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Notre Dame Football

Jaden Mickey Remains Undaunted After Navigating “Bumpy Road”

June 23, 2023
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Cornerback Jaden Mickey enrolled early last winter and quickly became a fan favorite. 

He stepped onto campus with a chip on his shoulder, talked plenty of trash throughout spring ball and backed it up with an aggressive mindset and advanced coverage skills, earning the respect of his teammates and coaches in the process.

“As a DB, you've always gotta believe you belong,” Mickey said, “so when I walked through the doors, I thought I belonged.”

In the fall, his breakout season never materialized. The young cornerback got off to a rocky start when he gave up the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter in Notre Dame’s season-opening loss to No. 2 Ohio State.

He still played in 11 games in 2022 but appeared to be in over his head at times, especially in his first career start against USC. 

Pro Football Focus rated him as the lowest-graded defender on the Notre Dame roster among players with at least 100 snaps. Opposing quarterbacks completed 77.8 percent of targets thrown Mickey’s way with a 158.3 NFL passer rating.

Classmate cornerback Benjamin Morrison turned into a freshman All-American, magnifying Mickey’s struggles by comparison. 

In hindsight, his missteps turned into learning experiences. Rebounding from failure is integral to success at his position and in life.

“How I approach corners is that it’s a bumpy road. You’re going to have adversity at some point in time, no matter who you are,” Irish cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens said. “You’re going to get beat. It’s how you respond to it. I have the most confidence in him. He’s a mature kid.

“He comes to work every day on the field, off the field, studies. It’s growing through that and understanding why that happened, and then keep growing from there. He didn’t lose his ability or anything. It’s a bumpy road.”

The rising sophomore, who didn’t turn 18 years old until after the Ohio State game, has also undergone a perspective change. He’s moved on from the impossible task of trying to please the masses.

“I would say the audience of one,” Mickey said. “That's something I know BMO (Morrison) and I have really honed in on — not (playing for the) 80,000 people, 100,000 people watching you, but really where your faith in God is and really planning for the audience of him.”

This spring, Mickey returned to his confident, trash-talking ways and honed in on improving his footwork, hand placement and body positioning. 

He picked off quarterback Tyler Buchner in the Blue-Gold Game, and he’s in a position to play a significant role on the Fighting Irish defense in 2023, backing up fifth-year cornerback Cam Hart to the field. 

“I learned to trust my technique, trust myself,” Mickey said. “I would say I wasn't as aggressive (last season) as I could've been.”

It appears Mickey has moved on from last season and continues to pursue his goal of playing in the NFL, but he also has other aspirations. 

He may still be a teenager, but Mickey knows the importance of becoming a strong role model. 

In May, Mickey visited schools near his hometown of Corona, Calif., to talk to students about the importance of responsibility, faith and education. 

In March, he released his debut novel The Win Isn't Always On The Scoreboard, which follows a star athlete in 8th grade who moves to a new city and adjusts to life at his rival school.

“It's a book targeted for middle schoolers, so a lot of people read it with their kids,” Mickey said. “It has a lot of life lessons that I learned and sometimes you don't always understand as a kid. But when you grow up, you start to understand. It has a lot of life lessons like that, so it's been good feedback so far, and I'm excited.”

The book’s proceeds will go towards his mother’s stage 4 colon cancer treatment.

“You could change somebody's life with just one quote,” Mickey said, “So somebody takes what you say, takes what you write down and really uses it to their advantage, then I think it's definitely useful to put what you think on paper.”

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