Have you ever been around someone that just seems to have “it” figured out, when the rest of us, don’t even seem to know what “it” is? When you are involved in a conversation with that person, it is as if they know something that you don’t. There is a wisdom, a calmness to them. They have an heir of confidence about them, because they are totally at peace with their path in life. “It” is well with their soul. This is the feeling you get when you are around Jaiquan Crook. He is wise beyond his years. When I talk to Jaiquan, I feel like he is imparting wisdom into my life….. Maybe that is because he is.
Jaiquan Crook is a 2014 graduate of Walker High School. He was a member of several clubs and activities during his time in Jasper, Fellowship of Christian Athletes being one of them, but the ones that her remembers most are the ones that helped people. He played football and ran track while he was a Viking.
He was named a multiple time Daily Mountain Eagle Elite performer during his football career. Jaiquan is somewhat of an enigma because he is one of the few Defensive Ends that you will ever see athletic enough to run the 4X100 relay, and sprint the 100m. If he seems an athletic anomaly, he is even more of a abnormality in life. A guy that had every opportunity and excuse to choose the wrong path in life has chosen to take the road less traveled. Because of the choices that he has made, and the position that he has put himself in, he is going to have one amazing story to tell when he comes to the end of that road.
Growing up as a youngster in Anniston, Alabama, Jaiquan “grew up seeing things and being around things that a child should never have to see”. Jaiquan’s role models in life at that point in time were his dad, who is serving a life sentence in prison, and his uncle, who has been in and out of the Alabama penal system. After leaving Anniston, and moving to Jasper as a fifth or sixth grader, he says he “naturally found trouble”. Quan basically explained it as trouble never had to come looking for him, he knew exactly where and how to find it. Jaiquan, a self-professed “natural born leader” was admittedly leading himself and others in the wrong direction.
For some people in life, there is a moment of clarity. Jaiquan said that came for him in his 10th grade year when former football coaches John Holaday (Head Coach) and Scott Mansell (Defensive Coordinator) offered him a starting position at defensive end. He knew when he was given that opportunity that he had to be a leader. He was either going to lead the team in the right direction or the wrong direction, but he knew they would follow him. Jaiquan made a decision at that day that changed our team, but more importantly, made a decision that changed his future. A young man, who in his first week in Jasper was called into the office and accused of leading a gang, was now the positive leader of his team.
During his time at Walker, Jaiquan began a group called Vikings Give Back, which was a community service program that specialized in service projects within the community, and helped him develop a calling for making a difference in the lives of others (He coincidentally received a community award at senior awards day for its implementation). When talking about the teachers and coaches who made a difference in his life, Jaiquan mentions many of the same people that other Walker/ Jasper alumni will mention. He credits Coach Ryan Hall for urging him to take leadership roles, and constantly instilling character, and having discussions about what being a “real man” is with him. He says that those are conversations that still happen today. “The coaches around here wanted to see me make it. They want to see me do better. They care about me. They love me”. There are others who also played a big role in his turnaround. “Mr Boling, my principal took time with me when he didn’t have to take. He set up a retired teacher, Mrs. Mego, to come and tutor me for the ACT, and I can never thank either one of them enough for that”. Coach Bill Young was Jaiquan’s mentor teacher when he was a freshman looking for guidance. He said that Bill was always there for him, and that he always helped him get the support that he needed with whatever issues he was facing at the time. Another teacher who made a tremendous impact on his life was math teacher, Eric Phillips. Quan refers to Coach as “Uncle Phil”, and he say’s that they always just had a special relationship because Coach Phillips cared about him as a person and helped him out immensely.
At the end of his senior year of high school, Quan signed a National Letter of Intent to play football at Faulkner University. He spent a fall down there, but ended up transferring out when the coaches who recruited him were no longer on staff. He then came back home, to Jasper, and began to define his future.
During that time, Jaiquan developed a love for working out and eating right. He dove into it, and began to learn more about how it makes the body become more efficient. He then became emersed in it, eventually becoming a certified personal trainer. A role that he still enjoys, as he trains students from five area high schools during his “off” time.
Jaiquan is attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham- UAB to those who follow college athletics. Jaiquan is an employee of the athletic department, and he is a vital part of “The Return”. At the end of the 2014-2015 Academic year, the University made the decision to kill the football program. After a lot of support and fundraising was garnered, the football program retuned for football this season. It is ironic that a young man who rebuilt his life is also a part of the staff of a rebuilt football program. The support that the city of Birmingham has offered the Blazers is similar to the support that Jaiquan feels that he has received from his family- his Jasper family.
