Every high school senior wants to leave a positive lasting impression on his or her school and athletic program – and rightfully so. It’s their chance to ride off into the sunset at the end of their high school story and confidently answering the question, “What will you be remembered for?”
At Manual High School, Jaelin Carter, also known as “Jayy Byrd,” has learned invaluable lessons through the sport of football and believes he’s been able to embody responsibility as a teammate as this athlete writes his final few pages to an epic high school career.
“[Football] taught me how to be responsible and not to be selfish,” he says. “In little league, I always got the ball, and in high school, you have to know that you have to do what you have to do for your team to win. It taught me responsibility and to love all my brothers. It is my last year and my senior year, and things are different. It is starting to hit me. I am thankful, and I thank God for him allowing me to play each and every day.”
This senior year was a tad different for Carter. In Scott Carmony’s first season as head coach, he told Jaelin he would try to get the gifted receiver the pigskin as much as possible. By being utilized as a wide receiver, punt returner, kick returner and even a running back, he’s accounted for 741 all-purpose yards (more than any other teammate) and six touchdowns.
The added responsibility was a testament to his versatility. Regardless of how he got the ball, Carter says he just wanted to do what he could do to help his team get a win.
“There are some guys who God has blessed with a lot of ability, and Jaelin is one of them,” says Carmony. “But he has gotten better every week and he is conscious of things he needs to work on. And he is real coachable when it comes to that.”
When compared to NFL talent, Carter says his skillset resembles Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants. Now aside from the one-handed catch Jaelin made his junior season that had shades of Odell all over it – where he outstretched his arm, falling back in the end zone to make the play – Jaelin says his flexibility and good hands is what likens him to Odell.
Highlight plays and senior leadership aren’t created overnight, and for Carter, his parents have played a major role in making him the young man he is today. He expresses that his mom and dad were the most influential figures in his life, and he has learned to not take it granted: “They’re both independent people. Even though I know they go through some ups and downs, they always keep their children first, and I love that. I appreciate them in my life and I am just blessed to have them. They’re always taking care of me, getting me to and from practice when I didn’t have a car, feeding me and keeping shelter over my head, and I am blessed to have them in my life.”
Aside from football accolades, lessons he’s put into practice and stressing the importance of family relationships, the easygoing and affable Carter solidifies his mark on his school and the Manual football program by sending this message: “Just do what you love. Don’t let anyone pressure you into playing sports. If you don’t like sports, then play chess. Play what you like and play what you love. God is always going to love you, no matter how people try to judge you; you are always going to be loved by God. So just do what you love.
“I love the game and you are supposed to have fun doing what you love. I have only been playing since fifth grade, but I love the game and I feel like I can make it big.” VT