Jaiquawn Jarrett Interview: On Juan Castillo, Mike Vick, Fabolous and His First Game in the NFL

Jaiquawn Jarrett Interview: On Juan Castillo, Mike Vick, Fabolous and His First Game in the NFL

With just a few days left before the team's 2011 kick off, we had the opportunity to sit down with Eagles rookie safety and former Temple standout Jaiquawn Jarrett. We've been covering the Temple Owls here on the site the past couple seasons, so we thought it would be appropriate to check in with Jaiquawn as he prepares for his first game in the NFL.

Inside the Novacare Complex, Jarrett's locker is flanked on either side by those of fellow safeties Colt Anderson and Kurt Coleman. Anderson was listening and watching for the better part of the interview. You'll see why that's important later on.

Nick: First off, there's the obvious question. You're now just three days from your first game in the NFL. How's it feel?
Jaiquawn Jarrett: You know, It's exciting. But, it's still a long process just to get ready. Right now I'm just focusing on the game plan, learning the game plan. And then I'm doing my best in practice to go out there and execute that plan, so I can be ready when the time comes to get in there, whenever that may be.

Nick: Prior to the 2011 Draft, how aware were you that the Eagles may have been interested?

Jaiquawn: Really, I wasn't too aware that the Eagles were interested in me, but I'm definitely glad and excited that they did select me. I'm excited that I'm able to play college ball and my professional ball here in [Philadelphia].

Nick: Once you were drafted, head coach Andy Reid called you the most intimidating hitter in the draft and then went on to compare you to Brian Dawkins. What does it mean to you to be compared to a player like Dawk?

Jaiquawn: Brian Dawkins, man, Brian Dawkins is one of the best players to ever play this game. He is going to go down in history as a Hall of Fame safety. There's no doubt. Really, I'm just learning right now. You know, I've got a lot to learn. But I can definitely learn a lot from him. And I can obviously learn from the safeties I'm surrounded by in this locker room.

Nick: After the draft, what did you do to stay in shape and improve during the lock out when you weren't allowed access to the team or its facilities?

Jaiquawn: I worked out at Temple. I worked out at Temple numerous times with the strength coach, coach P [Frank Piraino], and my old strength coach, coach [Tony] Decker. So, I was always lifting and running.

Nick: Once you were allowed back, did the veterans hit you with any of the traditional rookie "chores?"

Jaiquawn: Oh no. You know, there's really no rookie chores here. None of that stuff, believe it or not. [Pauses — Smiles] But we do, uh, we do provide away game meals. But that's not really a big issue.

Nick: Well, you know it has been on other teams.

Jaiquawn: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah. I know. I've heard about that.

Nick: As a second round draft pick, there was some early talk that you and Nate Allen could make up a very young starting safety tandem. Now, those spots are filled by teammates Jarrad Page and Kurt Coleman. Do you feel the lockout and not being able to attend mini-camps or OTAs in any way hindered your progression, and that if you had a normal training camp things might have turned out differently?

Jaiquawn: I'm not too sure. You know, I really don't know about that. If there wasn't a lockout…I probably would have learned a lot more. But, I mean, I'm learning now. And I'm going to continue to learn. And I'm going to go out there to compete. And I think if I can go out out there and try my best to become a good team player, that I'll pick it up.

Nick: It's your coach Juan Castillo's first season in the league as a defensive coordinator. What is your impression of Juan in that role having gone through an entire training camp?

Jaiquawn: Juan Castillo is a great man. He's a great man. He's exciting. He's always got a lot of enthusiasm. He's always got a lot of energy. He's just great that way. Definitely keeps us going.

Nick: Other than the coaching staff, from whom, thus far, have you learned the most?

Jaiquawn: Colt! [Laughs] Colt Anderson's helped a lot. We roomed together a lot. Roomed together at the hotel, were around each other in camp. So definitely Colt. Kurt [Coleman]. Kurt helps a lot. Just about the whole safety core. [Smiles] We're all pretty tight around here.

Nick: As a part of the secondary who gets to see these guys in action quite a bit, what's been like to watch the Eagles' "big three" corners on a daily basis?

Jaiquawn: You know, each of them has their own different traits. Each one has their own way of doing things. But, they're all talented. They're all great corners. And every day, every single day, they're out there making plays, whether it's practice, or preseason, or whatever. Everyday they're making plays. For me, it's just exciting to watch how Pro Bowl, Hall of Fame corners go about their business everyday. It's great to watch, great to learn from.

Nick: Prior to joing the Eagles, I'm sure you, like the rest of us, consumed quite a bit of the media coverage surrounding quarterback Michael Vick. What's it been like to meet him and interact with him everyday as a real person, and not just "that guy" who did "that thing?"

