His No. 9 has no particular significance for East Carolina kicker Jake Verity, who ranks 11th on the program’s career scoring list with 175 points as he heads into his junior season.
“I was 98 my freshman year,” Verity said. “I didn’t really play much as a freshman, I’m such a skinny guy that 98 kind of wrapped all the way around my body, so I’d always nag the coaches like, ‘Can I get a smaller number because this is a bad look, having this wrap all the way around my torso.’ I came in one day and they had No. 9 for me and I’ve just kept it since then.”
Verity is listed as a first team American Athletic Conference preseason selection in several magazines.
Construction management major
Verity has earned Honor Roll and Dean’s List recognition academically. He is a Construction Management major.
“I’ve always had an interest in building, creating things,” Verity said. “I started off as an engineering major. It turned out the math wasn’t really for me so I switched to construction and I kind of got into the whole general contracting aspect of commercial construction. I want to kind of get into general contracting. I worked under an estimator at T.A. Loving last summer and learned a lot there. Hopefully, general contracting in the commercial area is my goal.”
Verity is focused on football this summer.
“I knocked out a lot of my hours last summer for my major,” he said. “This summer, I wanted to be around the team with the transition with a new coaching staff.”
Verity is going through offseason development with other Pirate football players.
“Currently, all the kickers and the specialists are with the rest of the team,” Verity said. “We’re all basically doing the same thing. It’s specific to line, mid and skill players. We usually run with the mids. I like it just because I like being able to work with the rest of the team just to show them that we’re willing to work as hard as a linebacker or a D-linemen is. I enjoy that.”
People make ECU special
Verity was asked about his favorite thing outside of football at ECU.
“I feel like it’s the community itself,” Verity said. “It’s big enough to where you kind of feel like you’re in a big city, but I’ve met so many people and made a lot of connections. I’ve networked in my major, through athletics, academics and community service. I’ve met a lot of interesting people. I’ve made a lot of friends. That’s probably my favorite thing about it.”
Soccer skills led to kicking
Soccer was Verity’s primary sport as a child.
“I grew up playing soccer,” Verity said. “I started playing soccer when I was about 4 years old. I never got into anything else really. I tried baseball, didn’t really like that. So I played soccer, got really good with my feet. Ninth grade rolled around and I decided I was going to try out for football. I played defensive back my freshman year and then I broke my ankle. I kind of got into kicking after that just because of my soccer background. The football coach was like, ‘Hey, you’re going to kick now.’ So I was like, ‘OK.’ I turned out to be pretty good at it. That’s why I’m here so I’m really happy about that decision.”
Verity was a late addition to Scottie Montgomery’s first signing class in 2016.
“I had an offer from Marshall and I went to visit Marshall the day before signing day,” Verity said. “Then I got a call from ECU. It was pretty close to that date. They wanted me to come that next weekend. So I came down here and I liked it a lot. I was not too keen on going to Huntington after visiting Greenville, so I made that decision that weekend and committed here. I signed the week after signing day.”
Verity was credited with a 63-yard field goal at Bremen High School in Georgia.
“It was what’s called a free kick,” Verity said. “Basically what you can do is if your team fair catches a punt, you can call for a free kick. It’s like a field goal off of a kickoff tee. It was a bomb. I hit it from the opposite 47. It’s in the record books, 63-yarder, second longest field goal in Georgia high school history. So it’s kind of cool. (A free kick) is just like a kickoff. You line up with 10 guys, five on each side of you and just boot it off the tee. … It was pretty fun. We ended up winning by three. We had two seconds left in the half.”
The arrival of new coach Mike Houston has created optimism around the program.
“As far as the transition to the new staff, I feel like personally, I like all of them,” Verity said. “I know they’re pushing us harder than we’ve been pushed before, but I’ve just made the commitment to give everything I’ve got to this program because I want to see the change. I’ve seen Pirate Nation and how it can be when we’re at our low and it’s still awesome. I want to be here and I want to see the change when we’re at the top. I want to be part of that change so I can look back and know that I was part of the difference. I’m willing to buy in and give everything I’ve got.”
Verity was granted a medical hardship waiver by the American Athletic Conference on May 8 this year that determined a year of eligibility was not used in 2016 when Verity saw action in two games.
Roy Tesh, special teams coordinator
Verity’s position coach is special teams coordinator Roy Tesh.
“He’s definitely got us more involved with the team itself, because he wants us to know at the end of the day we’re football players,” Verity said. “We run with the defense. We do tackling drills with the bandits every day at practice. But he also knows we’re very specialized players. We all know how to kick. We all know a lot about kicking and he respects the fact that we all have our different techniques. We have a lot of one-on-one conversation about what we’re doing and what we need to change, just little things we can tweak here and there to get better
“He knows that we all have various kicking coaches that we see outside of college. … He’s very hands-on with us. He likes to stay involved with both the kicking aspects and us being part of the football team.”
