RIPON – From one of the top junior college offenses in California to one of the most explosive in the entire nation at the Division I level.
Not bad, Jake McCreath.
Not bad at all.
The former Ripon High standout will continue his education and playing career in the Pacific Northwest, where the 6-foot-4 tight end will suit up (in one of many uniform combinations, no doubt) for the Oregon Ducks in the fall.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet, but I’m sure it will eventually,” said McCreath, who made his official visit two weeks ago, was accepted into the school on Friday and committed on Sunday. “… Deep down, I knew I could be a D-I player. Everyone said it, but I had to find it in myself.”
The news was announced by the Modesto Junior College football team on Tuesday morning and later reported in a blog by The Oregonian newspaper.
McCreath joins second-year coach Mark Helfrich’s roster as a preferred walk-on, according to multiple reports. He’ll have three years of eligibility to be completed in three years.
“There’s a good chance at earning a scholarship there,” McCreath said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity. I got to work my tail off to prove that I deserve to be on the team. I don’t want to go up there and be a bust.”
Oregon ranks among college football’s elite, ascending to No. 2 in the national rankings at one point last fall.
McCreath asserted himself as a tall sure-handed target for quarterback Teejay Gordon (East Union) in Modesto Junior College’s vaunted spread offense.
He finished the 2013 season with 31 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns, earning all-Valley League honors.
McCreath played just one season for the Pirates after transferring from Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end signed with the NAIA powerhouse following a decorated prep career.
McCreath was a three-sport star at Ripon High, excelling in football, basketball and baseball.
In two varsity seasons under football coach Chris Johnson, McCreath amassed 52 catches for 757 yards and scored 12 total touchdowns.
He played three seasons in the post for basketball coach Rod Wright, achieving a career double-double – 10.6 points and 10.0 rebounds.
McCreath also toted a .336 batting average in three seasons on the varsity baseball team.
However, his passion is catching footballs – not baseballs – and his career was revitalized at the junior college level.
“Looking back, now it looks like a pretty great decision. At first I was questioning it, because nothing was working out,” McCreath said. “I owe it all to coach (Rusty) Stivers. He said I could go big time. He just said to trust him and trust the system.
“I’m glad I came back to play at least one season in the system … with coach Stivers.”
McCreath could become the first area football player to make a Pac-12 conference roster since Manteca High’s Michael Turner, who played on scholarship for Arizona from 2006-2010.
He reports to fall camp on June 26.
McCreath will join a pair of former Central Valley football stars in Eugene.
He was recruited by graduate assistant and former Ducks quarterback Nathan Costa, who was a human highlight reel for Hilmar in the early 2000s.
“Coach Costa said my versatility helped me,” said McCreath, who lined up in the slot, along the line and in the backfield for the Pirates. “… They travel with four tight ends, so I’ve got to make that No. 4 spot. I’m shooting with the stars and going with the flow.”
He should be very familiar with at least one his teammates.
Sophomore Johnny Mundt played an integral role on Central Catholic’s 2012 Division IV state championship team and emerged as one of the country’s top young tight ends as a freshman last fall.
Mundt appeared in six games with a memorable starting debut against the Tennessee Volunteers. In that game, Mundt had five catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns, earning the John Mackey Tight End of the Week award.
McCreath hopes to find that same kind of success in Eugene, where he joins one of college’s premiere programs.
The Ducks began the 2013 season 8-0 and ascended to No. 2 in the national rankings, but their perfect season and championship hopes were derailed by Stanford.
Oregon returns quarterback Marcus Mariota, a Heisman Trophy candidate for much of the 2013 season despite playing through a knee injury.
“That is my dream school,” he said. “I own so much Oregon stuff already (that) they don’t have to give me anything.”
Just a chance.