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Vanden junior receiver Jamai East nearly stepped away from the game forever.
As the pandemic rolled on and the hopes for a season grew dimmer and dimmer, East thought about no longer playing football. He thought about quitting.
But a football season ended up happening, as his Vanden squad and many others in California were able to play in the spring, which they are now a few weeks into.
“I had doubts,” East said. “I was like, ‘There’s no point of playing anymore, but then they had a season, and I got my hopes up.”
And East’s family let him stay the course.
East credits his mother and brother for letting him remain in the sport, with his brother getting East out and getting him to train, play sports and keep himself immersed in sports.
“My brother kept asking me, ‘Oh, let’s go to the park. Let’s go blah, blah, blah. Let’s go hoop, workout, do whatever.’ So I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to do it for my family, so I just kept doing it and stayed,” East said.
The work East put in – along with remaining in the game – have all paid off for East, which was seen during the second installment of the Routes vs. Coverage Showcase earlier this month.
East shined during the 1-on-1 portion of the competition, and he only improved as the 7-on-7 tournament unfolded.
These were moments East has shown before, being called up to the varsity squad at Vanden last year, one that made it to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV quarterfinals. He caught 13 passes for 104 yards and carried the ball five times for 45 yards.
Moving up to varsity at that age showed East what kind of future he had in store.
“A lot because as a kid, as a freshman on JV I was thinking like, ‘Oh, I can’t do anything. This is JV. They’re big. I can’t do anything,’” East said. “Like it was bad. And once they put me up to varsity I started just showing my talent, and everything was good.”
It’s only been more growth ever since.
During the offseason, East worked on his route running, catching and doing other things to make defenders miss and get them out of the way.
“It’s been cool,” East said. “Just working every day, lift. I lift three times a week, two times at field work, and that’s really all.”
Some colleges have shown interest in East, who said he’s gotten coaches following him from the University of Colorado and Fresno State.
He is thankful to be here today and grateful for everything his parents have done to make him one step closer to his college dreams.
“My mom for sure,” East said. “She pushes me every day. My dad tells me, ‘Go workout. Go do this.’ And some days I be like, ‘I don’t want to play the game, but I just go do it and workout, and it just made me the man I am today.”
This year, East is striving for it all in the abbreviated spring schedule.
“Goals for my team is 5-0, just basically get better, go 5-0 and get better, everything like that,” East said. “Goal for myself is 1,000 yards in five games.”
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