Buffalo RB, Pallotti Grad Jaret Patterson … The ‘Hidden Gem’ Of 2021 NFL Draft?

Former Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson is not a highly-touted NFL Draft prospect, but he wouldn’t want it any other way. Throughout the entirety of his football career, he has been surpassing expectations.

Patterson was not a highly-regarded prospect out of St. Vincent Pallotti High School (Laurel, Md.). He said that the football powers such as St. Frances Academy weren’t as aggressive in pursuing him as Pallotti was. Thus, the Glenn Dale, Md., native embraced an underdog mentality with Pallotti, which has been on the rise since Patterson’s arrival.

“We went to Pallotti,” Patterson said on Glenn Clark Radio March 12. “It wasn’t really a known school at the time, but me and some of my friends decided to do something different. I feel like we kind of changed that program around while we were there, so it was definitely a blessing. “

He was incredibly productive at Pallotti, rushing for 2,045 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior, but he still was somewhat overshadowed. His twin brother and teammate James, a linebacker, had significantly more college interest. James had seven Division I offers as opposed to Jaret’s one offer. Still, the two decided to keep the band together. Both enrolled at Buffalo.

Jaret Patterson’s time at Buffalo was nothing short of legendary. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound back was named the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year in 2018 after leading his team in rushing with 1,013 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. Both marks are school records for a freshman running back. As a sophomore, he rushed for 1,799 yards and 19 touchdowns — both school records.

In 2020, he might have surpassed the marks he set as a sophomore if it weren’t for the season being shortened by COVID. He ended up rushing for 1,072 yards and 19 touchdowns in just six games. He also had the second-greatest rushing performance in FBS history when he rushed for 409 yards against Kent State Nov. 28. His eight rushing touchdowns that game tied an FBS record.

The single-game FBS rushing record is 427 yards, set by Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine in 2014.

“I wasn’t too aware of the circumstances. I just wanted for us to win the game,” Patterson said. “My mindset was to close the game [out] and things like that. I didn’t know the magnitude, but it was definitely a special day, not just for myself but for the university. My coach texted me a few hours after and said he wished he had known.”

Had Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold known Patterson was approaching the record, the running back could’ve gotten it in garbage time. Still, 409 yards, eight touchdowns and a 70-41 win is a pretty sufficient consolation prize.

Patterson is once again adopting an underdog mentality. He is not expected to go early in the NFL Draft, though he could be a Day Three sleeper. Patterson may be hurt by the perception that he’s not much of a receiving threat — he only had 271 career receiving yards at Buffalo — but perhaps his upcoming pro day on March 18 will ease that concern.

Should Patterson be drafted by the Washington Football Team or Ravens, it would keep him connected to his family. His mother, Janine, is the principal at Reginald F. Lewis High School in Baltimore. His brother, James, is not be in this year’s draft class, but he has been a productive starter since his freshman year at Buffalo.

Jaret talked about what taking this journey together with his brother has meant to him.

“I came out of high school and wasn’t highly recruited, but [James] was,” Patterson said. “He gave up some offers because we wanted to attend the same school together. … The last few years have been great. The impact we had on Pallotti and the University of Buffalo has been an unbelievable journey. When it comes to declaring, he was the first guy to tell me I need to go. If everything works out and I do what I need to do, I’ll be able to open a lot of doors for my brother.”

It is unclear what draft day will hold for Patterson. Regardless, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Patterson is more than excited to try to prove people wrong once again.

“I feel like my game definitely translates to the next level, and I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface yet,” Patterson said. “I feel like I can be that versatile running back. At Buffalo, I wasn’t really required in the passing game, but I can do that. I can run routes, catch, return kicks, punts. I feel like I’m a hidden gem in this draft, but I wouldn’t want it any other way, because that’s how it’s always been.”

For more from Patterson, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Paul Hokanson