A smile comes to Jacobi Hearn’s face when he thinks about how he ended up in Albuquerque coming from Mississippi.
“I’m from Pocahontas, Mississippi,” Hearn, a University of New Mexico linebacker, said of his hometown near Jackson and near Clinton, where he played high school football. “I’ve never seen mountains before in my life. I like the scenery here. I get to look at mountains.”
Hearn had always believed he would leave Mississippi and football would be the ticket. Sure, he had dreams of playing in the SEC, but he said he was raised to excel in any situation. He always wanted to play NCAA Division I football. He’s grateful to be with the Lobos (2-4, 0-2 in Mountain West Conference), even amid a three-game losing skid as they head to Wyoming (4-2, 1-1) on Saturday.
After four years of varsity football, a state title in the highest division in Mississippi and contributions as a defensive end and linebacker at Clinton High, Hearn saw his best option at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
With a compact frame at 6 feet tall and 230 pounds, Hearn believed he had always been overlooked. When he was ready to transfer, he said UNM and New Mexico State were the only programs offering him a scholarship.
He said when he visited Albuquerque there was “a different feel,” especially in comparison to Mississippi. Well, in Las Cruces, Hearn said it was “really different.”
“I think it was destined for me to be here,” Hearn said after Wednesday’s practice. “There was a reason that God put me here.”
Hearn, an outside linebacker, has shown progress each week for UNM with his best performance delivered in the Lobos’ 35-21 loss to Colorado State last week. He recorded six tackles, three for losses to go with one sack.
He leads the team with three sacks and is second on the team in tackles for losses with six, just behind middle linebacker Alex Hart, who has 6.5.
“He’s explosive,” UNM coach Bob Davie said. “He’s not the tallest guy. He’s a little bit of a tweener. He’s a small, compact guy that’s really good at the line of scrimmage even though he’s not very tall.”
Off the field, Hearn is also finding reasons that he made the right choice to go to UNM.
At Mississippi Gulf Coast, Hearn majored in aerospace engineering. He remains proud that he completed Calculus 3.
At UNM, he has switched his interests and is thinking to pursue a career in real estate. He still loves math, but he also enjoys speaking to people and is now interested in business entrepreneurship.
“Whatever you set your mind to, do it,” Hearn said. “My parents raised me that way. Even if you don’t want to do something and you choose to do something else, you need to put your all in whatever you’re doing. That’s my mind-set in whatever I do. Football, school, anything, I put my all into it.”
In the spring, Hearn completed an internship with RE/MAX Elite, a real estate agency in Albuquerque. The sister team of Gail McDaniels and Barbara Wyne took Hearn under their wing.
McDaniels and Wyne, UNM alumni, were thoroughly impressed with Hearn, who did everything that was asked of him and more, including taking out or hammering in the signs that are placed in front of a residence.
“He did every single thing we asked,” McDaniels said. “He met with a mortgage lender, met with other realtors, he had assignments. We made him work. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this young man.”
McDaniels and Wyne were so impressed that they sent a letter to Davie, expressing that Hearn represented the Lobos extremely well.
“If this is what your team is made up of, what a great team you have,” McDaniels said of what she and her sister wrote. “They’re going to be champions in life. I hope the world is made up of more Jacobis. He’s just an exceptional young man.”
HAYES: Marcus Hayes, a former UNM safety who transferred to Kansas State after last season, has left the Wildcats program, the Mercury newspaper in Manhattan, Kansas, reported last week.
Hayes, who had petitioned the NCAA to be eligible to play immediately, was denied during the summer. He will no longer play football, Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said during his weekly press conference.
“That’s his right,” Klieman said. “And I didn’t agree with him, because I really enjoy Marcus. But you have to love the game to do it. And I appreciate him being honest with me. And that’s … this game’s hard for a lot of guys. And so I have nothing bad to say against Marcus Hayes at all. I think he’s a wonderful kid.”
Hayes recorded 51 tackles, 1.5 for loss, for the Lobos last year, when he also finished with two interceptions and five pass breakups.
He led the nation in yards per punt return at 21.2 and earned All-Mountain West Conference second-team honors. He had an 86-yard punt return that tied the school record for longest punt return for a TD.