From a young age, Jake Metz has been playing football. Over the years, his love for the game has grown.
“It is the best team sport in the world. It brings everyone together in a different way and the life lessons you learn in football are different than anything else,” Metz said.
Metz, a defensive end for the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League, began his football career in second grade when he started playing Pop Warner football. Metz began his career on the defensive side of the ball and has been playing defense his whole career.
Once Metz reached high school, he became a standout athlete. He was a two-sport athlete at Souderton Area High School, where he played both football and basketball. Metz broke out with a huge senior year on the gridiron, totaling 63 tackles in 11 games, including 14 tackles for loss and six sacks. He totaled 10 sacks in his high school career. After his senior year, colleges began calling.
For Metz, the recruiting process was difficult. Eventually, Metz made his final decision to attend Shippensburg University to play football for the Raiders.
“It was really rough to come down to which team you wanted to play for,” Metz said. “It was really frantic and I knew some guys that went to Shippensburg and felt comfortable going in knowing some people and it turned out to be a great decision.”
Metz burst onto the scene at Shippensburg University, where he was instantly a big piece of the team’s success. As a redshirt freshman, Metz racked up 37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and also recovered a fumble.
That was only the beginning for Metz. In 2011, Metz’s sophomore season, he began terrorizing quarterbacks. He made 44 tackles—10.5 of them for a loss— while also taking down the opposing quarterback 7.5 times.
“My junior year we did really well and we made it pretty far in the playoffs. Every year was really special. I loved Shippensburg and it was really special. I wouldn’t change anything about it,” Metz said.
In 2012—Metz’s junior year—the Raiders had a spectacular season. The team went 11-2, led by Harlon Hill Trophy Winner [the trophy awarded to the best player in Division II football] Zach Zulli on offense, as well as Metz on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Eastern Division championship and advanced to the NCAA Division II Playoffs, where they were eliminated by Winston-Salem State University. Metz had 2.5 sacks in the 37-14 loss in the second round of the playoffs.
Even with the team’s success, Metz brought himself to a new level. In 2012, he set the single-season school record for sacks with 11.5—that record has since been broken, as Richard Nase broke the record in 2015. Metz also racked up 76 tackles, 19 of them for a loss, while also returning an interception 24 yards for a touchdown.
“It is a great feeling to be able to score a touchdown on defense. The big guys don’t get to touch the rock that much so when you do, you realize how important it is,” Metz said of the lone touchdown of his collegiate career.
In Metz’s senior season, he continued playing at the highest level, coming away with 11 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and 62 total tackles.
Metz’s career as a Raider is by far one of the best in school history, with Metz currently owning the school’s career record for tackles for loss with 55, the school’s career sacks record with 30.5, along with the single game tackle for loss record with six.
“It was fun, knowing that at one point the previous sack record was held by Coach Mac was something cool. It was really cool that he was there to witness it. It just came natural for me. I was just there to win games and I was really happy being there,” Metz said.
Along with the records, came an endless amount of accolades. Metz was a 2013 Gene Upshaw Lineman of the Year finalist. He was also named the Super Region One Defensive Player of the Year, while being named to five different All-American teams—four of those selections First-Team selections—that included the Associate Press Little All-American team. He was named an All-American eight times in his collegiate career.
With strong expectations and a future on the gridiron beyond Seth Grove Stadium, Metz set out to try out with NFL teams. He worked out for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants before being invited to Detroit to attend mini-camp with the Detroit Lions. Metz tired out on the defensive line, at long snapper and at tight end before ultimately being released after camp.
Metz was extremely disappointed with the outcome of camp, however it was a positive experience.
“It was great. To experience the NFL is everyone’s dream. It was just a taste of the NFL and it’s given me the motivation to get back there,” Metz said.
Upon being released by the Lions, teams in the Arena Football League or AFL, started to become interested in signing Metz. The AFL is very different from the NFL, with one of the more drastic changes being a 50-yard indoor field, with narrow goal posts, different rules and very little running room outside the tackles. Metz eventually became a member of the Philadelphia Soul.
“Once I was released by the Lions, I had many calls from Arena Football League teams, and I waited out my options and chose Philadelphia for the tradition in the Arena Football League, as well as it being in my back yard,” Metz said.
For Metz, the transition to the AFL was a challenge. He started his arena football career on injured reserve, which allowed him the opportunity to fully understand the different rules and get a feel for the speed of the game. Metz received mentoring by Soul Line Coach Phil Bogle.
“Being in such a small area, you have to keep your head on the swivel for how fast the sport moves. With everyone being in so close, you have to pay attention to where everyone else is around you at all times,” Metz said.
In his first full season in Philadelphia, Metz has been a key player for the Soul defense, which currently ranks first among points allowed per game in the AFL. Metz has been sensational this season, totaling 15.5 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, while also forcing two fumbles.
With four sacks, Metz is among the Arena Football League’s sack leaders, currently sitting in second-place with teammate Teddy Jennings. Metz trails AFL sack leader Dimetrio Tyson by one. Metz also switched over to the offensive side of the ball and caught a four-yard touchdown this season.
“It means a lot, but I’m all about winning games. I’ll play multiple positions and I am not as much about personal goals as I am winning games and getting a championship in Philadelphia,” Metz said.
The Soul are well on their way to doing just that, as they currently sit atop the American Conference with an 8-2 record.
“My one and only goal is to get a ring in Philadelphia and bring an Arena Bowl title to Philadelphia. It would be great to be on top of the Arena Football League,” Metz said.
“The connection we have on and off the field as players really helps us be successful,” Metz said. “We are a great group of players and we have great coaches. We have a great organization from top to bottom, including coaches, management and owners. Everybody really puts us in the right position to be successful.”
Metz is extremely happy to be playing for his hometown Philadelphia Soul, but still hopes to get another shot at the NFL.
“It is awesome to do what you love. It is a different size field but it’s the same sport and I am blessed to be able to play football for a living,” Metz said.
“I’m actually not satisfied with arena football. Believe it or not, I think I belong in the NFL,” Metz said.
“My goal is to do the best that I can here and make it into the NFL. That is my overall goal. I am not satisfied with where I am at, but it’s still a blessing and it is great to be able to do what I love.”
With his continued success and an endless amount of determination and hard work, Metz may just get his chance. The 25-year-old 6 foot 7 inch, 265-pound defensive end, has special skills and as a standout in the arena league, nothing seems out of reach.