Quan, never one to shy away from hard work, wears many different hats for the UAB football program. He is three part employee, but wholly bought in to UAB football, and positively impacting the lives of those that he comes in contact with. Jaiquan works with the football equipment staff as a student equipment manager. He is also an intern with the strength and conditioning staff, and serves as a student assistant coach with the Defensive Line under the tutelage of former University of Alabama player Kyle Tatum.
A normal day for Jaiquan begins at 4:15 am when he gets up to teach a five o’clock boot camp conditioning class. He then goes straight to seven o’clock football workouts. Following workouts, he turns over the workout player and coaches laundry, and prepares for the days practice by pouring over practice scripts and setting up equipment and drills that will be needed on the field that afternoon. At 1:15, he will then take part in defensive film sessions to help prepare the defensive line for their weekly game assignments and keys. At 3:30 he goes to practice where he sets up and runs team and defensive line drills. When the buzzer blows to end practice, he then turns back into equipment manager, cleaning off the field of the days equipment, cones, tackling dummies, and prepares for the upcoming days practice, walk-thru, or game. He usually finishes a little after 7:00 pm, then finds time to study. Somewhere in the midst of this, he attends class. Game day is a completely different animal for Jaquain, but his primary role on game day is signaling play calls for Defensive Coordinator, David Reeves. Life right now to Jaiquan is a whirl wind. He never stops, he rarely sleeps. He is the real life version of motivational speaker Eric Thomas’ speeches, where he exclaims, “the grind never stops for those who want success”.
His first love is the strength and conditioning, and it happened because he was in the right place at the right time. On a recruiting visit to UAB with former Viking great wide receiver Myron Mitchell, Quan was introduced to legendeary Blazer Strength and Conditioning Coach Lyle Henley. The two immediately hit it off. He began to pick Coach Henley’s brain about what he does and how he does it. He showed an interest that Coach could definitely pick up on. They developed a relationship that day that led him to his current position. At times, staff at UAB have talked to Quan about playing, but always looking forward, he realizes that his future lies in coaching, and he is being provided an opportunity to grow, mature, and learn from some of the best in the country.
When asked what he misses most about his time at Walker, Jaiquan explained, “it’s more than just football. I miss the teachers and the staff. So many teachers impacted my life, and I love all of them. In that school, there were a lot of smiles, a lot of positivity, and a lot of love. They cared about us. That is what I miss most”.
When you talk with Jaiquan, the things that he has experienced, and those people who have helped him are not lost on him. He draws from that inspiration, and he seems to take every instance in his life and files it away to a place that he learns from. He is a student of life. He understands people because he listens to them. He realizes that the people that he comes in contact with are valuable information holders that he can draw from. He constantly talks about picking the brains of successful people. He sees the value of relationships, and understands that the decisions that he makes in life will either take him closer to or further away from his goals. He carries himself in a manner that draws people to him, and when you look into his eyes there is a sparkle of enthusiasm, of hope, and of promise. His vocabulary is dominated by positivity, and his actions are intentional, because he knows that negativity is draining, and nothing good has ever been accomplished unintentionally. When asked what advice he would give to younger student athletes, Jaiquan ponders for a moment and says, “stay dedicated, consistent, and focused on what you want to become and you will be successful. Don’t let being from Jasper, and the stigma that goes with it, change what you want to do”.
Jaiquan is majoring in Kinesiology with a sports science emphasis, and currently carries a minor in Nutrition. When looking to the future, he sees these two educational ventures as his avenue to becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach. Personally, I wouldn’t care what his major is, if I was a college athletics director, I would hire Jaiquan, pay him six digits, and tell him to make a difference in our program, and in the lives of our kids. I can see why they love him so much at UAB. He is a worker, a battler, a survivor, a difference maker, a changed man. He understands how it feels to look at life and maybe not see a way out. He also understands what it is like to overcome your surroundings and rise past your circumstances to embrace a vision that guides you. He is why coaches get into coaching. He is why the men and women that walk the halls at Jasper High School everyday can hold their heads high. He is the guy who defied the odds. He is not that same kid who grew up on the streets of Anniston. He made it out. It may only be sixty-four miles from Anniston to UAB, but to Jaiquan, the two could not be further apart.
Jaiquan would like to thank the community of Jasper for supporting him throughout his life, and for continuing to be a good support group as he moves throughout his career. We would like to thank Lavish Boutique and Coffee Bar for helping us recognize Jaiquan, and the positive impact that he has had on those around him. For the perfect ladies outfit or piece of jewelry, go by and visit Lavish Boutique. If you are craving the perfect cup of coffee, go see Hunter and all the good folks at Lavish Coffee Bar. Make sure and tell them you enjoy the articles.