Organization Helps Football Player
When Jacob Sannon came to visit the University of Idaho, he came prepared: The student from Southeast High School in Bradenton, Florida, brought his snow gear.
“In my head I was like, ‘I’m going to snow,’ so I had snow stuff,” Sannon said. But upon disembarking from the plane with his teammate Jordan Grabski, Sannon said they found no one else was as bundled up as he was prepared to be.
He’s grown used to the cold since then. Now, when he goes home to Florida for a month at Christmas, his mother, Myrlene Leccima, admonishes him to put on some clothes.
“I’m like, ‘Mom, it’s not cold here.’ I used to think it was cold in Florida, but now I know it’s not cold,” he said.
It’s just one of the many things to which the now 20-year-old football player has become accustomed in the Pacific Northwest. (Another: Those are pine trees, not “Christmas trees.”)
Sannon joined the Vandal football team as a true freshman in 2013. During his senior year at Southeast High, he led his team with 730 yards on 43 catches and made the all-state team. But, he said, he wasn’t getting any scholarship offers.
Just weeks before National Letter-of-Intent signing day, Vandal football coach Paul Petrino asked him to come visit Idaho. Petrino had developed a relationship with Southeast’s coach, and trusted his judgment on players.
That trust wasn’t misplaced.
“When we brought him here, we knew what a hard worker he was and how goal-oriented he was. We knew he was going to be successful,” Petrino said.
Sannon played all 12 games as a wide receiver in 2013 and 2014. But it’s his dedication to academics and excellence off the field that is setting him up for the most success.
“He’s a grinder. Every single day he’s going to do what’s right,” Petrino said. “He’s a great student. He’s a great role model for the younger players. If they want to become a great student-athlete, that’s the kid they can really look up to and see how he organizes his time and does things.”
Sannon has been able to maintain a 4.0 GPA. He’s undecided on his major, but is taking a lot of business and accounting classes.
“I’ve learned the most in accounting so far,” Sannon said. “It actually is stuff I can use.”
Achieving that academic and athletic success requires a lot of organization.
“You’ve got to plan out your schedule. If you don’t plan it out, you’ll miss something,” he said.
That includes waking up in time to lift weights in the morning before classes and spending weeknights after practice doing homework. There’s no cable TV at his apartment and he said he doesn’t watch very many movies or spend much time on social media. The balance between academic, athletics and social activities can be tricky.
“It gets really hard in a week with more than one test or a couple essays,” he said. “But I try to think of it like priorities: What’s important? What’s not important?”
That dedication helps him on the field, too.
“A lot of times you hear how you live your life off the field is how you live your life on the field,” Petrino said. “Most of the time, the guys who are doing a great job academically and are staying on top of their schoolwork are also the guys who are working extra hard to be the best football player they can be.”
UI’s athletic department understands that balance and tries to support athletes in their academics. There’s a study hall available for athletes, which Sannon said he uses because he doesn’t have computer access at home. The other athletes — “I call it the ‘athletic circle,’ ” Sannon said — help each other, too.
“No matter what class you’re in, there’s probably another athlete in there who can help you,” he said. “Athletics makes you have priorities. You have to be responsible. It keeps me on track.”
Sannon said the team atmosphere has helped him adjust to being so far from home. He lives in an apartment complex that is nearly all athletes, he said.
“We all chill together all the time. I go downstairs to see what those guys are up to. Then I go upstairs to see what those guys are up to,” he said.
The camaraderie isn’t just a social bonus. It helps on the field, too. And Sannon is excited for next season and the way the team is coming together.
“I’m looking forward to winning,” he said. “We haven’t quite put the winning formula together yet, but we’re close. We will this year. All the players are starting to believe it.”
Petrino is looking forward to the future with Sannon, too.
“In the next two years, he’ll start taking a bigger role as a guy we throw the ball to a lot,” he said. “He’s just the type of young man you root for to be one of your best players because he is such a great kid.”