The Hometown Kid: Jaret Patterson looks to prove himself to his hometown team

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Growing up in Laurel, Maryland, Jaret Patterson and his twin brother James were fans of their hometown Washington NFL team. Graduates of St. Vincent Pallotti High School, linebacker James was the more recruited twin, while undersized running back Jaret had difficulty finding a scholarship. Undersized at 5’8’’, he was flat-out rejected from the MAC’s Eastern Michigan, and was surprised and upset that schools were counting him out. When SUNY Buffalo recruited James, they made room for Jaret in their running backs group as a package deal. Jaret vowed that he would give the Buffalo Bulls everything he had.

Eastern Michigan would end up regretting their rejection of Patterson. After grayshirting in 2017, Jaret made his freshman debut in 2018 to the tune of 1,013 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per carry on 183 attempts. He finished fourth overall in MAC rushing yards, and seventh overall in YPA. Eastern Michigan’s lead back Shaq Vann finished the season with 590 yards and a 4.4 YPA. Patterson was named MAC Freshman of the Year and All-MAC second team, earning the starting role which he would keep for the rest of his time at Buffalo. In 2019 he crushed Buffalo’s single season rushing total with a staggering 1,799 (5th NCAA) yards and 19 touchdowns on 312 attempts for 5.8 YPA. He was also incorporated more into the passing game for 209 yards on 13 receptions, averaging 16.1 yards per reception. Patterson led the MAC in rushing yards by over 300 over Western Michigan’s LaVante Bellamy (1,472) and was sixth overall in YPA.

Fast-forward to the end of the 2020 college football season, and Jaret Patterson had broken nearly all significant rushing records for the Buffalo Bulls. He holds the school’s career rushing touchdown record at 52, the single season touchdown record at 19, and the single season rushing yards record at 1,799 yards. The only record that eluded Patterson is the career rushing yards record, thanks to the COVID-19 shortened 2020 NCAA football season. The current record holder is Branden Oliver at 4,049 yards. Over six games in 2020, Patterson accrued 1,072 yards to set his career total at 3,884. Had there been a full 13-game season in 2020, there is little doubt he would have broken Oliver’s record.

Patterson built upon his incredible 2019 campaign with an even better 2020 campaign. He once again led the MAC in rushing yards with 1,072 (12th NCAA), and ran away with the touchdown lead with 19 (t-3rd NCAA) on a whopping 7.6 YPA (10th NCAA). On November 28th, 2020 during a beatdown of conference rival Kent State, Patterson quite literally ran away with the game. He tied the FBS single-game record for rushing touchdowns with eight, and ended the game with 409 rushing yards on 36 carries. He fell just 18 yards shy of the single game FBS rushing record.

After finishing his junior year, Jaret Patterson declared for the 2021 draft. However, due to his short stature and coming from a non-Power 5 school in SUNY Buffalo, he found himself once again being counted out despite some late round projections. "It was definitely frustrating," Patterson told the media. "I’m not going to lie to you." He accepted a deal from his hometown Washington Football Team as the only UDFA signed by the team. In Washington, not only is he competing for a spot on his childhood team, but reunited with fellow St. Vincent Pallotti High School teammate Chase Young. Now he’s looking to break preseason on the roster and will be competing with J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber for playing time.

Patterson made his professional debut with the Football Team in their matchup against the New England Patriots to kick off the preseason. Head Coach Ron Rivera utilized him both in the rushing and passing attack, where he had 40 rushing yards on 10 attempts for 4 YPA, as well as four receptions for 30 yards while averaging 7.5 yards per reception. The second week of the preseason against the Cincinnati Bengals is where he really broke through and impressed his head coach. Patterson rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries for 4.4 YPA. He also caught all three passes thrown to him for 25 yards. They also deployed the back on special teams, where he returned a kickoff for 37 yards. After the game, Rivera praised the rookie.

"I thought it was solid, I really did," Rivera said. "He’s an explosive and young dynamic back. We gave him some opportunities early on with the first bunch and he did a nice job with that. Then when the second bunch was in there, two-on-two, I thought that he really showed his ability. And again, you’ve got to be able to do it consistently, so we’ll see. He’ll get some more opportunities. We still have one more preseason game to go."

Jaret Patterson’s situation is reminiscent of Colorado running back Phillip Lindsay. Another back of short stature, Lindsay became the University of Colorado’s all time rushing leader with 3,770 yards and gained national attention with excellent seasons in 2016 and 2017. Like Patterson, Lindsay went undrafted due to his size and school, but signed with his hometown team in the Denver Broncos and made the roster after a stunning preseason. In 2018 and 2019, Lindsay finished the season with over a thousand rushing yards in each season. However, during 2020 his performance declined due to injuries and poor utilization by the Broncos offense. Frequent runs up the gut rarely work for a small running back, and after a disappointing season, Lindsay became a free agent and signed with the Houston Texans.

Jaret Patterson has a real chance of making the Washington roster, and a chance to be a very impactful player on both special teams and offense. However, he will need to rely on smart utilization to make the most of his abilities, something the Football Team has already shown during his two preseason appearances so far. His ability to be deployed both in the rushing and passing game, as well as the ability to contribute on special teams, shows the path towards a bright future for a twice-overlooked but immensely talented and hard-working player.