Verity has been to several elite kicking coaches in refining his skills, including Mike McCabe, Dan Orner and Jamie Kohl.
“I like to see a lot of different guys and pick up tips here and there,” Verity said.
Kohl was named kicking coach for the Chicago Bears in May. Verity will visit him in July.
Field goal at State
ECU’s 2018 season ended with Verity’s 46-yard field goal at N.C. State. His focus wasn’t any different against the Wolfpack in the late stages of a contest that was scheduled to fill a void in the schedule created when the Pirates bowed out of a trip to Virginia Tech when Hurricane Florence was approaching.
“Not at all, really,” Verity said. “I feel like when I’m on the field, when I’m called to go out there I just have to make every rep the exact same no matter what the situation is. If you think about it, a 46-yarder maybe a minute into the game with the score 0-0 might not be as big of a play as a game-winning field goal or the field goal we had to avoid the shutout, but if you can mentally make it the same as the rep you’re hitting before practice or if you’re tied or whatever, it’s all the same. It’s all the same variables. The mental aspect of it, you have to be able to grasp and replicate the same every time.
“When I was up there at the State game, I was just out there knowing I had to do my job. I hit that kick twice, which was kind of nice because I got to kick the first one. So I knew exactly what kind of ball I needed to hit. I’d already felt it. I did the same exact thing, made it. It didn’t really end up helping us out in the end but I’m willing to go out and take on my job whenever I’m going out.”
The Wolfpack called a timeout with two seconds left to nullify Verity’s initial attempt. He made the try as time expired in a 58-3 loss for the Pirates.
“They were going for the shutout,” Verity said of the timeout. “It gets under your skin a little bit, but you’ve just got to tone it out. That’s what I did.”
Caleb Pratt has graduated after doing kickoffs for the Pirates. Verity could possibly kick off to start the 2019 season at State.
“We’ve got Patrick Nations in,” Verity said. “He’s a really good kicker. He’s a freshman. He’s got a strong leg. We’re always competing. You’re never going to settle for the No. 2 job no matter what. He’s going to push me for the field goal job and we’re going to compete for the kickoff job. We all compete for the punt job every day with Jonn (Young). I’m going to do my best to earn that spot. At the end of the day, I know the coaches are going to make the best decision for the team so that’s all that matters.”
The Pirates return to N.C. State to start the 2019 season on Aug. 31.
“I’m definitely excited about it,” Verity said. “I think everybody else here is, too. We definitely want to make a statement that we’re not the team that we were at the end of the year last season. We were at our lowest at that point, but we’re working really hard to bounce back from that and come back and prove a point to them this August.”
Verity’s 38-yard field goal with 46 seconds left provided the winning margin in a 37-35 home win over Old Dominion last season.
“It was definitely the most exciting football moment for me thus far,” Verity said. “Everybody dreams of hitting the game-winner. I just think the circumstances of you make this kick, you win the game; you miss, you lose, made it that much more exciting for me when I watched it go through the uprights. I knew at the point when I made it that our defense was going to stop them with 40 seconds left. It was absolutely exhilarating, that feeling that you could land the final blow on an opponent and win the game. Definitely, a great team win. I was blessed with the opportunity. It was awesome.”
The Monarchs blocked a conversion kick on ECU’s last touchdown with 5:27 remaining.
“We were down 34-35 after that,” Verity said. “They came through the B gap and just kind of got in my face. Somebody got a hand on it. It didn’t upset me. I got a chance to make the game-winner, so I’m not complaining.”
Verity had some thoughts to share with ECU supporters.
“I just want everybody in Pirate Nation to know that whether you’re hearing a whole lot about what we’re doing right now, we’re in here working as hard as we ever have, harder than we ever have,” Verity said. “We’re ready to put on a show for Pirate Nation this fall.”
Verity might be able to fill out his old No. 98 jersey a little better now.
“I’ve gained around 20 pounds since January,” Verity said. “My squat max went from 350-355 (pounds) to 405 in five months. I’ve gotten a lot stronger. I’ve gained weight. I’ve watched all my boys around me get a lot stronger, too. Big John (Williams Jr., strength coach) is definitely putting a lot of weight on everybody, making a big difference on the team.”
Will the work in the weight room increase his range?
“I feel like it will,” Verity said. “The heavier you are, the better — if you can keep your leg speed. I think the weight increase is definitely going to help out a lot.”