Potts thrives as two-sport star at GVSU
Oakridge product draws interest from MLB, NFL scouts
The line of scrimmage is set at the 10-yard line, a wide-out flashes across the backfield in motion and the ball is snapped. A quarterback in blue, No. 5, collects the football and bounds back into a drop with his head on a swivel and arm cocked to throw, but before traversing the threshold into the pocket, in that one moment, he sees it – a chance to do something spectacular – and he takes it.
The YouTube high school football highlight isn’t the grainy sort seen on the Internet in the 2000s, but when then 6-foot-3, 200-pound starring party Jamie Potts, listed as a QB/FS/K, sees it, the viewer does too.
Instead of stepping up to throw, Potts swings out to his right with eyes patiently focused up field. At the last second, a few steps from the sideline, he tucks the ball with intent, splits a pair of tacklers and meanders back against the grain, leaving eight defenders in his wake. The one defender he didn’t avoid is promptly and violently stiff-armed to the turf and the run concludes almost 30 yards down field.
Check the related videos on the sidebar and there’s a clip of him stampeding across the outfield from right to left to make a diving catch at full extension in a high school all-star baseball game.
Grand Valley State University saw it, too, like Central Michigan University, Oakland University and a host of other GLIAC schools that also offered full rides.
“I could have gone to a Division I school to play baseball or football, but it would have been tough to walk away,” he said. “The Division II school route afforded me the opportunity to do both sports that I love.”
He enrolled at GVSU in the fall of 2011 upon completion of an enormously successful athletic career at Oakridge High School in Muskegon, Mich. Potts was named all-state in baseball, football and basketball — all while compiling accolades across the board that overflowed box scores.
Potts passed for 696 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 1,561 yards and 24 touchdowns on 193 carries as a senior, converted 9-of-13 field goals and collected 64 total tackles, one sack, two interceptions, and four pass break-ups on defense.
On the baseball diamond, Potts batted .584 with 38 RBI, 34 stolen bases and six home runs as a senior in leading his team to a conference and regional championship.
On the court, Potts played two through four and terrorized opponents as a self-described ‘power shooting guard’.
Whatever it was that Potts saw for his college career, though, his coaches at GVSU had their own vision, and quickly, they began to put his unique skill sets to purpose. Potts, a quarterback his entire career up until GVSU, obliged fully and embraced every new role he took on with equal vigor.
“In the summer prior to his senior year, we had Jamie in to our camp and we were sold on him as an athlete and as a competitor,” GVSU head football coach Matt Mitchell said. “I don’t think we ever thought he was going to be playing quarterback here, but we knew in the evaluation piece that he was going to be a hybrid-type tight end – a guy we could move around and do a lot of different things in our offense with.”
A converted tight end, Potts now tips the scales at a very solid 225 as a junior and has learned to block while perfecting seam routes from the other end. The transition wasn’t an easy one, but he has excelled in the new position.
“It was different, I’ll tell you that, and it was uncomfortable,” Potts said. “Coming in as a quarterback, I was pretty weak and I don’t think I ever blocked anybody in my whole career up until I got here. Going against guys who had 70-80 pounds on me, that was tough, and it was a transition that took quite a while to make, but I’m happy I did it.”
Potts was named a first-team All-American last season – one of his proudest accomplishments to date — and set single-season records for a Laker tight end in receptions (54), receiving yards (899) and touchdowns (11) all while helping GVSU come within a game of the championship as a go-to playoff receiver.
His role, which included lining up on and off the line of scrimmage, in the backfield, out wide, at punter and brief stints at quarterback will expand even further next year as he is slotted to enter fall camp as the top receiving option.
“Jamie has been in so many competitive situations growing up, even here at GVSU, that he doesn’t flinch,” Mitchell said. “When he’s in that moment, he rises to the occasion and makes a lot of plays – he’s unique that way. I don’t know that I’ve ever had an athlete that’s just clutch the way he is in two sports.
“We’ve just had a great two-sport athlete in Matt Armstrong, but I’m not sure that by the end of his career here that Jamie won’t be one of the most heralded athletes we’ve had here at GVSU, not because of his overall athletic ability – he doesn’t run the greatest 40 or change directions as well as some of the other guys – but because he just makes plays. He’s a gamer.”
On the diamond, Potts was named to the GLIAC All-Tournament team after helping to lead the Lakers all the way to an NCAA Division II World Series semifinal, was honorable mention All-GLIAC and hit .379 with 31 runs, 66 hits, 12 doubles, two home runs, 38 RBI and 10 stolen bases – numbers that all inflated when it mattered most.
This season, he’ll make the move from left field to right as he continues to grow.
“Come playoffs last year, he was outstanding,” GVSU head baseball coach Jamie Detillion said. “Not many people can raise their batting average 50 points through the course of a postseason with as many games as we played. He did the same thing in football, and to his credit, he’s shown he’s a big-time player when it counts.”
What the future holds for Potts isn’t as easy to see as his transparent gifts that can observed in everything he does – from tackle-breaking runs preserved in YouTube archives to his school work as a student in the medical field to his college exploits compiled on a stat page.
For now, he has aspirations of redeeming semifinal defeats, enjoying his time as a student-athlete and expanding his mark into GVSU lore as he goes.
The time will come to answer to both MLB and NFL professional scouts — who have already shown interest and seen something in the two-sport star — and when it does, he will have another difficult decision to make.
And when he sees it, the right opportunity to play a roll beyond college – and he will see it – he’ll know.