m still doing what I love to do.”
In the Class of 2016, Yulee was one of the highest-rated inside linebackers in the country and had been committed to the University of Alabama. However, academic issues forced him to decommit from the Crimson Tide in January 2016 — just one month before National Signing Day.
Marshall defensive tackles coach J.C. Price, who starred at Virginia Tech, recruited Yulee to Marshall and Yulee cited honesty as the reason he committed to the Herd and signed in February 2016.
Yulee doesn’t mince words when discussing people who thought that his academic issues would keep him off a collegiate football field.
“I always keep it near me,” Yulee said. “At the end of the day, that pushes me. That’s what keeps me going — that, and my brother Lo (deceased former Marshall defensive tackle Larry Aaron) and another brother from high school that passed away. Combine all those things together into one, and that pushes me.”
With the 757 area code being one of the most recruit-rich grounds in the college football landscape, Old Dominion generally doesn’t have to go far to find talent.
Yulee will match up with many former friends and adversaries Saturday, including Old Dominion defensive back Kane Miskel, from Suffolk, Virginia, as someone he’s looking forward to seeing the most.
While many friends will wear the colors of Old Dominion, Yulee is proud to be one of few who don the Herd’s colors.
“Oh man, I probably know the whole team,” Yulee said. “I’ve played against all of them. They are all some good guys. Going home and playing football in my city is going to be an honor.”
Yulee said the honor is being able to showcase his abilities, which he credited to growing up in Virginia’s Tidewater area. The Tidewater area — or 757 — is full of talent, but it also is an area where there is generally just as much talent that doesn’t make it to that next level because of tough life situations.
That perspective stays fresh Yulee every day.
“Most of the guys that I grew up with, they aren’t where I’m at today,” he said. “Most are either dead or locked up. If you come from where I’m from we have plenty of athletes, but many couldn’t get our books or get our grades up or something. Many times, when that doesn’t happen, they give up.
“I found a way to fight over it. When I came here Marshall helped me out and I’ve made it. It don’t get better than showing that to my hometown. I can’t wait.”
MARSHALL (3-2, 1-1) at OLD DOMINION (1-5, 0-3)
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Foreman Field, Norfolk, Va
TV: Stadium (Comcast 133, Suddenlink 125, Armstrong 94)
Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM