Football, like all sports, can all too easily be broken down into a few lines of statistics. Such as this Sept. 26 game against Holbrook which reads, “Jacob Doyle had eight carries for 127 yards and one touchdown. He had another passing touchdown to Christian White.”
Which is a very cold and bare way of viewing a game, a season or a career in a sport that requires heart, sacrifice, dedication, determination. Bare stats speak nothing of the long bus rides or away games, the summer practices in 110 degree heat, all while keeping up with one’s homework and studying for ACTS and SATs.
Jacob Doyle is the son of James and Josie Doyle. He stands six foot one, weighs 165 pounds.
The radio announcers call him Tarzan because of his long hair. He’s been the starting quarterback of the Page Sand Devils for the last two seasons, this year leading his team to an impressive 8-3 season, 5-0 in their section, and into the first round of the post-season.
He started playing on the varsity football team at the end of the season his freshman year. He was one of their starting receivers his sophomore year.
When he’s not on the field he has a friendly, easy-going nature, but when he steps on to the football field he grows intense and focused, and takes on the mantel of team leader. In addition to playing quarterback, he plays safety on defense.
He’s a running quarterback. Together with Sand Devils running backs Kele Meredith and Hayden Gracia, the trio has more often than not, proven unstoppable. Sometime Doyle runs and dodges with the grace of a matador charging through a herd of bulls, and sometimes, such as fourth and two, he becomes the bull and he lowers his head, digs in his cleats, and charges forward.
All of which can get quite intense for his parents watching from the stands.
“It can be very nerve-wracking watching Jacob play,” said Josie Doyle, Jacob’s mother. “We want him to make the plays, but we always want him to get out healthy.”
In eighth grade Jacob broke his collarbone, which required surgery and pins, plates and screws to fix. The plate is still there and earlier this season, in a game against Coconino, Doyle came out of the game having hurt the same shoulder. Josie watched with her heart in her throat. At the time she and James thought Jacob had shifted the plate. He stayed on the sidelines for a quarter, but finished the game and was back in action for the next game.
“He doesn’t like being on the sidelines,” said Josie. “He’s a strong player and the backbone of the team. In situations where he’s banged up, or the team as a big lead, I’d like to see him come out, but I get it. He’s so dedicated to the team and getting the win that even when he’s hurting he wants to be on the field.”
In addition to playing quarterback, Doyle also plays safety on defense, so he doesn’t spend much time on the sidelines. The same could be same for his life outside of football.
Maintaining his grades and studying for the ACTs remain a high priority for Doyle, but he also enjoys listening to music and playing the guitar. He’s even played a few gigs at Into the Grand. In the summer time, when he’s not lifting weights or at summer practice, he enjoys hanging out on Lake Powell with his friends.
He also plays soccer. He played on the Sand Devils soccer team for the last three years but this year they switched the soccer schedule from the winter league to the autumn league, which played at the same time as football. In spring he’s on the track team. He does hurdles, the long jump, high jump and triple-jump.
Anyone who has followed Page football over the years noticed a shift in attitude, momentum and energy at the beginning of the 2016 season. The year before that, the 2015 season, the Sand Devils football team went just 1-9. In 2016 they went 6-4, and this year they went 8-3.
“The people who are now senior and juniors weren’t happy with our 1-9 season,” Doyle recalls. “We looked at each other and we saw talent. We knew we had the ability to do better. We knew we were better than 1-9. But, we also knew we were going to have to work for it, and this was a group that was willing to put in the work.”
The first game of the 2016 season was against Blue Ridge, a team the Sand Devils hadn’t beat since their father’s played football. And they beat them. Doyle pins it as the favorite sports moment of his life.
“It was so surreal,” he said. “That win took a while to process.”
That win ushered in that energy and spirit he and his team mates had been feeling and it permeated everything.
“My class, and the class below me, had the talent and the heart, and that win gave us the confidence,” said Doyle. “The football program turned a corner that day. We learned a lot about ourselves that day.”
Jacob’s mother, Josie, phrased it a little differently.
“All the parents in the stands could see how talented they were. That’s the day I think they saw it for themselves.”But, it was a long road getting to that point.
Jacob has been playing football since he was four and Josie and James have been watching their son from the bleachers, missing very few games. During that time they’ve watched their son grow and mature, and not only him but the friends who’ve come through the ranks with him and who are now his fellow Sand Devils. Josie is impressed with what she sees in them.
“Watching them now it’s pretty obvious that a life of sports has taught them some important life skills that they’ll take with them throughout the rest of their lives,” Josie said. “Some of them probably don’t even realize they have these important life skills, they are now just ingrained in their character. Whether they realize it or not it has given them an important stepping stone for everything else they’ll do for the rest of their lives.
“Their time in sports has given them a sense of drive and a sense of accomplishment. They’ve known failure and they’ve known success. And many of them have learned important leadership skills.”
Jacob’s football coach, Mitchell Stephens noticed Doyle’s leadership qualities immediately.
“Jacob is definitely a leader,” said Coach Stephens. “He’s the voice of the team. He does everything we’ve asked him to do. His team mates really look up to him.”
Coach Stephens recognizes in Doyle the characteristics one needs to succeed beyond high school.
“He has work ethic, dedication and leadership,” said Coach Stephens. “He’s a guy that will put the team on his back and fight through.”
As of now Doyle says he plans on attending NAU and hopes to play football for them.