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Thursday, July 24, 2014
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Nic Jacobs, a tight end for McNeese State, will leave the Cowboys after one season. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

Nic Jacobs, a tight end for McNeese State, will leave the Cowboys after one season. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

Different bets, same gamble

Last Modified: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 7:41 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Jeremy Hill says he will return to college. Nic Jacobs says he won’t.

On paper one would have believed it would be the other way around.

Hill is the star, but at times troubled, running back at LSU who would seem to be one of the first draft picks at his position.

He is big, fast and has put two solid years of numbers up against some of the best players in college football.

Teams in need of a good back would be lining up to take a look at Hill.

Jacobs, on the other hand, is coming off his first year at McNeese State and was hardly the featured player in the offense.

The tight end who spent most of his two years at LSU on the bench before transferring to McNeese had a good season last fall. His 32 catches for 453 yards and four touchdowns are nice numbers, but they are hardly eye-popping in this time of pass-happy offenses.

Still, Jacobs has been given a good rating by the NFL draft board and is willing to roll the dice.

For each player this is a gamble.

It is also an individual’s choice.

While you have to admire Hill for sticking around Baton Rouge one more year, he is taking a big chance.

One shot to the knee and all his dreams of the NFL, and riches that go with it, can be gone forever.

College playing fields have been littered with players who never got the chance to play for big money because of injuries.

Hill need just look to South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore, who was injured once again after coming back for his junior year. Lattimore’s second big knee injury has left his hopes of a pro future in doubt.

That could happen to Hill if he takes a hit in the wrong place.

Then there are those who have lost draft status by staying in college and having a down season.

Both Matt Barkley and Matt Leinart would be possible No. 1 picks overall after their junior seasons only to fall the next year in the draft.

You do have to admire Hill if he is staying in school as a thank you to LSU officials who stayed with him despite a pair of off-field run-ins with the law.

Then there is Jacobs, who is already working out for the upcoming pro days.

He seems to be following in the footsteps of Leesville and LSU running back Michael Ford, who left college early despite no real guarantees.

Ford went undrafted but did sign a free-agent contract with the Chicago Bears and stayed on the active roster all season, playing mostly on special teams.

Jacobs has the body at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, but looking the part and playing it are two completely different things.

It is much harder to prove one’s NFL readiness against non-Division I foes.

The last player to leave McNeese early for the NFL, Janzen Jackson, went undrafted but is playing professionally in Canada.

To be honest, you can’t blame any player for leaving early. There are no guarantees in football and in a world where one hit can be the end of a career, it is easy to say take what you can when you can and hope for the best.

Jacobs believes his moment is now and is willing to jump into the deep end and see if any of the NFL sharks take a bite.

Hill’s gamble seems even more risky. He is willing to watch others swim for a year in hopes his water will be better the next year.

Both know they could be left high and dry if things don't work out their way.

That’s the gamble each is willing to take.

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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