It’s no secret Jason Vander Laan has had success playing football. At division II Ferris State, he set the career rushing record for yards in a career by a quarterback at any level. He also won the Harlon Hill Award twice, which is the Heisman Trophy equivalent in Division II football. However, his biggest challenge may lie ahead of him as he tries to make the Jets’ 53-man roster at a position he’s never played before. Vander Laan is making the transition from playing quarterback to tight end.
At 6’4”, 244 lbs Vander Laan is a physical specimen who looks more like a linebacker than a quarterback.
“It’s going better than I anticipated for a guy that’s never played tight end,” said Jets tight end coach Jimmie Johnson. “He’s not a ‘Y’ because he can’t get in there and block, but he’s more of a move guy, more of an H-back type. He’s a smart kid, having played quarterback, and the transition has been a whole lot smoother — we’re going to say that’s coaching — than I thought it would be.”
As of now, Vander Laan is fifth on the depth chart behind Jace Amaro and veteran Kellen Davis as well as a few others. Although he’s probably a longshot to make the team this season, Vander Laan doesn’t let that stop him from pursuing his lifelong dream of playing in the NFL.
“I’m happy with where I’m at, and where I’m going, but there’s definitely a lot of work I still need to do,” said Vander Laan.
The door is always open in the NFL for guys who are willing to work hard, even if they are uncomfortable with a position change or even a sport change. Some of the game’s top players of all time like Antonio Gates never even played college football before being dominant in the NFL. Other guys such as Julian Edelman, made the switch from playing quarterback in college, to being one of the best receivers in the league.
“When you’re going from college to the NFL, you’re a freshman again. Everybody here was a great college player. It’s helped you get this far, but what’s done is done. I’m not going to rely on that or look at that at all. I’m just going to say, hey, this is starting over, just be the best tight end I can be,” said Vander Laan.
It’s not to say that Jason Vander Laan will be one of these players, but it can be done. Hard work and the right opportunity go a long way in this league and from what he has shown so far, he’s on the right path.
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