SAN JUAN — PSJA High senior Jayden Arrington, who excelled as a versatile inside and outside linebacker for the Bears football team, had an atypical path to realizing his college football dreams.
He received a few college offers at the end of his senior season, but doubted if he would ever play collegiately. Arrington, who also thrived in the classroom at PSJA High, had studied and worked hard enough to be on pace to be halfway to a nursing degree by the time he graduated high school.
And although he had undeniable talent on the gridiron, his priority was his degree and career path, which wasn’t offered by any of the schools pursuing him.
“I didn’t think football was going to be the call (for me),” Arrington said. “I actually have two years left of nursing school and I was actually heading up to Texas A&M for nursing. I had a few offers but it wasn’t really to where I thought I was going to go play football until maybe late January or maybe late February when TLU gave me a call.”
The Bulldogs coaching staff took down his information over the phone and looked over his game film, while Arrington did some homework and discovered that Texas Lutheran boasted a nursing degree in addition to its NCAA Division III football program.
That was enough for him to convince his parents to take a closer look.
“We went off and visited the school, met all the coaches and it was a very welcoming environment. They really wanted to get to know who I am, not just as a football player, but as a person,” Arrington said. “The biggest thing there at that school is that they like to push that God comes first before everything, and that’s the way I try to live my life. Being offered by them, it kind of opened my eyes and I said ‘Maybe this is a path that’s calling my name.’”
Arrington was impressed by how much the coaching staff at Texas Lutheran emphasized the school’s academic offerings during his visit, which he found refreshingly different from some of his interactions with recruiters from other schools.
“A lot of kids go to college because football is there and they don’t go for the main purpose of going to college, and that’s getting that degree while at the same time being able to play the sport that you love,” Arrington said. “That was the thing about TLU, they were really showing me ways that they could help me out to get my degree that I’ve been worki
ng for, but at the same time be able to make me a better person and better my technique at football, so that was a great thing.
“That was the best decision to go play for them. I love the environment, the people there, the administration, staff, coaches, everything, so I just committed and I’m ready to go play over there.”
Arrington was one of the defensive cornerstones for the Bears’ elite defense in 2019 with the size and speed to stop the run or drop back in pass coverage, and was also part of one of the most significant and influential classes of PSJA High football standouts in years.
In his junior and senior seasons, Arrington helped lead the Bears to back-to-back district titles, splitting with McAllen Memorial and Mission High in 2019, and combined for 198 total tackles and 12 tackles for loss across 22 games.
As a senior, Arrington was named an Honorable Mention All-District pick in District 30-6A after tallying 112 tackles, seven tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.
“Out of the years I’ve played on varsity, I would say my senior year was probably the best year because everybody in that front seven, we all had the same mindset. We told each other that we were not going to let just anybody toy around with us, play around with us or make us look silly,” he said. “The best game to show what kind of front seven we were was that Raiders game. We were down 14-0 with our backs against the wall and we just never gave up. That game will show what that team was all about.”
Arrington’s elite combination of speed, agility, size and strength allow him to be a defensive jack of all trades between the lines, which is why he’s preparing to play anywhere for the Bulldogs, just in case he’s asked to play everywhere.
“I’m fine wherever you line me up because as long as I’m on the field, I’m going to give it my all,” he said. “If you’re bigger than me, I’m going to use my speed against you to get around you. Playing outside (linebacker) is like a game where I can mess with the quarterback. I could blitz off the edge, drop back in coverage and I like to mess with offensive linemen and make them think a blitz is coming when it’s not to mess up their calls. But overall, I don’t mind playing anywhere.”