“If we made a poster for the kind of football player we want, Jake would be our poster boy. We’d have him on a poster that says: ‘These are the type young men we want!’
“He really has his stuff together.”
It’s ironic that while Chisholm has made such a big splash at Dayton – both on the football field and off – he’s only here because some other college coaches thought he came up short.
Chisholm is 5-foot-9 and there are some coaches who think small-scale players, like leather helmets and the Winged T, are not suited for today’s game.
“My height was the biggest thing when it came to my recruiting in high school,” Chisholm said. “It’s always been a factor. A lot of recruiters said if I had two more inches they’d offer me on the spot. It was always disappointing to hear that and know they were overlooking what I’d done.”
He said you can’t measure a guy solely by his size and in recent years several players have proved just that in the NFL:
Darren Sproles, a 5-6 running back and return man who played 14 seasons in the NFL, is fifth all-time in NFL All Purpose Yards , was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and won the Super Bowl with Philadelphia in 2018.
Wes Welker, a 5-9 wide receiver, played 12 years in the NFL, went to five Pro Bowls and led the league in receptions three years.
Steve Smith, also a 5-9 receiver, played 16 years in the NFL, made five Pro Bowls and led the league in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns in 2005.
The list goes on and on with 5-7 Maurice Jones Drew, the NFL rushing leader in 2011 and a three-time All Pro; 5-8 Ray Rice; 5-9 cornerback Antoine Winfield, who played 14 NFL seasons after his Ohio State career; and former Cincinnati Bengals, 5-9 Giovani Bernard and 5-7 Andrew Hawkins, who then starred with the Browns.
Chisholm had his own impressive resume at Ryle High School in Northern Kentucky.
He amassed 4,763 rushing yards, 1,100 receiving yards and scored 75 touchdowns. In one game he rushed for 449 yards. He won all-state honors and carried a 4.46 grade point average.
“It was a little disappointing for him when he saw other players offered scholarships and he wasn’t, even though he was basically leading the state in yards,” said his dad, Tim. “He was one of the top running backs in Kentucky and really he was getting nothing.”
Chisholm said it was different with UD: “Thankfully, they didn’t have an issue with it and now they’re giving me an opportunity to prove the others wrong.”
Chamberlin said with Chisholm the Flyers were just following a tried-and-true past:
“We make our living on guys like that. We’ve always said we’ll get those guys the bigger programs will say are an inch too short, 10 pounds too light or a step too slow.
“When we see a good football player – and a guy with character – we don’t care about all those physical features.”
Chamberlin said Power 5 schools often worry about the physicality of a small or short player:
“They feel once someone gets ahold of them, they can’t get away or break a tackle. But all they’d have to do with Jake is put on a film to watch him break some tackles from much bigger guys. He has vision and when he sees a crack, he has the explosiveness to get through it.
“He can turn a 10-yard gain into a 50-yard gain real quick.”
Dayton's Jake Chisholm runs the ball at the first practice of the season on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, in Dayton. David Jablonski/Staff
Credit: David Jablonski
Credit: David Jablonski
‘A real work ethic’
Growing up, Jake shadowed his older brother Jason, who has nine years on hm.
“His brother’s friends would come over and they’d play football in the backyard and let Jake play right alongside them,” said Tina Chisholm, Jake’s mom. “They didn’t take it easy on him. They knocked him down when they could.”
“Jake learned pretty quickly to dodge them,” Tim said with a laugh.
While Jake lived with his mom in Northern Kentucky after his parents spilt, he often visited his dad, who had remarried and now lives in woods near a farm he co-owns north of Louisville.
It’s there where Jake has pursued his other passions: hunting and the outdoors.
Over the years he also did farm work, often baling hay in Northern Kentucky that was sent on to the thoroughbred farms in the state.
“He’s just a down home young man with a real work ethic,” Chamberlin said.
His senior year in high school, he won the prestigious “Brian Williams – That’s My Boy” award named for the former Covington Catholic multi-sport athlete who was recruited to play football at Columbia University, became a bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald and was killed with all 657 of his coworkers in the 9/11 attacks on World Trade Center 20 years ago.
The award honors the Northern Kentucky high school football player with the most impressive athletic, academic and civic contributions.
The University of Cincinnati eventually offered him a walk-on position with the football team, but he said once he saw the Dayton campus, learned more about the Flyers football program and met with Madeleine DeBeer from the premed program on his initial tour of the school, he decided on UD.
Although he began his freshman year as the Flyers kick returner, he did not carry the football until the fifth game and ended the season with just five carries, but with an impressive 50 yards.
As a sophomore in 2019, he didn’t start until the fifth game of the season and still rushed for 1,129 yards and led the PFL with a 7.4 yards per carry average.
He was poised for a breakout year in 2020, but the season as cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He admitted it was “tough,” especially since some of the other PFL teams competed in an abbreviated spring session and crowned a champion.
“In the long run it was the right decision for our program,” he said. “We had some pretty big COVID issues on campus and weren’t able to do anything.
“That’s why I’m really excited about this year. I’ve thought about it all summer. I know people are counting on me this year and I’m ready to handle it.”
Dayton's Jake Chisholm talks to reporters after the spring scrimmage against Ashland on April 17, 2021, at Welcome Stadium. David Jablonski/Staff
Credit: David Jablonski
Credit: David Jablonski
Chisholm has followed his older brother from those backyard football games right into the pursuit of a medical degree.
Jason played football at Hanover College in Indiana, graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and has now begun his fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic.
Tina said two of her uncles were doctors, as is her brother, Dr. Greg Grau, is an orthopedic surgeon in Kentucky.
Chamberlin thinks Jake will make an “outstanding” doctor:
“He’s really bright and he has the right personality. He has that emotion, that empathy. He just knows how to connect with people.”
And that’s why Chamberlin also thinks he’ll be a good team captain this year:
“His story isn’t just about football, but it’s also about everything else in his time here. He’s a great representative of our program.”
Like he said:
He’s “our poster boy.”