Jarrett Mitchell was born in South Carolina, but moved with his family to Okinawa when he was three months old after his father, who served in the U.S. Air Force, was stationed at Kadena Air Base. His parents split up a few years later, but he and his younger brother remained on Okinawa with their mother, who had been a school teacher in South Carolina and resumed her teaching career at schools on the island's various American bases. Jarrett has made many trips to the U.S. during summer and winter breaks for vacations, football camps, and to visit relatives, but Okinawa has been his home for essentially his entire life.
Former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, who was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame on February 1, was the son of a U.S. Army major and spent most of his teen years living on an army base in Germany before moving to Houston for his senior year of high school. Kevin Greene, who played for four teams in 15 NFL seasons and was a finalist for the 2014 Hall of Fame class, was also an army brat and lived in Mannheim, Germany during his early teens. On National Signing Day, four days after Strahan's election to the Hall of Fame was announced, Sidney Malauulu, a defensive tackle from Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Arizona, signed a letter of intent with the University of Wyoming. 2013 was Malauulu's only season to play football at Buena, as he had spent his earlier high school years at Seoul American High School in South Korea.
Altogether, there are just under 80,800 students enrolled in DoDEA schools, as of February 14, 2014. By enrollment, the system is roughly the size of the Fort Worth Independent School District, and it would rank in the top forty on American School & University's 2012 list of the 100 largest American school districts.
(Fun fact: the nickname of Kyushu University's American football team is... the Palookas. If you had been in southern Japan on September 8, 2013, you could have taken in a Kyushu League matchup between the Kyushu Palookas and the Kurume University Mean Fighters. Not making that up.)
Having received quality instruction at his summer camp stops and improved both his skills and confidence on the field, Jarrett started off his junior season with a bang, taking his very first carry 43 yards to the end zone, and finishing Kubasaki's first game with 232 rushing yards on only 13 carries. He spent more time on defense than he had as a sophomore, becoming a play-maker at safety in addition to being the Pacific's best running back.
Things have been relatively quiet for Jarrett on the recruiting front in recent weeks. He hasn't heard from his childhood favorite Florida State (which signed 29 athletes in its 2014 recruiting class, including two highly-rated running backs) or from South Carolina (the flagship school in the state of his birth). He's heard little from Cincinnati or its offensive coordinator who recognized him at their summer camp and showed interest at the time. He says he has had recent communications with Louisville, but there has been no hint of him getting an offer from the Cardinals.
Were he to play football at Louisville in 2014, he wouldn't be the only DoDDS alum on the roster. Aaron and Gabe Ahner, brothers who graduated from Kadena High and, like Jarrett, were lifelong residents of Okinawa, are currently walk-ons at U of L and members of the scout team. Both play defensive tackle and they appeared in one game in 2013, recording one tackle each. Whether either or both Ahners earns a scholarship in their respective careers remains to be seen (Aaron will be a redshirt junior this fall, and Gabe a redshirt sophomore), but if Jarrett or either of the Ahner brothers earns a scholarship, he will be the first DoDDS Pacific athlete in a generation to do so.after spending his senior season overseas.
For now, all Jarrett can do is go to school, continue making all A's and B's in his classes, take aim at a Pacific track and field record or two, keep emailing his highlights and info out to any coaches willing to look at them, and wait hopefully for that phone call from a coach somewhere offering him a shot at being a D1 student-athlete. If and when that call comes, it will be several months later than it should have, but Jarrett, his mother, his brother, Fletcher Beaman, Fred Bales, and the rest of his family, friends, and fans (this writer included) will be no less excited and relieved.