Sheffield Leaning Iowa's Way

Jake Sheffield's path to Division I football prospect is far from routine. It might be what makes the 2012 JUCO defensive lineman that much more attractive to college coaches.

Jake Sheffield experienced some complications on his official visit to Iowa last weekend. The airline lost his baggage, making things pretty inconvenient.

The 2012 JUCO defensive lineman didn't sweat it. When you've been through two tours in Iraq, issues in the friendly skies seem pretty minor.

"Overall, I think it was a good experience," Sheffield said of his time in the Marines. "It prepared me for life. There are going to be tough times in your life and you have to find a way to get through it."

After his service, Sheffield enrolled at the College of the Desert in Palm Desert, Ca. He's played two seasons there and will register at his four-year school of choice next month to be ready for spring football.

Sheffield, 23, verbally committed to Arizona State in June. He re-opened his recruitment when Head Coach Dennis Erickson and his staff were fired last month.

"Once the coaching staff got fired, I wanted to look around and see what my options were as far as academics and football," the 6-foot-3 1/2, 280-pound Sheffield said. "I was open to take some trips. Iowa was the only trip I took.

"Right now, I'm kind of deciding between Iowa and Arizona State, but I'm leaning more towards Iowa right now."

As of Saturday, Sheffield had not spoken to new Sun Devils Head Coach, Todd Graham. He said somebody from Arizona had called during the week, but he did not leave a message.

"I'm open to hearing what they have to say, but I like the situation at Iowa," Sheffield said. "It seems like a good spot as far as their depth on the D-line. I feel like I would have a better opportunity to make more of an impact at Iowa than I would at Arizona State."

Sheffield, who has three years to play two in Division I, would like to play right away at the next level.

"(The Hawkeye coaches) haven't come right out and said they're offering a scholarship, but they said I would come in as a scholarship guy," said Sheffield, who played his college ball at Gateway High in Aurora, CO. "They said they're getting the information together to send me for my letter of intent."

Sheffield could sign on Wednesday.

"I kind of want to talk with my family and discuss everything before I make the full-on decision," Sheffield said. "I just want to make sure everything will work out with Iowa. I have a son to consider. I'll probably make my decision (soon)."

Sheffield is no longer with his child's mother.

"He'll stay back in California with his mom," Sheffield said. "I'll see him whenever I can."

While he'll miss not being with his son as often as when he played on the West Coast, Sheffield probably won't get too homesick considering his background. His two, eight-month stints in Iraq changed his perspective on life.

"It's very eye-opening," Sheffield said. "You definitely learn how to not take things for granted. It was definitely a trying time, but I learned a lot about myself and about perseverance."

Sheffield's father served in the Army during Desert Storm. Once Jake saw that he wasn't likely to earn a college scholarship for football, he turned to the military.

"When I was playing in high school, I didn't hear from many (college programs)," Sheffield said. "I wasn't getting recruited that much. Me and one of my best friends in high school decided to enlist."

Sheffield said his time in the Marines prepared him for his return to football.

"I really think that the hard work plays into it," Sheffield said. "In the Marines, it's expected of you to put out 110 percent. They won't accept anything less. I guess I kind of carry that trait with me. I always try to work hard."

Sheffield admitted to being rusty after his layoff from the game.

"I was pretty bad with my fundamentals," he said. "It made me more hungry because I had to live without it for a couple of years. It drove me. When I got a chance to get back on the field, I wanted to make an impact."

Now that he's returned to the field, Sheffield would like to stay on it if possible. He prefers not to utilize his redshirt and play the next two seasons if healthy.

"(Norm Parker) was telling me that I would be stupid not to go there," Sheffield said. "He said they were losing three or four seniors. He said they were missing depth in the sophomore and junior classes. He told me that's where I would fit in. If I come in and work hard, it would be my spot to lose."

Sheffield said he was disappointed to learn that Parker would be retiring after this month's Insight Bowl.

"I enjoyed getting to know him," Sheffield said. "I was kind of looking forward to playing for him. I just hope they run the same defense. I really like their scheme."

Sheffield said Parker's stepping down wouldn't be enough to keep him from choosing the Hawkeyes, if it came to that.

"I really enjoyed the coaching staff and the players that I did meet," Sheffield said. "I kind of like the small-town feel of Iowa City. I could just see that they love football there, which is really cool aspect about that place.

"I could tell that they're there to work hard and push their players. I really think that I would thrive in that kind of environment."

Sheffield is studying sociology at College of the Desert. He's thinking about switching to sports management.

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