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Photo by Courtesy Lamar Mickey
Notre Dame Football Recruiting

2022 CB Jaden Mickey Striving for Greatness On & Off the Field

March 11, 2021
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In short order, 2022 Centennial (Calif.) cornerback Jaden Mickey has become a hot name among college football programs across the nation for his talents on the field, but he's much more than an athlete.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder and his family passed on the chance to start school late, which would have made Mickey one of the oldest kids in his class. Mickey instead is one of the youngest juniors in the country, but that hasn't stopped his development on the field or in the classroom.

According to his father, Lamar, who holds master's and doctorate degrees, education has always been a priority for Mickey.

"He's always been a good student and he's very good at math," Lamar said. "In the eighth grade, he was the male student of the year. I've never had to look at his homework or anything. He's very disciplined and motivated."

Mickey not only holds a 3.7 GPA, but he's already taking classes to get him on track to enroll early at the college of his choosing.

"He's taken an extra psychology class and I think he has to take an economic and government class in the summer to graduate early from high school," Lamar said. "He's just self-disciplined and highly motivated."

The California native has seen his family succeed off the field, but Mickey has also seen the importance of education as he has seen his mentor, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, go through the highs and lows of professional sports.

Ekpre-Olomu was projected to be one of the top prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft, but a late ACL injury knocked him off draft boards and another tragic knee injury ended his NFL career.

"He went to Oregon and was an All-American and he was always giving and trading advice whenever he was in town," explained Lamar. "He would come and teach the techniques he learned from the college level.

"He was a top 10 pick and decided to go back to school and ended up tearing his knee up. So there is an understanding that football is cool, but you're only a play from not being able to play it again."

Jaden Mickey has done his research over the last few months and knows he wants to major in business, which is more than fine with his father.

"I don't know a kid that played football and didn't think they were going to go on to the NFL," said Lamar Mickey. "Let's get that degree. Jaden wants to study business and I'm pushing him towards finance.

"When you're good at something, use it to the best of your ability. He's in pre-calculus now and I never took calculus in my life."

And if family history is any indication, Jaden Mickey will succeed.

"I ended up going to junior college before I got my football scholarship," Mickey explained. "My mother passed when I was 11, so my dad and grandparents took care of me and my younger sister.

"My sister is six years younger than me and she has her doctorate degree. Two African-American kids from South Central Los Angeles that grew up with a single dad and support from their grandparents and we got master's and doctorate degrees."

MATURITY

It's evident Mickey understands the bigger picture when it comes to education, but the Centennial standout is also a star at home.

Mickey's mother was diagnosed with cancer last year and stepping up to the plate wasn't something that needed to be asked.

"My wife was diagnosed with colon cancer during the craziness of the COVID stuff," Lamar Mickey shared. "She had to have a major surgery and 12 sessions of chemo. We would come home from the chemo sessions and the kitchen and living room would be cleaned up. The trash would be taken out. He's very in tune with meeting the needs of people he cares about a lot.

"I really love and appreciate him for that. We're a family of men and my dad and grandfather didn't always say, I love you, but that was one of the things I wanted to change. We share that almost every night. You have to be tough on your kids, but at the same time, you have to let them know you love them too."

And yes, Mrs. Mickey's treatments have gone well.

"She's healthy now," Mickey said. "All the scans are clean. It's ongoing for five years before they determine you're cancer-free, but there was no cancer detected in the first scan."

Courtesy Lamar Mickey
Jaden Mickey

LIFE

High school is high school and Mickey isn't too different than any other 16-year-old student-athlete. Friends, video games and everything in between are on his daily schedule, but he also makes sure he gets his work on the field led by mentor and trainer Robert Borne at a local training facility.

"He trains with an organization called Rharebreed, ” Lamar Mickey said. "One of the coaches is Terrail Lambert. He's able to get some mentorship from him and he shared his experience about Notre Dame.

"That's his outlet. Five o'clock every day he gets to train and then comes back home to spend time with his mom to make sure she's good."

The COVID pandemic has been hard on everyone across the country, but for Jaden Mickey, it was a chance to be with family during a stressful time as he took online courses.

"It's been a nightmare and probably set a lot of kids behind," Lamar Mickey said of the pandemic. "Jaden took care of his business and he actually likes it. They're talking about April 12th being the day kids can go back, but he's opted into the online session, so he can stay home the entire year. He loves it."

Jaden Mickey's inner circle has also been essential for his development and has challenged him at the same time.

"On the weekends, he likes to hang out with his boys," laughed Mickey. "They're always playing video games or trying to get to the mall.

"He loves to hang out with a few friends he grew up playing football with in our community. Out of the guys he hangs out with, he has the lowest GPA of the four of them."

EARLY YEARS

Football runs in the family, and Jaden Mickey was photographed with a football on his chest when he was just three months old. Yet, Lamar Mickey also wanted his son to try other sports before football.

"I put him in soccer for the first time when he was four or five," explained Mickey. "I thought he was going to go out there and naturally kill it. They dropped the ball and a kid ran up and started kicking the ball. Jaden started pouting.

"I was like, "Oh God, maybe I don't have an athlete.' I taught him the game of soccer and within a week or two, he was averaging like three goals a game. He got it."

A few years later, Mickey was a quarterback, but it was never the long-term goal despite winning a few championships as QB1.

However, there was a goal for it. Quarterback taught the four-star prospect about leadership, which has now paid off in high school despite the age difference between Mickey and his peers.

Courtesy Lamar Mickey
Jaden Mickey

Most see a top football prospect when they watch Mickey's film, but on a future viewing, remember this was a 14-year-old competing as a sophomore.

"7-on-7 is pretty much when he earned the starting position,” explained Mickey. "He was only 14 years old playing against Mater Dei. I had to sign a waiver for him to play varsity at 14. He ended up picking off Bryce Young (Alabama QB) on a fade route."

It was at that moment the elder Mickey knew life was changing for his son.

"It was on TV," recalled Mickey. "Our phones were going off and people were sending me the video of him.

"One of my buddies who went to Oregon and is in high school media does a talk radio show texted me saying Jaden was about to blow up. I didn't know what that meant. He had a good game, but he did everything I expected him to do."

THE DECISION 

Mickey has a final four of Cal, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Oregon and will soon decide on his future college. As a father, Mickey has challenged his son to think outside the box and step out of his comfort zone, which the Centennial star has taken to heart.

"From my experience working with people, when you get away from home and go to another state, you learn how to develop and become more resilient and make decisions that turn you into a man,” Lamar Mickey told IrishSportsDaily.

"My challenge to him was to find a school that you think you can go to and one where you can get all your needs met."

As with most recruits, advice and pressure comes from everywhere. Family and friends have their opinions, while college coaches are selling themselves and the program they work for.

Jaden Mickey has utilized his mentors for advice and, most recently, leaned upon a family friend.

"A lawyer recently shared something with Jaden after a visit with her and her husband," Mickey said. "She told him you can't find greatness in comfort. He's thinking out of the box and that's what I wanted because I took some challenges in education, not knowing if I was smart enough to get my master's. Most of my life has been calculated and low-risk. So I've challenged him because of what he's shown me over this year."

It won't come as a shock as Mickey has accepted the challenge from his father and those around him this year, but also his whole life.

"He's not going to make excuses. He's going to outwork people because that's what he's always done."

 
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