Jawon Pass wouldn’t say his college football career has worked out exactly as planned when he first stepped on the football field at Louisville as a freshman.
He experienced some highs after ascending to the starting quarterback spot with the Cardinals, then came injury and ultimately the decision to move on from the ACC school. That decision to exit Louisville with a degree in Sports Administration in hand has landed Pass at Prairie View as a graduate transfer.
“It’s been a lot of ups, it’s been a lot of downs, but I feel like overall I’m thankful for my whole journey and I’m still going,” Pass said to The Defender recently. “So, I am just thankful to even have the opportunity to still be going.”
The opportunity to keep going has come on The Hill, where Pass by far was head coach Eric Dooley’s best-kept secret until the Sept. 5 Labor Day Classic against Texas Southern. Pass literally came out of nowhere to pass for 354 yards and three touchdowns while completing 25 of 37 passes in the Panthers 40-17 season-opening route of their rival Texas Southern.
“It was a good experience, my first game in the SWAC,” said Pass, who won the conference’s Newcomer of the Week recognition after the season-opening win. “Most of all, I had fun. I think we all had fun as a team. I’m glad we won the game.”
Until the opener, Pass had been something of a closely guarded secret. Dooley had been comfortable letting those outside of the PV program believe the competition at quarterback was between sophomore Trazon Connely and T.J. Starks after the two had alternated at quarterback during the spring football season. The coach refused to allow any of his quarterbacks to be interviewed prior to the season opener.
Apparently, Dooley saw Pass’s name on the NCAA Transfer Portal, reached out and the two had a conversation. It wasn’t long before Pass was on campus and enrolled as a Physical Education graduate student in June. There was just no official word of a transfer student-athlete in the quarterback mix.
“I knew he was here,” said a smiling Dooley. “Quarterback is sacred to me, and I try to protect my young guys. They understand that.”
But Pass is actually quite experienced. The Columbus, Ga. product came to Prairie View after spending four years at Louisville, where he had made 11 starts in 18 games during his career. After making nine starts in 2018, Pass and his big passing arm entered the 2019 season as the Cardinals starter until turf toe surgery prematurely ended his season after just two games.
By the time Pass was able to come back last year his starting spot had been taken over by Malik Cunningham, which is often the case in college football. The writing was clear that if Pass wanted to continue playing it would have to be elsewhere, although that wasn’t an easy decision to come to early on.
“By the time I made my decision it was a no-brainer,” said Pass, who passed for a total of 2,528 yards and 14 touchdowns at Louisville. “I actually rode it out a little bit and stayed at Louisville as long as I possibly could. By the time it was time for me to leave it wasn’t a hard decision.”
And here he has landed, excited about the opportunity with Prairie View and what could be ahead this season. After an impressive win in the opener, the Panthers and Pass suffered a 40-9 setback to Incarnate Word on Saturday in which Pass completed just 18 of 36 passes for 188 yards while throwing three interceptions and being sacked once.
He and the Panthers will have an opportunity to rebound Saturday when they host Houston Baptist in the first game of the season at Panther Stadium.
“It’s been smooth so far,” said Pass, who ranks third in the SWAC in passing through the first two games. “Obviously, it’s a difference coming from Louisville to an HBCU, but it has been smooth. So far I love everything about Prairie View on and off the field.”
Year: 5th-year Senior (graduate student)
Hometown: Columbus, Ga.
The road here: Began his career at Louisville before transferring to PV as a graduate student.
The numbers: Has completed 43 of 73 passes for 542 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions and a 128.4 passing efficiency rating.