Two years ago, as he began wrapping his head around playing on the defensive side of the football for the first time in his career, Curtis Jacobs found himself looking for an edge to lessen the learning curve.
As it turns out, he didn’t have to look far.
Taking an introspective approach, the McDonogh School standout wide receiver realized pretty quickly that by simply studying the offensive tendencies he’s developed over the years, he could effectively figure out how to try and neutralize those same kind of things when going up against the opposition.
“It starts with the offensive side really. I make sure I’m the guy that knows all of the plays and has it down,” Jacobs said. “So, when I do transfer to defense, it’s that easy — like I know what receivers do, I know what they would want to do. It makes it easier for me playing both sides.”
The numbers don’t lie.
Jacobs has developed into one of the top two-way players in the MIAA, catching balls at wide receiver while defending passes and making tackles as either a safety or linebacker. The 6-foot-2 Penn State University commit eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving with 12 touchdowns offensively, while making 153 tackles defensively last fall as a junior.
His efforts earned him second-team All-Metro honors.
McDonogh head coach Hakeem Sule says it’s hard to quantify just how much of an impact Jacobs has been able to have on the program.
“It’s been an amazing opportunity for us — just an amazing experience for our team, when you have a guy that can play both sides of the ball,” Sule said. “Obviously, Curtis has dominated in the past years on the offensive side — on the defensive side of ball, this will be his first year really playing linebacker in the box.”
Ironically enough, despite his relative inexperience, it’s as a defensive player that Jacobs has caught the eye of some of the country’s top Division I programs.
From seventh grade up until just before his junior year, Jacobs played exclusively at wide receiver. It wasn’t until last fall that he started playing safety and then this past winter some conversations with Big Ten coaches Corey Robinson at the University of Maryland and Brent Pry at Penn State swayed him to pursue the linebacker position.
Sule, who played football himself at Maryland from 2006 to 2009, sees a similar potential path to success moving forward.
“What I see from Curtis and what I really think is going to translate at the next level is his size and his ability to move,” said Sule. “You’re talking about a guy that stands 6-foot-2, 235-pounds and he can cover a wide receiver that’s in a slot position, he can tackle a big, physical back or even take on some of those linemen. He’ll have a lot of success because he’s a rangy type of athlete.”
Jacobs went to a Penn State camp back in June 2018 and was given an offer right out of the gate. After attending Penn State’s annual “Whiteout Game”, the Nittany Lions rose to the top of his list — ahead of offers from Maryland, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and Texas A&M among others.
He eventually committed to the program this past February.
“Looking at greats that went to Penn State like Tamba Hali — all of those guys like that — I’m just excited for what’s to come,” Jacobs said.
As for his final year at McDonogh, where he and his teammates have compiled a 20-14 record over the past three seasons competing in the Maryland Interscholastic Association of Maryland A Conference, Jacobs is setting the bar high.
“I think we’re a really good team this year — we are bringing most of the guys back from last year,” he said. “I think we have a very good chance to make a run at the championship.”
Sule has his own plans for Jacobs this season and much of it stems from getting the ball into his hands and generating scoring plays. He also looks for more communication from the senior linebacker as a leader on the defense.
“The biggest next step for him is ‘How am I going to make my teammates better and get them involved on both sides of the ball?’ — knowing and understanding his role and understanding why we put him in different positions and that he’s not going to be the one to make the play every time,” Sule said. “But his presence alone will impact the game and will allow others to make plays. That’s our goal for him. Obviously, if he can embrace that role and take on that leadership, we can be a better team.”