As a freshman at Friendswood (Tex.) High School, Jacob Karam was the only player from his grade to join the junior varsity football team. At the end of the season, the coaches were ready to move him up to the varsity squad, but the Mustangs finished with a 5-4 season and failed to make the playoffs.
Head coach Steve Van Meter made a decision during the following off-season to move Karam into his starting quarterback position on the varsity, something he had never done at Friendswood. That raised a few eyebrows, but doubts were quickly quashed when the 6'2" sophomore soared during the preseason.
"We knew that Jacob was very capable, even as a sophomore, of coming in and making things happen for us," Van Meter offers. "This is no joke: the second scrimmage of the season and second time he had stepped onto a football field for us, he was 14-of-17 for 280 yards. The three balls that were incomplete, they hit kids right in the hands. He could have been 17-of-17. I knew right then that I had something pretty special."
The sophomore slinger went on to throw for 2,338 yards and 21 touchdowns and led the Mustangs to the playoffs and a 7-4 season.
"Karam is advanced beyond his years. On the field, he's a sophomore in name only," offers TexasPrepInsider.com senior analyst Brandon Williams. "Jacob is only beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. His stats are more impressive when you take into context that he played in a district that produced the state Class 4A, Division II champion and a regional finalist, both of which had top-shelf defenses."
"He reminds me a lot of Drew Brees when he was in high school, but he could be further along at this stage," Williams adds. "Karam is a solid Division I prospect that will not only start, but make a significant impact on the next level."
"Honestly, to tell you the truth, I worked extremely hard this year because we had an awesome team coming into the season," says Karam. "We were projected to be one of the best teams ever to come out of Friendswood - probably the best. I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure that we don't come up short in my area, the quarterback area. I've always wanted to exceed people's expectations and not let anybody down. I worked really hard, watched a lot of film, worked with my receivers a lot, lifted hard - I just tried to get myself ready for the games."
In the final game of the regular season against Texas City High School, Friendswood had to win or miss the playoffs. Karam passed and ran for a combined 404 yards (338 passing, 66 rushing) that included 20-of-28 throwing and three touchdown tosses.
"It was a good game, and he didn't throw any interceptions," Van Meter remembers. "He also ran the ball. I hadn't run him at all hardly because we didn't have anybody behind him [at quarterback]. We ran him on some lead options and stuff like that, and he showed people the speed that they didn't know he had."
"He's got great feet in the pocket," the coach continues. "He's a mid-4.6 kid right now. He's not going to beat you running the football, but he's going to beat you with his feet, if that makes sense. He has a good pocket presence and has good escapability for a sophomore."
"I think my intangibles are the best things that I have as a quarterback. My desire to win and my desire to compete," Karam opines. "My tangibles are probably my arm strength and accuracy."
"I really want to work hard on every aspect of my game, but I guess you could say I'm really focused on my athleticism," the quarterback comments on his work this off-season. "I want to get a lot faster, and I want to get a lot quicker in the pocket. I also want to develop an instinct in the pocket, where I can always have my eyes downfield but be able to feel the rush or feel if the pocket is breaking down. I want to be elusive - unsackable."
The importance of his education has never eluded Karam, who maintains a 95 percent average on his transcript at Friendswood High School. He is taking honors courses in math and Spanish this year.
"Academics are huge for me," says the standout student-athlete. "What I like to do is work really hard in the weight room and on the football field with athletics, and I like to work really hard in the class room, too. I realize that there is going to be a day that I'm not going to be playing football. I'm going to have to have something to fall back on, so that's why I want to work hard in academics, too."
Karam sounds like a Stanford prospect, and it was the Cardinal who came through with his first scholarship offer last Friday. Head coach Jim Harbaugh stopped at the high school, watched film of Karam and told Van Meter that his quarterback had a Stanford offer.
"This is a huge honor, especially coming from Jim Harbaugh, who was an awesome quarterback himself. You have to feel pretty good about yourself because he knows what he's talking about," says the Stanford offeree. "Especially when I'm just a sophomore. I'm really grateful for what he did. He gave me a chance."
Harbaugh also vaulted the Cardinal onto Karam's list in a big way, when they had no stake previously to speak of.
"Actually another writer interviewing me recently before my offer asked me, and I gave seven schools. Stanford wasn't even one of them. Nor did I ever think about them," Karam admits. "I had to break that top seven down from 15, and I didn't even think about Stanford in that group."
"If you do research on Stanford, which I have done now obviously since they offered me, it's amazing," the recruit exclaims. "It is definitely one of my top schools now. It would take an unbelievable offer to throw me off from Stanford."
Karam lists Stanford, LSU, Houston, Texas, Texas A&M, Georgia and Louisville as his current favorites. He is now coming to camp at Stanford on June 21, and in a flash, that new school from out west has become the team to beat for the Space City slinger.
"We're looking very seriously at this offer," says father Jerome Karam. "Coach Harbaugh was the first one to throw it out, and it's going to be very tough for someone to top that. It's a very impressive offer."
"It doesn't get much better than to have your first scholarship offer to come from Stanford, and to have the opportunity to play for Jim Harbaugh," adds Van Meter. "I don't know if it gets any better than that. He knows that. He's a very, very intelligent kid. He's fluent in Spanish. He's a concert pianist. He's a once-in-a-career athlete for me."
"Honestly, I'm going to have to credit that to my mom," Karam says of his piano playing. "I started playing in kindergarten, and I hated it. I did not like it at all. I dreaded it - the lessons and everything. Then in junior high, music just struck me. It's my new obsession. I want to say that it's my escape. I work really hard in the class room, in the weight room, in the film room and on the football field. It's nice when I come home after I do my homework to just be able to play the piano. It gives me a great escape and lets me release my mind. I love playing, and I've actually gotten pretty good at it."
A lot of college coaches love the music Karam can play on the football field, and he expects Harbaugh's offer to further accelerate his college recruitment. Before the offers and attention spiral out of hand this summer, however, the Mustangs quarterback would like to concentrate on his approaching 2007 season.
"I'll probably decide after my junior season," Karam comments. "As important as it is to focus on the future, I think we're going to have a really good team at Friendswood, and I want to focus on winning a state championship. I think we're going to have an opportunity to win the whole thing, and I don't want to let this opportunity go by. My whole team is working really hard, and we have one goal to win a state championship. That's what I want to focus on right now. I want to go through my junior season, and then see how things stand there. Stanford is definitely a big honor. I do plan on going to their camp, and I am taking this seriously."
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!