Wickenburg sophomore Jarrett Blackburn has finished his high school academic requirements and already has accumulated 75 credits that put him halfway through his junior year in college.
By the time he walks with his 2020 Wickenburg classmates at their graduation ceremony, Blackburn could have a master’s degree in hand.
A football player at Wickenburg High School, Blackburn is academically a college junior.
“I want to play football and I want to do a school,” Blackburn said. “It’s hard to manage both. But I work through it.”
Blackburn, 16, had a pretty good role model to follow. His older brother Jacob was featured by azcentral sports two years ago, traveling 40 miles from Litchfield Park each day to play his last year of football at Wickenburg.
Jacob, who was a linebacker, had two junior-college degrees, was on the verge of getting a third in IT Security, had graduated from Navy boot camp, and spent eight months in the military, before his 2015 football season began at Wickenburg.
Jarrett, who plays tight end, has gone even further academically.
“Jarrett is blowing Jake away, except at football,” their father, Justin Blackburn, said. “Four years younger than Jake and only a semester or two behind him in school. I think they both will end up Naval crypto officers in two years.”
Jarrett Blackburn could have a master’s degree by the time he walks with his Wickenburg 2020 classmates at high school graduation ceremonies.
Jacob, 20 now, is in his last semester at Northern Arizona, where Jarrett currently is enrolled online. Jacob made the e-5 in November at age 19 and spent last summer as a signals intel intern at NSA. He plans to start his master’s either in January or next fall, and is working as a security operations analyst for Western Alliance Bank.
So who says it’s too hard to achieve greatness in both school and on the football field?
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen made national news in early August when he compared combining football with school as having two full-time jobs.
“The important part is having a plan,” Justin said of his sons. “Know exactly what you need to take, make sure you take courses that you can complete concurrently without being overwhelmed, then budget your time really well.
“A huge portion of the work is in the planning and preparation stage. I don’t want to minimize the effort the boys put in, but part of my job, like any boss or coach’s job, is to put them in positions to succeed.”
Jacob took 12 credits at Arizona State and 12 at NAU last fall online, then 12 at ASU, 15 at NAU and three at Estrella Mountain Community College last spring. His 54 credits in two semesters produced a 3.83 grade-point average at ASU, and a 4.0 at NAU.
“It was the most insane things I have ever seen a kid do,” Justin said. “He made the dean’s list at NAU and ASU both semesters, was on Presidential scholarship at ASU and Presidential scholarship at NAU at the same time. We choose his classes very carefully to make sure he could manage it. Statistics almost killed him, because it was so much work.”
Jarrett, who like his brother was home-schooled, began accumulating college credits in the eighth grade, taking courses at Estrella Mountain Community College.
“I did eighth grade twice so that I could do more college credits and play school sports more,” Jarrett said.
He said by doing Wickenburg’s virtual academy, he was able to finish the seven courses he needed to have his high school requirements completed in order to graduate before the start of this school year.
But he wanted to play high school football for three years. This is his first year playing for the Wranglers.
When Jarrett wakes up in the morning, he does his online college courses. He is taking five, eight-week courses at NAU. The first eight weeks comprise of Comparative Criminal Justice and Business Management Fundamentals. He’ll take the other three courses beginning the third week of October.
He leaves the house each day at 11:30 a.m. for Wickenburg, his father’s alma mater, where he does weight training and physical education. To be able to compete on the football team, he has to be enrolled at Wickenburg.
He practices with the team from 3:30 to about 6, is home by 7, and does more online schooling before going to bed.
“It’s a blessing that Wickenburg can offer that kind of stuff,” football coach Carson Miller said. “We have an online curriculum and have the ability for kids to get the football education and social education that comes with that and be so ahead academically. It’s pretty special.
“I’ve known the Blackburns for a long time. They’re an old Wickenburg family. I’m an old Wickenburg family. It’s really what the program is about, those family ties and being able to help each other. It makes all the other kids on the team know they can do that academically also.”
To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert. Watch the azcentral sports high school football show on the azcentral sports Facebook page.