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'It's not how you get into the NFL, but how to stay in': Jaret Patterson's journey from UDFA running back to Washington Football Team RB3

Aug 20, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team running back Jaret Patterson (35) returns a kick against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

They say it’s all about who you know, right? Across almost any profession, those who have come before you in your field will tell you to work hard but also to shake hands because you never know who is watching, who you will meet or who might hold the key to that next great opportunity.

Well, how about when that “who you know” is Chase Young.

That was the case with undrafted rookie running back Jaret Patterson, who officially made the Washington Football Team’s initial 53-man roster this week.

Long before Patterson established himself as a household name with a 409-yard rushing game in college, Patterson and Young developed a friendship as middle schoolers in Prince George county — “PG” to those who call it home — in Maryland.

Patterson and Young’s friendship went beyond football, but the two did share one season as teammates at St. Vincent Pallotti High School before Young transferred to DeMatha Catholic.

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Fast forward to today, and they are teammates once again as members of the Football Team. And just how that happened was a bit of a “who you know” and a call back to a longtime friendship.

For as much as Patterson’s success at the college level could have spoken for itself, Young spoke for his former teammate to his current head coach, Ron Rivera, when Patterson went undrafted this past April.

“[I’ve] been knowing Chase since middle school since eighth grade,” Patterson told PFF in an interview last week. “You know, we’ve been tight throughout the draft process about giving me advice … On Day 3, he was saying just be patient. He kinda vouched for me to coach Rivera, and you know I end up at Washington, the home team, the team I grew up rooting for … It’s just a blessing to be here.”

But knowing someone who can get you in the door only does just that — it gets you in the door. You still have to impress once you get there. And that’s exactly what Patterson did this training camp and throughout the preseason.

Jaret Patterson: PFF grades by facet in the 2021 NFL preseason
Week PFF overall grade PFF Rushing grade PFF receiving grade
1 63.2 56.7 80.2
2 73.9 71.3 73.1
3 37.9 57.4 25.5

Patterson played 97 snaps through three preseason games. Seventy-three came from a backfield alignment, seven came from a wide receiver position and 17 came on special teams. And while Patterson’s overall grades were up and down from game to game, but that can be attributed to varying snap counts.

In the game in which he played the most, Week 2 versus the Cincinnati Bengals, Patterson earned a 73.9 overall grade thanks to a 73.1 receiving grade and a 71.3 rushing grade. The rookie back also graded highly as a pass-protector in the team’s final preseason game, recording an 84.2 mark on six pass-block attempts — all scores that helped Rivera decide to roster Patterson into the 2021 NFL season.

“[I’ve been working on] a little bit of everything,” Patterson said. “When I even made the jump to declare, my mom said, ‘well, it’s not how you get into the NFL, it’s how you stay in.’ That’s the mindset I carry every single day, just taking every opportunity I get, just taking advantage of it and trying to put my best foot forward and show the coaching staff I can be a guy at the next level.”

Mom always knows best.

Patterson impressing with the ball in his hands should come as no surprise to those who watched him in college. During his time at the University of Buffalo, Patterson rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons. As a freshman, he rushed for 1,012 yards, scored 14 rushing touchdowns and earned a 71.8 overall grade.

JARET PATTERSON: PFF GRADES AND RANK IN COLLEGE (2019-20, AMONG RBS WITH 500 SNAPS)
PFF Stat Rank
PFF overall grade 92.3 4th of 146
PFF rushing grade 91.9 6th of 146
PFF receiving grade 56.0 97th of 146

The following year, he blew up with 1,804 rushing yards, 19 rushing touchdowns and an 88.9 overall grade, a top-20 grade for his position. In his final season, he rushed for 1,074 yards — with another 19 rushing touchdowns — and improved his grade to 89.9, a top-10 grade for his position.

Now, you might be tempted to think, “wow, he rushed for 800 fewer yards in 2020.” But the crucial bit of context there is that he rushed for over 1,000 yards in just six games that year. He did it by rushing for 301 yards one week and then following it up with that incredible 409-yard day we mentioned earlier.

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