Jaiquawn: Mike is a real down to earth person. Honestly, being around Mike Vick is just like being around anybody else. He's down to earth, you know? He's really easy to get along with. He's just a good guy. Simple as that.

Nick: Switching over to college, you said you worked out at Temple over the summer. How much have you gotten to know coach Steve Addazio and what is your impression of what he can do for that program going forward?

Jaiquawn: [Smiles] Ohhh, Steve Addazio. Coach Addazio has a lot of, a whole lot of intensity, man. [Laughs]. He's a real good man. And he's been letting the seniors who have graduated come back to work with the team, work out with the team, run with the team. I'm excited for them. I heard about their big win over Villanova. I'm looking for big, big things out of them this upcoming season.

Nick: And how about your old head coach, Al Golden? Have you ha
d any contact with coach Golden, especially since all that came out about the University of Miami's football program?

Jaiquawn: Nah, you know, I really haven't had the chance to speak to coach Golden. I know he's got a lot on his plate right now. But, I'm pulling for him. I know he's gonna turn that program around."

Nick: Alright, two easy ones and then we'll let you go. We've been covering your career at Temple the past couple years so we have to ask, not counting the cafeteria or the SAC, where's your favorite spot to eat on Temple's campus? We'll give them some free advertising.

Jaiquawn: Well, I always liked to go to City View! But I was definitely always eatin' Rita's, as well, though.

Nick: Finally, we hear it's pretty common for guys to listen to music before taking the field. Marshawn Lynch refers to it as "getting that last little bit of juice."

Jaiquawn: Mhmm.

Nick: What will you be listening to Sunday morning?

Jaiquawn: Sunday morning…well, I always listen to Fabolous.

Nick: Yeah? Any specific song? We'll put it on the website.

Jaiquawn: [Laughs] "Gangsta Don't Play" [Continued laughter].

--

Thanks to Jaiquawn Jarrett for taking the time to talk to us, and for making it through what Colt Anderson called "the longest interview I've ever heard."

Photos with thanks to the Philadelphia Eagles, Associated Press, Express Times and GCobb.com

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies’ roster

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies’ roster

TAMPA -- When Phillies camp opened earlier this month, Brock Stassi was considering mentioning his ability to play the outfield to manager Pete Mackanin.

Though he’s played mostly first base during his six seasons in the Phillies' system, Stassi has been used occasionally in left field. He’s also played the position in winter ball in Latin America. Even going back to high school, Stassi played center field.

As it turned out, Stassi didn’t need to have that conversation with Mackanin. The manager actually approached the player early in camp and told him he planned to get him some time in the outfield as well as at first base.

Mackanin and the Phillies' front office value versatility and they want to have it on their bench. Stassi has come to his second big-league camp as a serious candidate to win a job on the bench. His left-handed bat -- which he showed off with a solo homer in Friday’s 9-4 Grapefruit League loss to the Yankees -- would be attractive to the Phils. So would his versatility.

And if the ability to play first base and outfield isn’t enough versatility, Stassi can actually offer something else.

He can pitch.

In fact, the Cleveland Indians drafted him as a pitcher after his junior year at the University of Nevada in 2010.

Stassi returned to school for his senior year in 2011 and was a two-way player. The Phillies selected him in the 33rd round of the draft that year as a hitter, even though on draft day there was some confusion.

“Initially, I was announced as a left-handed pitcher then they changed it to outfielder,” Stassi said. “Then I got to Williamsport (the Phillies’ New York-Penn League team) and had a first baseman’s mitt in my bag, and I was like, ‘All right, let’s go. You’re going to be playing first.’”

Stassi’s minor-league managers in the Phillies' system have always been aware of his pitching background. He has made nine pitching appearances during his time in pro ball, including four with Triple A Lehigh Valley last year. All were in relief in long extra-innings games.

“I got a win and a loss,” Stassi said.

He recalled the loss with a big laugh.

“I shook off Logan,” he said, referring to catcher Logan Moore, another candidate pushing for a spot on the Phillies’ bench. “I shook to the fastball against a lefty. It wasn’t the right move and Logan won’t let me forget that. The guy hit a triple. Then I got hit with a comeback one-hopper right on the butt. It was like a 14-inning game.”

Stassi throws a fastball, curveball and changeup.

“My fastball is like 84,” he said with a laugh.

Many position players in a big-league clubhouse were pitchers at some point in the baseball journey. Roman Quinn, who broke into pro ball as a shortstop and is now a centerfielder, was used as a closer in high school and hit 94 mph on the radar gun.

“I believe it,” Stassi said. “That guy’s got a cannon. I had to catch him when he was playing shortstop. He’d come charging in on a close play and he’d let one loose and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ And even from the outfield he’s got a cannon.”

