Ori Jean-Charles became one of the most high-profile recruits in the Hudson Valley entering last season. The veteran Spring Valley quarterback was coming off an exhausting summer tour of combines, 7-on-7s and showcases, and was primed for a senior year that would lock up his long-sought after Division I scholarship.
Instead, Jean-Charles played only a couple of snaps in the season opener, threw for five yards and never stepped on the field again.
“My initial reaction was ‘Oh my God. Not Ori,’” Spring Valley coach Andrew Delva said recalling the season opener against Greeley when Jean-Charles went down. “All I was thinking was ‘You are going to get up and you will be back in a couple of plays.”
Jean-Charles never returned.
A knee injury ended the season for the prized 6-foot-2, 220-pounder. It was also supposed to terminate any legitimate shot he had at landing a full ride at any of the dozens of major programs after him.
“I’m a firm believer that everything is written,” Jean-Charles said. “Whatever happens is meant to be that way.”
Nobody could have written the script that presented itself for Jean-Charles. After months of tireless rehabilitation and a very strong commitment to his academics, the University of Louisville presented him with a scholarship opportunity this week, which he accepted.
Less than a year after his football dreams seemed in jeopardy, Jean-Charles left on the 4th of July to enroll in classes and begin workouts at Louisville as a preferred walk-on.
“I was definitely confident that things would work themselves out,” Jean-Charles said. “I would always say that and speak it into existence. I just kept my head down and worked and stayed the course. I never cried. I never complained.”
Jean-Charles is all smiles these days. After all, he’s following his dream and lands on a depth chart that has the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson, on top of it.
While he’s probably a few years away from vying for serious time, Jean-Charles said he’s completely healed from the injury and has spent countless hours on the field going over his footwork and regaining the speed and quick release that made him a coveted dual-threat prospect.
As a junior at Spring Valley, the Don Bosco Prep transfer passed for 1,429 yards and 20 touchdowns while rushing for 1,009 yards and five scores. Check out his highlight tape from that season:
Last summer, Jean-Charles essentially toured the Northeast with a packed schedule of showcases and combines. While he didn’t secure an official high Division I scholarship offer, Jean-Charles was firmly on the radar. All he needed was senior-year game film.
Then came Week 1.
“All I could think was he had worked too hard for this opportunity to showcase what he can do as a QB and athlete,” Delva said “All he did, though, was keep telling me ‘I’m gonna be fine coach and so will the team.”
Spring Valley went on to go 5-1 in the regular season, losing only to undefeated Arlington. The Tigers then drove in the final minute to beat Fox Lane 17-14 on a last-second field goal in the first round of the Section 1 Class AA playoffs.
Jean-Charles was on the sideline, encouraging his teammates throughout it all. Then, soon after Christmas, he got back to work.
“He is one of the hardest working kids I have ever seen,” Delva said. “So much so that we have to slow him down even after the injury.”
While schools backed off, Jean-Charles and Delva stayed in contact with a handful of others, mainly Marshall and Louisville.
“Louisville was there from the jump,” Jean-Charles said. “They were really high on me and were waiting for full (game tapes) from the first couple of games to pull the trigger and offer. But I went down, I couldn’t provide that.”
Jean-Charles maintained close contact with the Louisville staff. While he weighed playing for a I-AA program, or the more likely options of prep school, he always felt Louisville was a strong possible landing spot.
“They couldn’t give me a full (scholarship), but I had a partial on the table,” he said.
Among the most important pieces to Jean-Charles earning a spot at Louisville was academic scholarship money he applied for and received. After months of working on the financial end, Louisville could cover the full cost of his tuition.
“I didn’t want to say much because I was just focused on rehab and I’m also not that type of guy,” Jean-Charles said. “People have been coming out of the woodwork wishing me luck.”
Jean-Charles knows he’s far from realizing his dream of playing quarterback at the Division I level. While a position change is still possibility, the fact he’s on his way to the Louisville campus after being robbed of his senior year is an accomplishment itself.
“I always believed he would find a home, it was just trying to figure out which school it would be,” Delva said. “I can say that he always said that God has a plan for him and it will work out in the end.”
Email Kevin Devaney Jr. firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet or DM: @KDJ_N12Varsity