Quarterback settling down at UC Davis


Jake Maier is a typical UC Davis student when he gets around campus on a bike, but he stands out when he is playing at quarterback for the Aggies.

UC Davis is Jake Maier’s third college in as many years. At this rate, the sophomore quarterback might as well keep his transcripts in his backpack so he will have them at hand if he decides next year to make it four in four.

The Aggies certainly hope Maier will put away his transcripts and opt to stay in Davis for two more years. With all that Maier and his teammates have accomplished this season, his wandering ways will likely come to an end.

UC Davis (5-5) has a shot at finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2010. All the Aggies have to do Saturday is beat Sacramento State (6-4) for the third consecutive year in the Causeway Classic. The Hornets will get their first look at Maier. By the end of the day, they might offer to help Maier pack if he will leave.

Quite a few folks in the Big Sky Conference would not mind if Maier went away. He could take his 3,344 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. And UC Davis could again be a Big Sky cellar dweller. A victory against Sacramento State would be the Aggies’ fourth in conference play this year, matching their total in the past three years.

Coach Dan Hawkins inherited a 3-8 team from Ron Gould, who was fired after going 12-33 in four years. The cupboard was not bare, but Hawkins had to find a starting quarterback from the two already on board or elsewhere.

Junior C.J. Spencer started three games in 2015. Senior Brock Dale started one last year. Maier arrived with just one junior college season under his belt. He did redshirt at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut in 2015, but that did not do much for Maier other than to make him realize that he had to get out of there.

Maier had traveled nearly 3,000 miles, leaving his family and friends in Southern California, to play at Sacred Heart. But then he did not play. And before too long, he came to the conclusion that there was no reason to stay.

“When you leave your comfort zone and go across the country, that’s a thing I think a lot of 18-year-olds would have a hard time with,” Maier recalled. “Those were trying times. It really made me grow up quickly. I think I needed to go through that. It taught me about life. I needed to learn something about myself and I definitely did.”

Fortunately for Maier, he came home in 2016 and found a new place to play at Long Beach City College. With his future in football at stake, he passed for 3,689 yards and 38 touchdowns to propel the Vikings to a 9-2 record.

“You’re basically playing for your career in one season at the junior college level,” Maier explained. “You have to humble yourself. You have to find a way to persevere. You have to work even harder than you ever have before.”

His perseverance has paid off in a second chance to play at a Division I college. As much as his time at Sacred Heart was humbling, Maier realizes he had to learn what it takes to play college football before he could do so.

“The high school version of me probably would have had a hard time with (leaving).  I might have just accepted my role there. I might have just ignored some of the things that bothered me,” Maier said. “In life, sometimes you have to make those drastic decisions and hope it works out for you. I’d like to think it did work out.”

His numbers attest to that. Among FCS quarterbacks, Maier is second in completion percentage (70.0) and third in passing yards (3,344). With Maier pulling the trigger, junior Keelan Doss has become one of the top wide receivers in the country. Doss is the Division I leader (FCS and FBS) in receptions at 102 and receiving yards at 1,326.

“I get the easy part,” Doss quipped. “All I have to do is catch it.”

Doss will return in 2018 unless he pulls a surprise and enters the NFL draft. Also coming back will be  two talented sophomores, wide receiver Aaron Moore (35 receptions for 480 yards) and tight end Wesley Preece (34 for 557). Preece has eight touchdown receptions, one more than Doss, and Moore has added five.

How about Maier? He is the right place at the right time.

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