“Oh, we’ve got the funk. Gotta have that funk. We have the funk…”
You’d think it was the 1970s again on Friday nights inside the Hornets Nest, the popular nickname bestowed upon Damascus High’s (Md.) football stadium. The catchy disco beats pulse through the night air for some two-odd hours, the public address announcer pumping out Positive Force’s hit single every time the home team’s running back rips off another long run. Which, these days, is quite often.
Jake Funk, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior, piled up almost 1,900 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2014, and is well on his way to trumping those totals in 2015. The all-purpose back has rushed for almost 1,200 yards and 25 touchdowns this year. Add in kick return yards, punt return yards and receptions, and he’s already closing in on 2,000 …. through seven games.
So, forgive the Hornets Nest faithful for bringing disco back from the dead. They’ll be riding the Funk all the way through the Maryland class 3A playoffs.
“I love that song. I can’t get enough of it, honestly,” said Funk, laughing. “I love the support I get, and I love the fans. It’s awesome; they can play that song as much as they want. It never gets old.”
Next year, though, the Funk will be coming to College Park, Md. The running back committed to play for his hometown school just three days after adding the offer, the first pledge since Mike Locksley assumed the Maryland head coaching job.
Whether the disco beats come with him is up to the Byrd Stadium facilities and entertainment folks, but at the very least he’ll be bringing those fleet feet to UMD’s backfield.
“I feel great right now, really excited,” said Funk, who also held offers from Navy, Army, Ohio, ODU, Bucknell and several Ivy League programs. “This was a very stressful process for me, so to pick my college and have that weight off my shoulders, and to play for the hometown school, it’s great. To have a chance to represent my home state and play in front of my family and friends, and to play in the Big Ten, I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity than this. I’m excited to be part of the hometown movement.”
Funk originally wanted to wait until he visited College Park before giving interim head coach Mike Locksley his word. After all, he hadn’t been on campus since 2013, when he watched the Terps lose to Boston College on a last-second field goal and running back Andre Williams rush for 267 yards. But Funk couldn’t wait until Oct. 25, which will be his first opportunity to trek down to Maryland this year.
“Maryland just felt right, so I just decided to do things a little earlier than expected,” Funk said. “I called Coach [Mike] Locksley and I told him I was on board, and he was pumped. We just talked about what they liked about me, and he likes that I’m a football player. He can see it on both sides of the ball and just thinks I’ll be a great asset to the program in general. He was really excited and happy for me.
“Then I called Coach [Chad] Wilt, and he said the same thing. He was really happy for me and my family. He told me to tell [my parents] congrats, because he knows them well too. [Wilt] was very excited for all of us.”
It’s Wilt who initiated talks with Funk and who extended the offer Oct. 13, when the Damascus runner was in the middle of math class. While Funk had high praise for Locksley, Maryland’s interim head coach, he’s yet to meet him personally. So, really, his knowledge and affinity for UMD came courtesy of the Terps’ defensive line coach.
“Coach Wilt is great; I love talking to him,” said Funk, who acknowledged he also spoke to current UMD quarterback pledge, Dwayne Haskins, who urged him to join DMV-to-UMD. “It’s a really strong relationship, and it’s growing. We can talk about anything, and he’s really good at relating to you.”
Funk will have a chance to meet the rest of Maryland’s staff Oct. 25. He said he doesn’t intend to visit sooner and will wait until the day after the UMD-Penn State game in Baltimore to see College Park for the first time in two years.
“I want to have really good talks with the coaching staff. I want to build a great relationship with the rest of the coaches there too,” Funk said. “I’ve known Coach Wilt for awhile now, but I don’t know anyone else there yet. So I’m looking forward to that, and just seeing the school and what they have in store there. I’ve heard about the new facilities and things like that, and it all sounds very exciting. I think Maryland is going to do some big things in the future.”
Although the Terps had been searching for another class of 2016 running back to pair with pledge LoLo Harrison (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.), Maryland had shown Funk only cursory interest prior to this fall. Funk has known Wilt since his sophomore year, but the conversations/contact was limited until he began ripping off runs during his first couple games this year.
“You know, it definitely was a little frustrating that I didn’t have the offer from Maryland, but I’m really happy with the spot I’m in now. I’m obviously not frustrated anymore,” laughed Funk. “But I kind of had a feeling a couple weeks into my senior season the offer was coming. That’s when Coach Wilt started talking to me more and he hinted [the offer] could be coming. I was still surprised when it did, but I kind of had a feeling it would eventually be there for me. I’m really happy it [the offer] was.”
When Wilt informed Funk about said scholarship, the running back had a feeling he’d found his future college home too. But he didn’t consider committing on the spot.
“It’s too big of a decision to do something impulsive like that,” Funk said. “I wanted to talk it over with my parents and the people I trust first, which I did. My parents, they love Maryland and they’re all for it. We’re all really excited about Maryland.”
It’s safe to say the Terps are pretty excited about Funk, and not just for what he brings as a running back. Maryland hasn’t featured a Damascus Hornet in more than two decades, and recently, during former head coach Randy Edsall’s tenure, the Terps didn’t actively offer prospects from the Montgomery County school. Thus, the relationship between Damascus, which typically produces a Division I recruit every couple years, and UMD was rather salty.
“It’s big, it’s big,” Funk said of ending the Damascus-to-Maryland drought. “I never had anything bad to say about Maryland; I’ve always loved the school. But it’s big that I’m going there and hopefully [the Terps] will keep recruiting guys from here. Hopefully this opens the door.”
At one time, Funk did have a linebacker offer from Wisconsin, the Badgers considered the heavy favorites for months. But Wisconsin filled up its spots, leaving Funk with only lower Division I and Ivy offers. He seriously considered heading to academically-rigorous Yale or Harvard, but when the hometown school came calling, well, it was a no-brainer.
“Academics are very important to me, and Maryland has outstanding academics,” Funk said. “I was talking to Coach Wilt about it, and it’s an awesome school. That played a big part in my decision. Obviously the Ivy schools are a great opportunity, but the academics are great at Maryland too. I’ll get a great degree and a great education.”
And he’ll get to play Big Ten football. Funk, who first took up the gridiron game when he was seven at the behest of his father, said he can’t wait to show what he can do against power-five competition.
“I honestly believe I can have an impact on that level, no matter where I line up,” Funk said. “As a running back, I think I bring a very unique combination of strength and speed. I have to make better reads and improve my vision, but I’m getting there.”
Back in elementary school, Funk, like many boys who grow up around Damascus, attended all the home games in the Hornets Nest. He said he used to sit in the stands, dreaming of having his name belted out over the loudspeakers one day. He didn’t think he’d have his own personal song too, but, hey, Funk’s not complaining. He’s accomplished his childhood goal, and now it’s onto the next one.
“Hopefully they’ll play the song a couple times [at Maryland],” laughed Funk when asked if he’d like to have ‘We’ve Got the Funk’ follow him. “But really I’m just excited to get to Maryland and be a Terp. I’m excited to show what I can do and help the team win again.”