Former Maryland and Damascus running back Jake Funk can now call himself a Super Bowl champion after the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20, in Super Bowl LVI.
Even though he was inactive for the Super Bowl, Funk played in 10 regular-season games and three playoff games this past season for the eventual champions. When Super Bowl Sunday rolled around, Funk not only wanted to live out a dream for himself but for a former teammate, too.
In the spring of 2018, Funk’s former teammate Jordan McNair passed away after suffering heatstroke during a team workout at Maryland.
“He’s a big reason for why you play the game now, for me at least,” Funk said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 17. “He was a guy who was one of my college teammates, a guy who I sweat, bled and cried with in the walls of the University of Maryland football facility. He’s a brother to me, so when you lose a brother, it’s tough. When I was … out there on Sunday, you do think about that, you do think about how this is what he would love to see and he’s probably looking down really, really proud.”
The road to becoming a champion in any sport is not necessarily pretty, with players typically going through obstacles or hardships that motivate them to reach their goals. The journey for Funk, 24, was no different.
Despite being named the 2015-16 Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year and The Washington Post‘s All-Metro Offensive Player of the Year in 2015, Funk was a consensus three-star recruit and received only two offers from Power Five teams (Wisconsin and Maryland).
Funk decided to stay close to home and attend Maryland, but his road didn’t get any easier. He suffered season-ending ACL injuries in 2018 and 2019, and he was producing incredibly well before his second ACL tear. He had run the ball 17 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns through only two games.
Funk was able to bounce back with an outstanding season during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign (five games). He rushed the ball 60 times for 516 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged a remarkable 8.6 yards per carry.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound back was drafted by the Rams in the seventh round in the 2021 NFL Draft. Throughout all this adversity, Funk knew he was going to make it to the NFL.
“The thing was going through all of it, there was never a doubt in my mind whether or not I could play in the NFL,” said Funk, who contributed mostly on special teams this past year. “I knew the whole time I could play in the NFL. It was whether or not I was going to get an opportunity to be able to show it. That was the hardest thing for me. I finally got an opportunity my fifth year, senior year, and with the little opportunity I got, I made the most of it and was able to put myself in a position to get drafted.”
After experiencing the high of winning the Super Bowl, Funk now understands the addiction to that feeling and is motivated to have that feeling again.
“It really just explains the ‘why’ behind why you work so hard,” Funk said. “These kinds of moments, you just feel on top of the world. It’s amazing. The feeling of it is hard to even describe in words, but you can see why guys chase this and continue to chase it because the feeling of winning this thing is very addicting.”
Funk might have gone through a slow recruiting process and major knee rehabs twice, but his family has been there for him the whole way. His family showed him support, and now Funk is able to impact his family in a positive way.
What moment was most special for Funk after winning the Super Bowl?
“Seeing my family,” Funk said. “My parents, my brothers, they supported me throughout everything and being able to FaceTime my family and FaceTime my little cousins and see how proud of me that they are. My one little cousin has a little makeshift Rams helmet and hasn’t taken that thing off since we won the Super Bowl. Little things like, you just appreciate all the people who have truly supported you and wanted you to succeed and have supported you when you weren’t getting any recognition.”
For more from Funk, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox