Potsdam Royals RB Jake Mayon is unwanted no longer

Jake Mayon remembers what it felt like to be unwanted

Coming out of tiny Northern Michigan University with a school-record 4,220 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns under his belt, the prolific running back figured someone at the professional level would give him an opportunity. Scouts called and texted, information was exchanged, but in the end, all lines went silent.

“I was really hurt by it,” Mayon now says, looking back on that chapter of his life.

“You focus so much on one goal and you put your all into it and when nothing comes of it, it is really a let down. I went through it a little bit mentally when I finished, not even the fact that I didn’t have a roster spot right away or something, but that I didn’t even get a shot.”

But while the North American professional level wouldn’t even provide a tryout opportunity, there was somebody across the Atlantic who wanted Mayon badly. The running back’s college roommate hailed from London, England, and had put his name in the ear of coaches he knew with Germany’s Potsdam Royals. They were immediately interested, but Mayon wasn’t quite as gung-ho.

Jake Mayon avoiding New Yorker Lions defender Photo: Uwe Zingler

He fully admits that he gave Potsdam the run-around as he waited for an NFL or CFL shot to arise. Even the briefest conversation with a scout gave him reason to delay, but the Royals were relentless. Eventually, Mayon succumbed to their charms.

“The Royals, they never stopped contacting me. Finally, I had a phone call with them and it worked out great,” he recalls.

“I loved the energy that they were bringing, what they were talking about, the guys they were bringing on to the team. It was awesome. I feel like it was a great decision to come out here and so far, so good, we’ve been having a great year.”

That might be underselling it somewhat. The Royals have been driven to an impressive 7-1 record on the back of their new ball carrier and Mayon is running away with the GFL’s rushing title with 1,340 yards and 19 touchdowns so far. That’s almost 500 yards more than the next closest runner.

That’s par for the course when it comes to Mayon’s career. He brings production wherever he goes and the rare teams who have seen past his lack of stature have benefitted from a player motivated by those who doubted him.

“I was always small and even though I was a kid that was good at football, I never was looked at like a true football player,” Mayon explains. “When I got older and I’m seeing all these guys getting pretty big, everybody was looking at me like I’m nothing. And I took it very serious.”

Mayon’s last official measurement had him pegged at 5-foot-7 and 205 pounds, though he’s now down to 185. His lack of size made many questions whether he could even be a starting running back in high school, but he dedicated himself to the weight room and shattered all expectations.

Northern Michigan RB Jake Mayon Photo: Northern Michigan Athletics

In three years on the varsity team at Plainfield East High School in Illinois, he finished as one of the top five rushers in the state each year. However, when Division 1 recruiters came to visit, they rarely had any interest. Mayon’s coach sold him hard but the result was only a few preferred walk-on offers. That wasn’t good enough to him.

“At the time, I had too much pride, I think, to take any of the walk-ons,” Mayon says. “I felt like I worked too hard and I’m really working my tail off in a weight room, I’m doing good on the football field and I wanted to play scholarship ball. Northern Michigan was the only D2 school to offer me that.”

That worked out pretty well for the Wildcats, as they got the school’s all-time leading rusher and single-season record holder out of the deal, but even they didn’t know what Mayon would be.

“When I was close to breaking the record, one of my coaches who recruited me said ‘did you know that when we first recruited, you were the fifth back on the roster and weren’t expected to play,'” Mayon grins slightly.

“I never knew that. I just came there and I worked my tail off, kept it going and had a positive mind set.”

In many ways, history is repeating itself in Germany, with Mayon exceeding all expectations in his rookie year. The back won’t take all the credit, quickly pointing to an offensive line that “loves to make a point when they’re on the field” and a receiving corps that has bought into their blocking responsibilities as reasons for his success.

Jake Mayon #34 battling through wave of Dresden Monarchs Photo Nicol Marschall

Still, knowing they can expect almost eight yards every time Mayon touches the football has provided offensive stability for the Royals and allowed them to juggle quarterbacks PJ Settles and Giovanni Rescigno for strategic advantage. Through eight weeks, he has rushed for 341 more yards by himself than the team has thrown for.

A revamped New Yorker Lions teams and a fast-paced, blitz-heavy defense are the next test, but should Mayon keep up his pace, a shot at the German Bowl could be a real possibility. That could hardly have been conceived of when the Royals re-entered competition in 2012 in the fifth division of German football.

Mayon hopes his high level of play will open up opportunities for him back home, but he’s actively pushing those thoughts from his mind. He loves it in Potsdam and won’t let anything get in the way of the end goal.

“I’m just staying focused, grinding, trying to be the best I can right now.  The rest will come,” he says. “I hate to sound like that, but that’s just how I have to think when I’m playing and I’m trying to get to the German Bowl. I don’t like to overcomplicate it and get things mixed up in my brain.”

The thought instead is a simple one. Somebody finally wanted Jake Mayon and he’s doing everything he can to reward them for it.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.