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One of the most intriguing signing-day stories from Wednesday’s letter-of-intent activity involves 6-foot, 187-pound senior Jasper Stratton of L.A. Windward, an eight-man football player who signed with Northwestern as a preferred walk-on, which means as a nonscholarship player who is offered a spot on roster.
He played quarterback, receiver and defensive back. And he loves holding on field goals and extra points. “I like to think of myself as a Swiss Army knife, a utility man,” he said.
But how did he convince coach Pat Fitzgerald to put aside a roster spot for an eight-man player who hasn’t played in a game since 2019 because of COVID-19?
It turns out Stratton made a positive impression when he attended a Northwestern camp two summers ago and kept in touch with the coaches via email. He also kept up his grades, earning a 4.1 grade-point average.
“I would like to say I had a relatively good camp,” he said. “I got to meet Coach Fitzgerald and the coaching staff and stayed in contact. The one thing that stayed consistent was keeping in contact and seeing what I had to do to improve as a football player and quarterback.”
His 4.6 40-yard speed gives Stratton options and will allow him to enter college as an athlete rather than tied to one position.
Stratton intended to transfer to Fairfax last fall to play 11-man football until the pandemic forced the high school football season to be delayed. Now, he’ll probably have to wait until he arrives at Northwestern to test himself in the 11-man game.
“I like to say it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “It gives me a chance to prove myself. It’s definitely a step up but a challenge I’m ready to take on.”
Windward has a good track record with walk-ons. Stanford receiver Brycen Tremayne used to play for Windward. Charles Dawson walked on at UCLA and earned a scholarship. Austin Webster walked on at Notre Dame and became a captain.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.