SARALAND, Ala. — Sitting in a chair inside the Mobile Convention Center was 15-year-old Jack West, Alabama’s main quarterback target in the Class of 2018. On stage before him was eventual presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson.
Dr. Carson did not mention that he was going to run for president in the near future, but his message to the crowd was clear: Use the skills you have to help others.
West was so moved by the speech that the four-star prospect from Saraland High School began to envision what his career might look like beyond football — and how he could apply Dr. Carson’s message to his life.
“I’ve thought about being a senator one day and maybe even running for president,” West told SEC Country. “That would be something I would be interested in. I just want to make a change in someone else’s life.
“I am a person that if I can help someone in any way possible, whether it be a small community, state, or even a country one day, I want to do it. I want to affect people’s lives.”
He got his first look into a life in politics when he was a child. His mother worked for the Sergeant-At-Arms in the Florida Senate.
Fittingly, the first thing you notice when talking to West is that he already sounds like a politician. His answers are well thought out. There’s an exact purpose for each word and syllable that exits his mouth. It’s clear immediately how intelligent he is for his age.
“He’s one of those kids that would like to be valedictorian and the best quarterback in the country,” Saraland coach Jeff Kelly said. “There aren’t many athletes like him.”
West may be a four-star prospect on the field, but inside the classroom, he’s a five-star.
The nation’s No. 6 quarterback has never made a ‘B’ on a report card. He’s never made a ‘B’ on a test. He has a 4.5 GPA. During our interview, West was missing health class, but it was OK because he has a perfect grade of 100.
West has received a scientific achievement award from the University of South Alabama’s chemistry department and the American Chemical Society for demonstrating excellence in his chemistry class.
He’s a wizard when it comes to academics. Perfection and success are hard-wired in his brain.
“I had a friend of mine who was a teacher of Jack’s and she called to warn me that Jack made a 98 on a test,” said Jack’s mother, Ann Michele West. “She said she knew he was going to be so upset. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? I wish I made 98s on my tests.’”
— Jack West (@jackwqb12) April 27, 2016
How does someone who also happens to be one of the most coveted quarterbacks in the country have the time to succeed at such a high level in the classroom? His time management skills are as elite as his arm.
His mother said West has never been a procrastinator. It’s his best attribute, she said.
“He’s the type of kid that if he’s given a project, and the teacher says this is due next month, he will text me a picture of the instructions and say, ‘We need to get started on this tonight. Can you get me the supplies?’” she said. “The project is usually done in three or four days.”
West has always been this way.
He’s always working to perfect his craft on the field and in the classroom. The amount of work is so extreme that his parents have to step in sometimes and tell him no more. Go be a 16-year-old teenager.
“My husband and I have said at times, ‘OK, you’re done for a month or two months. You aren’t going to touch a football for 30 days. You’re going to be a kid and not think about anything,”’ his mother said.
Though his career aspirations are lofty, West’s primary focus is on football. If he had it his way, he’d play this game for at least 20 more years and then focus on his political career.
West received his first offer when he was in the eighth grade, when Tulane sent one his way. What made that moment so special for the West family is that is where his grandfather graduated medical school from. West’s grandfather died several years ago. Before he passed away, he took Jack to Tulane football games.
The moment was also significant because it was the family’s first experience with how the media works.
Jack had just created a Twitter account shortly before Tulane extended a scholarship his way. When he got word that Tulane wanted him on campus, he had just finished practice. His mom drove to his school to pick him up. Jack got in the car and couldn’t contain his excitement. He called his dad, Dr. Jason West, and told him the news.
Shortly after that conversation, that’s when one of the happiest moments turned into him getting upset.
“His phone kept on beeping,” his mother said. “It was posted on Twitter by someone that he had received one. He hadn’t told anyone about the offer. He was very upset. He didn’t want that to be broadcast. We turned the car around and went to the fieldhouse to speak to (Saraland) coach (Jeff) Kelly.”
Though he’s the starting quarterback on a top team in the state of Alabama and one of the nation’s top recruits, Jack hates all of this attention.
He admits that he doesn’t like doing many interviews because it puts unwanted attention on himself, but he does them because it gives him experience for his future career as a potential starting quarterback for a major university and for a career in politics, in which public speaking skills are critical.