Stassi’s arm doesn’t bounce back the way it used to when he pitched in college.

“Every time I have to pitch now I’m hanging for like two weeks,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t grab the baseball and gut out an inning if Mackanin ever needed it.

“Hey, if that’s what it takes,” he said.

Figuring out the Phillies’ bench at this point of camp is a little like solving a Rubik’s Cube. There are many possible combinations. Infielder Andres Blanco is a sure thing and outfielder Aaron Altherr seems like a good bet. So does outfielder Chris Coghlan.

Andrew Knapp, Ryan Hanigan, Bryan Holaday and Moore are the candidates for backup catcher. Knapp can also play first base. And it’s not out of the question that the Phils would carry three catchers.

They could fill the perceived final spot on the bench with an infielder such as Pedro Florimon or another outfielder such as Daniel Nava, Andrew Pullin or Cameron Perkins. Or it could be Stassi, whose versatility is a plus.

“There’s a lot I like about Stassi,” Mackanin said.

Stassi comes from a baseball family. His brother, Max, is a catcher with the Houston Astros. They played for their dad, Jim, at Yuba City High School near Sacramento, California. Jim was a catcher who reached Triple A during his playing days in the Giants system.

“My dad always talked about the value of versatility in high school,” Brock said. “He preached it to the whole team. You might have two second basemen and they’re pretty equal, but you want both bats in the lineup so you might have to play outfield. It’s good to be able to do it. Don’t take it as a knock that you’re not at your normal position -- you’re in the lineup.”

In addition to wearing several different gloves, Stassi can swing the bat. He was Eastern League MVP in 2015 when he hit .300 with 15 homers, 90 RBIs and a .863 OPS for Double A Reading. He hit .267 with 12 homers, 58 RBIs and a .806 OPS at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season.

Stassi has been described as “a grinder” by members of the Phillies’ player-development staff, and that’s a compliment. More than one thousand players were selected ahead of him in the 2011 draft. His signing bonus was just $1,000. He’s never appeared on one of those Top 10 prospect lists and never been on a 40-man roster, never mind appeared in a big-league game. But he’s continually moved up the ladder and now, at age 27, is under serious consideration to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench.

And maybe -- if needed in a pinch -- in the bullpen, too.

“Oh, man, it would be a dream come true,” Stassi said. “Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Just the path that I’ve taken -- I've had to earn everything, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It would be really awesome to make this team.”

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

TAMPA -- The Phillies’ bats were slow getting started in the Grapefruit League opener Friday afternoon. The Phils did not have a baserunner through the first six innings in a 9-4 loss to the New York Yankees at Steinbrenner Field.

“First game, I’m just happy we got at-bats because the pitching is always ahead of the hitting this early,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said afterward.

Outfielder Cameron Perkins had the Phillies’ first hit, a single up the middle in the seventh inning. He added a solo homer in the ninth inning.

Perkins, 26, was the Phillies’ sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft out of Purdue University. He graduated from Southport High School in Indianapolis, the same school that produced Phillies great and Hall of Famer Chuck Klein.

A right-hander hitter who eschews batting gloves, Perkins hit .292 with eight homers and 47 RBIs at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season. He is not on the 40-man roster but was invited to camp for a look-see. He is considered a longshot to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench, but will certainly improve his chances if he keeps swinging it like he did Friday.

“I don’t think about it,” Perkins said of his bid to make the club. “All I can do is what I did today -- get my opportunity and make the most of it.”

Brock Stassi, another candidate for a job on the Phillies’ bench, also homered.

On the pitching side
Right-hander Alec Asher, who projects to open in the Triple A rotation, started for the Phils. He pitched two innings, allowed a home run to Didi Gregorius and struck out two.

Asher made big strides with his sinker last season. He’s added a cutter now.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta debuted with two scoreless innings. He gave up a hit, walked one and struck out three. The Phillies acquired Pivetta from Washington from Jonathan Papelbon in July 2015. He projects to open in the Triple A rotation, but first will pitch for Team Canada in the WBC in March.

“It’s a lifelong dream for me, right up there with whenever it is that I get my first start with the Phillies,” Pivetta said.

The bullpen
Mackanin has said he’d like to have two left-handed relievers in his bullpen. The Phillies have just one -- Joely Rodriguez -- on their 40-man roster, although it’s possible that Adam Morgan could be shifted from starter to reliever later in camp.

The Phils have brought two veteran lefties -- Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos -- into camp on minor-league deals to compete for a job. Burnett made his debut Friday and gave up a triple, a sacrifice fly and a home run in his inning of work.

Luis Garcia was tagged for four hits and three runs in his spring debut.

Up next
The Phillies host the Yankees in Clearwater on Saturday afternoon. Morgan will start for the Phils against right-hander Adam Warren.