The last time we saw Hinton graduate Jay Small play for Northwestern, it was for the Red Raiders basketball team in the national tournament. However just weeks after he announced he would be transferring for his graduate season, Small joined the Raiders football team for their playoff run and is poised for a potentially big role in the National Championship game.
Back in 2016, Jay Small was one of the most electrifying dual-threat quarterbacks in Iowa for Hinton, leading the Blackhawks to a 9-2 season, finishing one game away from the UNI-Dome. He went on to play basketball at Kirkwood College, before transferring to Northwestern where he played three years until announcing he would transfer for his graduate season this year. But before Small got out of Orange City, Raiders head football coach Matt McCarty talked him into joining the football team for Northwestern’s spring playoffs.
“You know, we’re actually just sitting on our offices as coaches, and we said What’s Jay Small doing?” McCarty said. “And so I said I don’t know and I have his number from recruiting him so I texted him, and his first response was ‘Are you serious?'”
He was dead serious. McCarty convinced the former Red Raider hooper to join the team as a safety. Small played in all three playoff games playing defense and special teams. However once starting quarterback Tyson Kooima went down in the semifinals, McCarty had to ask one more thing of his newest recruit: to be the team’s back up quarterback in Monday’s national championship.
I had no aspirations to play quarterback again, but with Tyson going down and getting pretty slim at best,” Small said. “However I can help. I mean I was going to do it so that’s what my position is.”
The last time suited up at QB was was November 4th 2016, when his Hinton squad came up short against a Tyson Kooima led Western Christian squad for a spot in the state semifinals. So what is it the Northwestern coaches saw in the former Raider basketball player that thought he would be a good fit as this week’s back up?
“Athleticism and God-given talent,” said O-Coordinator Josh Davis. “The young man can do a lot on a court and on the field. You know we have some younger quarterbacks within our program that we believe in that have been on the scout team throughout the spring and it wouldn’t be fair to them to throw them into this fire Jays competed at a college level, in high-pressure situations. So that’s going to help him.”
This week has been about shaking off four and a half years of rust for Jay as he prepares for his new role. But another part of his job has been to help Raiders’ new staring quarterback Blake Fryar, as he prepares for his first career start on the nation’s biggest stage.
“I’ve just got to help him keep his confidence and being there for him, no matter what,” said Small.
“Jay is actually my next-door neighbor, so we’re pretty good friends,” Fryar said.” Yeah, I know he’s a high school quarterback and it’s fun to throw the ball out here around with them and he’s got a really strong arm and really it’s just, you know, fun playing position with him just asking friends and I’m just trying to help him along and he’s grasping it really well.”