Patek fulfills his father’s premonition
UH's strong safety from Texas is living out his dream of playing Division I college football
Clicking the remote control looking for his college football fix on a Saturday afternoon in Texas, Gary Patek happened upon a glimpse of his son's future.
"We were sitting here and we were watching a Hawaii game and I said to my wife, 'Wouldn't it be something if he went to Hawaii,' " recalled the father of Jacob Patek, then a promising junior college prospect.
Hawaii? Yeah, right.
The Pateks were familiar enough with Hawaii's reputation and one of Jacob's former Blinn Junior College teammates had gotten a call or two from Warrior coaches. But Manoa was an awfully long way from Victoria, Texas, and the family figured Jacob would continue his football career much closer to home.
But after riding a recruiting roller coaster following his sophomore season at Blinn, Jacob Patek ended up making a prophet out of his dad by signing with UH last February, and he has taken little time in making an impact with the Warriors.
Since arriving in late July, the transfer quickly ascended the depth chart, earned the starting job at strong safety during fall camp and began his Division I career by recording 10 tackles against one of college football's legendary programs.
"When I came out here I was trying to work hard -- my goal was to be a first-teamer," said Patek. "I wanted to show the coaches that I wanted it and try to get them to trust me so they know I'll be able to do what I have to do."
Patek got off to a bit of a shaky start in UH's opener at Alabama on Sept. 2. ("I was pretty nervous," he said. "When we graded out, probably five of the first 10 plays I messed up on.") But once he got his legs under him, he turned in a solid debut as the Warriors put a scare into the Crimson Tide before falling 25-17.
"The first quarter he got lined up wrong a few times and made a couple mistakes, but he'll get better each week," UH defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said. "He's a hitter and he's a hustler. Now, as long as you do those two things, you've always got a chance."
Following standout careers at Victoria Memorial High School and Blinn JC, Patek received some interest from Kansas and coaches from Division II Henderson State kept the phone ringing. But things got really interesting when Texas A&M entered the picture.
After an all-conference sophomore season, he faced a choice of walking on at Texas A&M -- where he had already started the admissions process -- accepting a scholarship to Henderson State, or returning to junior college to further explore the recruiting process.
"We were all on different pages," said Gay Patek, Jacob's mother. "None of us were in agreement on what Jacob should do and we spent that entire Christmas holiday, two weeks, agonizing every day just looking at every detail of what's going to be best for Jacob."
When it was decided that Patek would return to Blinn for the spring, the Texas A&M staff summoned him back to College Station to offer him a scholarship. But after making the 2-hour drive from Victoria, he was told there had been a mixup and the Aggies' last scholarship had been already promised to another player.
Word of the developments in Texas quickly reached Hawaii assistant coach Jeff Reinebold, and he wasted little time in working the phone.
When Jacob broached the idea to his folks, Gary was transported back to that afternoon in his living room.
"The day A&M called and told him they wanted him to walk on, he called that night and said 'What about me playing for Hawaii?' " Gary Patek said. "I said, 'two months ago I said that.' It was pretty unreal.
"It was boom, boom, boom. Not much time to feel upset about it. It went from a low to a high real quick."
Patek was sold on his recruiting visit and signed with the Warriors in the spring.
Patek had played outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme at Blinn, where he racked up 96 tackles, including six sacks, in 2005. But the Warrior coaches envisioned a future as a safety for the 6-foot 202-pounder in UH's 3-4 alignment.
"I'm doing a lot of the same stuff," Patek said. "I wasn't back in coverage (in JC), I wasn't on any deep stuff. Other than that, everything's pretty much the same.
"I think I caught on quick because I've always seen myself as a safety. When I was in junior college, I'd do drills with the safeties, so it wasn't too much different."
Once he got into fall camp, the coaches quickly took notice of his hustle and tenacity.
"His effort and work intensity are second to no one," Glanville said. "He's just a great character person, he chases the ball like (Warrior free safety) Leonard Peters and does everything the way you want it done, really.
"We're hoping to keep his size up, keep him in the weight room and hope that he keeps eating good food, because he's a little undersized for the position. But his heart's big enough to play anywhere."
The Patek family is planning to visit Oahu for two weeks in November and catch the Warriors' games against Louisiana Tech and San Jose State at Aloha Stadium. His parents and sister have already had a chance to see Jacob play in person, as they were among the 92,000-plus fans crammed into Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"When Jacob was a junior in high school he told me he wanted to play in front of a crowd of 80,000 at a D-I school," Gary Patek said. "And to sit there and watch him on the field and see him play the way he did, it just overwhelms you. It's just unbelievable that he's out there playing at that caliber and playing his dream.
"At one point my wife said something about not going to Alabama. And I said I don't care if I've got to walk. This is his first game and I'm going to be there."