KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Jarrett Guarantano’s advantage over other top football prospects went beyond his great athleticism and accurate throwing ability.
“Just my dad, knowing that he was most of the time always right,” Jarrett Guarantano said late Sunday afternoon in his final interview before reporting to Tennessee and moving into the dorm on Monday.
“As time goes on, you learn that he knows what he’s talking about.”
Jim Guarantano, a member of Rutgers’ football Hall of Fame, signed with the San Diego Chargers in 1993 as a receiver before finishing his professional career with the Baltimore Stallions in the CFL from 1994-97.
It was at Rutgers where Tennessee coach Butch Jones first got to know Jim Guarantano and begin a relationship that would give Jones the inside track to one day recruit Guarantano’s talented son.
Jones, who began his coaching career as an intern in the NFL with Tampa Bay in 1987, was in his first year of coaching at the college level in 1990, serving as a graduate assistant on coach Doug Graber’s staff with the Scarlet Knights.
Guarantano was in his final season in the program, establishing himself as the school’s all-time receptions leader his senior season of 1992, leading to his 1999 induction into the Rutgers football Hall of Fame.
There were some who thought maybe Jarrett would follow in Jim’s footsteps and become a receiver.
“One of the hardest things with Jarrett was everyone who saw him first noticed the athleticism and thought maybe he was out of position,” Jim Guarantano said, “until they saw him throw the football.”
Jim Guarantano said those quarterback skills are a result of hard work that dates back to when Jarrett was 4 years old.
“It was always about structure and hard work, and there (were) a million times a day where it was stressed to him that there was time for everything,” Jim Guarantano said. “He was taught at a young age that you’ve got to get your work in before you played.
“Jarrett never missed hanging out with friends, or a sleepover, or trips to the mall, but he had the understanding that he had to get his work in before he did that. From the first time he put pads on he had great success, and it was was based on his foundation of hard work.”
Jarrett Guarantano comes into Tennessee as the 2016 class’ No. 1-rated dual-threat quarterback. His competitive nature is such that he’s ready to use his running skills whenever situations call for it.
“I definitely think I’m a runner, but I also think I’m a pass-first kind of guy,” the Vols’ true freshman quarterback said. “If a run play is called in, or I have to break the pocket, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to win.”
Jarrett said he has never minded or shied away from the expectations that surrounded him growing up in Lodi, New Jersey.
“There’s a lot of pressure growing up, knowing my dad was such a large figure, but as time went on I became my own person,” Jarrett said. “Making him proud of me is a big priority.”
Indeed, Jarrett Guarantano holds all members of his family close to him.
After wearing the No. 18 most of his career, Jarrett said he chose the No. 2 at Tennessee out of respect for his sister, Victoria, who is entering her sophomore year of high school.
“My mom calls my sister number two, and she called me number one,” Guarantano said. “So I’m wearing number two for my sister.”
Tennessee’s 2016 signees have their orientation on Tuesday morning before the start of classes on Wednesday.
Jim Guarantano says it’s a “bittersweet” time for him, now that it’s almost time for him to leave his son behind and head back to the New York metropolitan area.
“That’s my best friend, but Jarrett is happy to be here,” Jim Guarantano said. “This is where he’s supposed to be, and I can tell you that he knows his first priority is to be a good teammate, and then no one is going to out-work him.”
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted