EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth story in a series counting down the top five University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football players of the past decade.
Like so many high school athletes with aspirations of playing in college, when Jacob Huesman was in his senior football season at Baylor School, he wanted his step to the next level to be the highest one possible.
So, even with the knowledge that he had a standing offer from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga — the Football Championship Subdivision program where his father Russ was not only a former player but the head coach — Huesman went to skills camps in hopes of receiving an offer from a team in not only the Football Bowl Subdivision but one in either the Southeastern Conference or the Atlantic Coast Conference.
When the Red Raiders quarterback believed those offers weren't going to happen, he chose to commit to UTC.
A week later, he got that elusive offer from a Power Five conference program when the ACC's Georgia Tech extended an opportunity for Jacob to run its triple-option-based offense in Atlanta, but as his mother Amy told the Times Free Press in February 2011, "in our world, we don't play the game of de-committing."
The younger Huesman had a soft landing spot in a town familiar to him and with a head coach extremely familiar to him. After a redshirt year, he had an opportunity to compete for a starting job in his first season on the field in 2012. A year later he took over the job on a full-time basis, and the rest was history.
Huesman finished his time at UTC as a three-time Southern Conference offensive player of the year and a two-time FCS All-American. He had a 32-15 record as a starting quarterback for the Mocs, helping them back-to-back playoff appearances his final two seasons (2014-15).
But the win that got the ball rolling for both Huesmans and the program came in 2013, a 35-28 SoCon victory at Appalachian State in the Mountaineers' final season in the league before moving on to the Sun Belt Conference in their transition to FBS competition. It also snapped the Mocs' 14-game losing streak in Boone, North Carolina.
"To go up there and send them out with a loss in their last season in the Southern Conference was special," Jacob told the Times Free Press on Wednesday. "We weren't too fond of App State — to put it nicely — so my dad was the first person I found after the game, and I gave him a big hug.
"It was kind of like (a) 'We did it' moment."
The younger Huesman ended his UTC playing career having led the Mocs to at least a share of the league title for three straight seasons, and he was one of two players in SoCon history with more than 4,000 career yards passing (4,051) and rushing (8,197); Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards is the other. Huesman passed for 64 touchdowns and rushed for 43 as a Moc, and his 1,244 rushing yards in 2015 rank second in program history to Derrick Craine, who ran for 7 more yards in the same season.
Russ Huesman left UTC after the 2016 season to take over at Richmond, but his son joined the Mocs as their tight ends coach last year, Rusty Wright's first as head coach.
Now Jacob gets an opportunity to perhaps help "Re-Restore the Glory" of a program that has gone 15-21 since 2017 after going 36-16 in the four seasons prior, a time in which he was an integral on-field part of the program.
"It was just special," he said. "Getting to play for my dad here, helping my dad win games. Growing up I always watched him, watched his teams. Those were the only teams I cared about, so that led me to give every ounce of effort, blood, sweat and tears that I had to UTC football and having it be a family-type atmosphere only helped more so.
"It was special being a part of the culture change. Those three years where we won three straight Southern Conference titles, that's kind of the measuring stick and that's where we want to get back to. And I'm just so happy to still be here and be a part of trying to get it back to where it was because the original theme was 'Restore the Glory,' and we felt like we did that. The glory was winning conference championships and beating up on the rest of the league, and we felt like that's what we got to and we're trying to re-restore it.
"I'm just happy to be a part of it because I wanted to win a national championship here and we never did it as a player while I was playing, so I'm just happy to still be able to chase that goal. I'm now on the coaching side of it, but I'm just happy to give back to Chattanooga because it gave a lot to me."
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