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Jake Medlock — and his rocket arm — make him one of the most valuable Sugar Skulls
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Sugar Skulls football

Jake Medlock — and his rocket arm — make him one of the most valuable Sugar Skulls

Jake Medlock grew up rooting for his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars. But, the Tucson Sugar Skulls’ quarterback admits, he paid extra close attention to the Green Bay Packers.

“I was a Brett Favre guy,” Medlock said. “I got the gunslinger mentality. It’s just who I am. God has blessed me with a great arm.”

Medlock admired the Hall of Fame quarterback so much that he once walked over to Favre in the middle of a game to shake his hand. It didn’t matter that Medlock was the starting quarterback at Florida International at the time, and that he was playing Favre’s alma mater, Southern Miss.

The 6-foot-3-inch Medlock carried the gunslinger mentality his entire football career. Last season with the Cedar Rapids River Kings, Medlock led the IFL in passing yards (2,616), completions (265) and touchdowns (47). He’s now quarterbacking the Sugar Skulls, who will take on the Nebraska Danger on Saturday in Grand Island, Nebraska. The 27-year-old Medlock saw the most playing time — and success — of the season last week, when Tucson beat the San Diego Strike Force at Tucson Arena.

Medlock, the oldest of three boys, grew up in a household of two teachers. Loretta Medlock made sure her boys focused on academics; Richard, meanwhile, was in charge of athletics.

“He was always the guy that trained me,” Medlock said.

Medlock starred at Fletcher High School, and earned a scholarship to play at FIU under current Oregon coach Mario Cristobal. Medlock started as a sophomore in 2012, throwing for 2,127 yards and 13 touchdowns with just two interceptions. But the Panthers went just 3-9, and Cristobal was fired. Medlock and many of his teammates were devastated. Medlock transferred to Division II Valdosta State, where he quarterbacked the Blazers to a 10-3 record and a playoff berth. He also served as Valdosta State’s punter.

Cristobal “was like a father and he took care of all of us, didn’t matter what it was,” Medlock said. “He would answer phones at 1 o’clock in the morning and whatever we needed, he was always there for us.”

Cristobal and Medlock are still close. Medlock recommended that Cristobal, now at Oregon, recruit a three-star cornerback from Jacksonville named Ameer Speed. The coach listened. And although speed ended up signing with Georgia, Cristobal sent Medlock a Ducks jacket.

Medlock’s professional career has taken him overseas, and to cities throughout the United States. He played the Dresden Monarchs of the German Football League after college, where he threw 20 touchdowns. Following a training camp stint with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, Medlock played a season with the Wichita Force of the Champions Indoor Football League. From there, he joined the IFL and posted a career season with Cedar Rapids.

It was there that he met Sugar Skulls coach Marcus Coleman, who was the defensive coordinator for the Iowa Barnstormers at the time. The two recognized each other’s talents and a mutual respect was formed.

“Every time we played him, we were cool,” Medlock said. “We would talk a little smack between plays. I’d look over at him like ‘Alright, coach, where am I gonna spin this one at?’ We always had fun.

“I have a lot of respect for Coach Coleman. He’s a defensive genius and out of every team last year, I always struggled against his defense and learning around Coach Coleman has been great.”

Medlock became a free agent following the 2018 season. He initially signed with his hometown Jacksonville Sharks of the National Arena League. The teams parted ways in February, one week before Tucson’s season opener against San Diego. Medlock packed up a few essentials and drove 28 hours to Tucson.

“I always told Coleman, ‘I’m either staying at home or I’m coming to you,’” Medlock said.

Medlock is 1-0 as the Sugar Skulls’ starting quarterback. In his home debut last week, Medlock completed 13 of 22 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns; he also punched in two rushing scores. Medlock played every snap, a change from the snap-sharing arrangement that he and Matt Behrendt had in the first few games. Behrendt started the previous three games, with Medlock entering in the second half.

Coleman said he’s been impressed by his quarterback’s confidence in games — even when he wasn’t starting.

“It just shows the experience that he has and knowing ‘There’s no need to panic if I’m struggling a little bit,’” Coleman said. “He’s definitely his biggest critic. He’s in shape and he always tells me ‘Coach, I need to run more. I’ve been running, but I need to run some more.’ And this was right after the game. That just shows the kind of person he is and how bad he wants to be good.”

Sweet nothings

  • The Sugar Skulls have added three players to the roster: Wide receiver Rashad Canty (Vanderbilt), cornerback Dominique Harrison (Oregon/Western Oregon) and lineman Rayshawn Henderson (Weber State). Tucson released defensive back Carlos Anderson and edge rusher TraVaughn Paschal.
  • Tucson kicker Diego Marquez received IFL Special Teams Player of the Week honors after making a 45-yard field goal and scoring a touchdown against San Diego. Marquez also made all six PATs against the Strike Force.
  • The Sugar Skulls flew for the first time this season. The team landed flew into Omaha Friday afternoon and bussed two hours to Grand Island.

Sports producer

Justin writes stories and produces digital content about UA football and basketball and high school football. A Tucson native, Justin graduated from the UA in 2017 and is the host of the Wildcast Podcast and a radio host on ESPN Tucson.

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