There he was before the game, striding towards the stadium and exchanging high fives with fans, white doo-rag pulling back his long, curly brown hair, golden cross swinging from the chain around his neck, wide, confident smile breaking out at intervals.
I think I just fell in love with Jacob Park pic.twitter.com/BcoZIFKbiK— Jack McGuire (@JackMacCFB) September 29, 2017
What Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Jacob Park has isn’t exactly swag, but it’s something. A not-quite-brazen cockiness, a seeming lack of self-awareness that leads one to believe that he might not quite be in on how laughable his whole appearance is to observers.
Never just dirtbag. If you’re going to dirtbag, go full dirtbag. This is known.
One doesn’t expect a knowing wink from Park to be forthcoming, however. Nor is it, as it turns out.
Not with that haircut:
The nice thing about ISU being on national TV is a new audience discovering Jacob Park, whose official picture makes him look insane. pic.twitter.com/2QPPSacTKA— RossWB (@RossWB) September 29, 2017
Well beyond whatever random firing of neurons in Park’s head produced the desire for so much business in the front and so much party in the back, one might wonder at the unusually deep creases lining his forehead.
For a college student, the Charleston native looks like he’s done a bit of hard living in his life, a belief not exactly belied by his overall image.
One suspects he would be at home in the company of Casey Pachall, hard-partying former TCU quarterback. Somewhere in Texas last night, at some point, a shirtless Pachall raised a tallboy in salute. Game recognize game.
On one of Park’s shoulders sits a devil, calling him to his spiritual home of New Orleans. On the other? Another devil, calling him instead to the excesses of Las Vegas.
To be sure, he’s earned his admirers, including SB Nation’s own Spencer Hall, though that isn’t exactly the most ringing endorsement in this case:
Man I love Jacob Park at quarterback for Iowa State. That's not a good thing for him, but I love him.— BUM CHILLIPS (@edsbs) September 29, 2017
As things played out over the next few hours, perhaps a few Longhorns fans joined that group. After all, in a conference so consistently full of brilliantly competent quarterbacks providing a defensive challenge every week, it’s not exactly normal to find one like Park.
He’s the spirit animal of former Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz, the man that the name of Steele Jantz promised, but never delivered.
Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando had taken Park’s measure over more than a week of preparation and found his poise wanting, despite the fact that the former Georgia quarterback had thrown eight touchdown passes in his first three games and completed well more than 70 percent of his passes in two of them. Against Iowa, the best competition he’d faced, Park threw for 347 yards in the overtime loss.
So Orlando had a plan — pressure Park early and often by bringing safeties and linebackers, often more than Iowa State could block, and see if Park had the mental strength to handle it.
On a 3rd and 1 to open the game, junior safety DeShon Elliott got to the Iowa State quarterback for a sack and it was all downhill from there.
“I think Jacob got rattled a little in the game because of the pressure, and we didn’t do a good enough job of protecting him,” Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell admitted after the game.
Despite the fact that Iowa State entered the game having allowed only one sack all season, Orlando’s plan worked, producing four sacks on the game and having a significant impact on Park’s accuracy.
On the evening, Texas secured three easy interceptions, tipped several other balls, and forced the complete and total breakdown of Park’s mechanics and ball placement. In a remarkable display of skittish footwork, Park sent pass after pass sailing harmlessly out of bounds or harmfully into the waiting arms of Longhorns defenders.
In looking back, it seems remarkable that he managed to even complete 50 percent of his passes on the day.
One of the Iowa State quarterback’s best moments, the lone touchdown of the game for the home team, came after what could generously be described as a spirited conversation with his head coach on the sideline.
In fact, Park’s animation and pre-game entrance had started bringing on the jokes. There were lots of jokes throughout.
Jacob Park looks like the guy that drove a Pontiac Sunfire and dated a high school senior when he was 23. pic.twitter.com/OKXQooINoZ— OurDailyBears (@OurDailyBears) September 29, 2017
“It’s a Sunfire GT, bro, and she’s so fine.”
Been trying to figure out who Jacob Park reminds me of. I think it’s if these 2 guys from Color Me Badd had a kid... pic.twitter.com/Wb0ebOX6Vq— #DaHale (@DavidHaleESPN) September 29, 2017
In regards to Jacob Park the rest of the season. pic.twitter.com/ar7CoLs6lU— Ted Flint (@TedFlintKansas) September 29, 2017
He’s our quarterback, too, Ted. Ours, too.
Jacob Park just checked where the ESPN camera was twice in less than 30 seconds. Don’t see that from a player too often in a tight game.— Roy Philpott (@RoyPhilpott) September 29, 2017
Is anyone really surprised?
Laugh. Out. Loud.
Give Orlando and the Texas defense plenty of credit, especially for accurately gauging Park’s limited mental stability in the pocket, but please also take a second to fully appreciate the arrestingly beautiful atrocity that was his attempt at quarterbacking on a national stage.
Combined with his ridiculous image, the in-game performance by Park fit together like the final puzzle pieces in a game as barren as an Ames winter landscape. Into the pantheon of gloriously terrible things, Park and his performance deserve an admittance.
But now that we’ve approached and passed the point of combining multiple similes in a single sentence, it’s time to stop, lest our craft here begin to approach that of Park last night, and simply say — Burnt Orange Nation loves you, Jacob Park.