Jake Gervase is on the verge of his final game with the Hawkeyes. But long before he became a captain and the team’s leading tackler, he was turning heads at Davenport Assumption in the Little Knights feeder program.
“He expressed a desire to be a great player from a pretty early age.”
Wade King coaches football at Assumption High School.
He says Gervase grabbed his staff’s attention because of one particular trait.
“He was a very competitive kid and he carried that into high school.”
That passion for the game helped make him a two-way starter as a sophomore.
“Even when he was a younger player, you could see that he was the guy that took charge and was gonna lead. He was just wired to be successful,” King said.
Former Hawkeye Joe Conklin was the Assumption defensive coordinator during Gervase’s final two years.”
“He’s one of those guys that makes you look like 10 times better of a coach than you are,” Conklin said.
And Conklin noticed that same competitive spirit immediately.
“Even as a 16, 17-year-old young man, you can kind of see it from a mile away,” Conklin said. “You know Jake is someone who is going to attack any challenges that come at him straight on. It’s why he excelled on the field and in the classroom in high school.”
All-conference and all-state seasons were ultimately not enough for the Hawkeyes to offer Gervase a scholarship. They instead wanted him to follow the walk-on path that Conklin and fellow Quad Cities native Brett Greenwood both took.
“Well, I know Coach (Reese) Morgan kind of made it a mission of his to make sure that he got Brett Greenwood’s number,” King said. “I think he reminded him a lot of Brett, similar kind of player in high school. Just an overachiever.”
It took a couple years for his career to get going in Iowa City — largely because of injuries.
“A lot of people would have folded up shop and said, ‘Hey, this isn’t for me. I’m going to focus on academics,'” said Conklin. “He’s a guy that continued to work hard everyday and put himself in a position to have success on the field as an individual and also as a teammate.”
But Gervase persisted toward his ultimate goal of being a contributor for the black and gold.
“Never really waivered from what I saw,” King said. “I’m sure he got discouraged at times, but he just kept at it and man… time flies.”
“It’s amazing what happens when you stick to something and you’re willing to work hard and do all the little things the right way day after day, month after month,” Conklin said. “Now he’s found himself here and he deserves every bit of it.”
Gervase will play his final game in Tampa at the Outback Bowl in front of nearly 100 friends and family, including many who helped him begin his inspiring journey in the Quad Cities.