‘Peewee’ Jarrett’s incredible journey to the New York Jets

Hidden among the 17 New York Jets free agents for this weekend’s minicamp was West Florida quarterback Byron Jarrett Jr.

NFL teams take risks against Division II quarterbacks this time of year. Jarrett will have a hard time making the final 53-man roster.

But that’s nothing new for the residents of Des Moines, Iowa, who call them “Peewee.”

Jarrett’s journey to the Jets certainly isn’t linear. He was good enough at Hoover High School to pass for 5,000 career yards, 50 touchdowns and set a school record for passing yards in a game with 547.

But as he told KCCI-TV in Des Moines, he didn’t receive any Division I, II or III offers.

“Zero offers, zero stars,” Jarrett said.

Jarrett found a home at Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College, but played only seven games before tearing his labrum.

After his first operation he lost his grandmother. Then he needed another operation. Before he could get back on the field, COVID-19 shut down college football in 2020, and it was especially difficult for junior colleges.

At his lowest point, Jarrett considered quitting football and getting a job. He found no sympathy from an unlikely source.

“I called my dad looking for comfort in the situation, but my dad just hung up on me in my face,” Jarrett said.

So he transferred to Iowa Central in 2021 and threw for 2,704 yards and 30 touchdowns while earning NJCAA First Team All-America, ICCAC Offensive Player of the Year and First Team All-ICCAC honors. He and the Tritons went 9-2.

That season sparked interest in West Florida. The Pensacola, Florida-based program started in 2016 and quickly became a national power, winning the Division II crown in 2019.

In 2022, Jarrett threw for 2,719 yards and 33 touchdowns, and rushed for a school-record 762 yards for a quarterback, along with nine touchdowns. The Argonauts went 12-2 and finished ranked No. 4 in the country, losing to Ferris State in the national semifinals.

Last season, he threw for 2,552 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushed for another 233 yards and three touchdowns as UWF went 8-4 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

On the final night of the draft, Jarrett sat with his family and took the call from the Jets, signing him to a UDFA contract. Now 6-4, 240 pounds, at least he has a chance.

“I didn’t really know where I was going to end up,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get drafted or not, you know? I’ve talked to every team over the last two years and you know I knew something good was going to happen.