Catholic-Pointe Coupee football coach Rob Funderburk was waiting for the right time to pull Jacob Juge off to the side during Monday’s practice. The wait was longer than expected.
“I said he wouldn’t have much to do during special teams drills,” Funderburk said. “But there he is, he’s in there doing whatever he can.”
Call Juge a “utility player,” and he’ll thank you for the compliment. It’s typically used to describe a baseball player who can play several positions. Juge sees himself as a baseball player first. The baseball factor makes Juge’s evolution into a football player all the more impressive for the Class 1A Hornets of New Roads.
“His first love is baseball, and it’s always been that way,” said Funderburk, the former CHSPC baseball coach. “It’s what he does all summer every year.
“I think we, as coaches, saw something in him that he didn’t see in himself in football. He’s a guy who works very hard, is a good athlete and can pick up anything you teach him in a short period of time. A guy like that is valuable on any team.”
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Juge certainly didn’t see his career going this way. Under different circumstances, the fleet-footed center fielder might be playing fall baseball.
“Ninth-grade was my first year coming back into football,” Juge said. “I stopped playing football my fifth-grade year. I just loved baseball, so I started playing year round.
“Coach Funderburk really got me into it (football). He told me how good of a player he thought I could be.”
Juge flashes a smile as he recalls that first season with the Hornets. At the time, he had no other choice than to be a quick study.
“Coming into my freshman year I had a cast on my arm from playing baseball over the summer,” Juge recalled. “So I really only had two or three weeks before the season started to learn things.
“Halfway through my freshman year I got the starting spot at safety. Coach Funderburk and coach (Storm) Reeves really helped me with learning how to play safety.”
Juge caught 19 passes for 320 yards while primarily playing the slot receiver role as a junior. Juge netted All-District 5-1A honors as a safety, compiling 50 tackles, along with three interceptions.
Another season brings a change. Juge has moved to linebacker and also will take on the lead running back role in a spread offense temporarily. Preseason injuries have hampered the 27-member Hornets squad that scrimmages The Dunham School at 6 p.m. Thursday.
“He played safety his first three years, and he’s always been the guy who wants to come up and play the run,” Funderburk said. “This year we’re giving into that and moving him up to play linebacker, so he can do what comes naturally to him. He’s big and he’s physical and he loves to hit.
“He also moves around a whole bunch on offense. For example, we’re going into our scrimmage Thursday with a couple of guys out, so Jacob will probably be the starting tailback. A week later or two weeks later he might be at one of the slot positions.”
Juge’s goal is to play college baseball. He doesn’t have any scholarship offers yet, but said he carries a 3.5 grade-point average and has already met the NCAA’s academic qualifying standards.
Funderburk said he believes Juge will get the chance to play either baseball or football on the college level. In the meantime, the CHSPC coach has other plans.”
“Jacob’s a versatile guy,” Funderburk said. “We can put him where we need him.”
Football coaches are reminded that have until Friday to submit nominations for the Louisiana High School Coaches Association’s East-West All-Star game set for December.
Nominations should be emailed to LHSCA Director Gary Duhe at firstname.lastname@example.org. Coaches from across the state are scheduled to meet Sunday to select the teams.