Jack doesn’t know when a college decision could come, but there are two schools he did mention when his recruitment came up in conversation: Alabama and Stanford.
The Wests are huge Crimson Tide fans. Jack was at the first camp coach Nick Saban ran when he arrived in Tuscaloosa back in 2007. Jack wears No. 12 for Brodie Croyle, who was the quarterback for Alabama when he started getting into football.
But to be clear: His fandom for the Crimson Tide is not going to be the reason why he chooses Alabama.
“I love Alabama. I’m not going to lie,” West said. “I’m really good friends with AJ McCarron and Jacob Coker. We (my family) have a lot of contacts at Alabama. That doesn’t mean I’m just going to go to Alabama, though.”
— Jack West (@jackwqb12) January 4, 2016
The family first met Saban when Jack was a rising quarterback in the recruiting world, around the time he picked up the offer from Tulane.
His mother said she and her husband were ‘kind of awestruck’ sitting in Saban’s office. She admits that many people in the Saraland community believe Jack will be the future quarterback for Alabama.
“The consensus of the people here, knowing the relationships he has with the people around him, tend to lead people in a direction to believe that he would go to Alabama,” his mother said. “That’s fair to say, but on the other hand, Jack is approaching this decision knowing this is going to affect the rest of his life.”
Jack believes that if he did in fact choose Alabama and succeeded like his training buddies McCarron and Coker did, political doors would be knocked down for him in the state. At Stanford, he considers its degree one of the best in the world. He’s also visited California, one of the best academic institutions in the country.
“I think they say if you’re the quarterback at Alabama, you’re one of the most important people in the state,” West laughed. “If you play at Alabama and win, you could probably do a lot of great things within the state. I think the majority of people in the state are Alabama fans.
Then the schools on the West Coast, like Stanford, its degree is second to none. You aren’t going to find many better schools in the world. You’d be able to make a lot of contacts at that school. A degree from there would definitely help you in politics. I have also visited Cal-Berkeley. They have a great political science program and also their business school is great. I could do something like what Mr. (Donald) Trump is doing — using business as his base for getting into politics.”
His mother says there’s something inside Jack that motivates him to put tremendous pressure on himself, that pushes him to be the best in everything he does.
His coach, Jeff Kelly, sees it every single day when Jack is under center for his football team.
“He just wants to be the best in everything,” Kelly said. “He wants to be the best quarterback and he wants to be the best student. He’s competing every day on the field and in the classroom. I think the sky’s the limit with him.”
Despite being quarterbacked by someone so obsessed with being the best at everything, Saraland did not win a state championship last season. The Spartans finished 8-3 on the season. But like everything else in his life, West takes those losses and uses them for teachable moments for himself to get better.
That’s something he’s learned from his father. Jack said many people told his father that he wouldn’t be a doctor one day, but that’s exactly what he has become because of his peerless perseverance.
“A loss is a learning tool to me,” West said. “How we respond to those types of moments make us who we are as human beings. A loss is not a bad thing by any means. I have failed in many things in my life so far and there are sure to be more in the future. The ability to get back up and keep moving forward is what I believe defines me.”
So what’s going to happen when West does move on to college in two years and experiences a loss? And what happens if he gets a ‘B’ in a class? His mother isn’t worried that the work needed to become a successful quarterback is going to take away from his studies.
“Not for one second do I worry about that,” his mother said. “I think I know my son better than I know anyone in the entire world. Barring a major catastrophe for him to change, I don’t see him changing the consistency in his life.”
Herbert Hoover attended Stanford before becoming the 31st President of the United States.
Alabama doesn’t have any presidential alumni, but if Jack ends up rolling with the Tide, maybe he’ll become the school’s first. Even if he doesn’t become the country’s leader one day, no matter what he does, Jack is going to be successful. Success is all he knows.
“I just want Jack to be the best person he can be in whatever role he decides to take after college,” his mother said. “Of course, that would be just awesome if he was president. There are so many things that come with being president though. He’s going to always try to achieve to be the best person there is. If the best he can be is president, then by gosh, he’s going to give it everything he can.”
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Chris Kirschner covers Alabama football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Bryant-Denny.