The city of Reno was officially founded in 1868. Its start, though, occurred years earlier. Located at one of the best crossing points of the Truckee River, merchants settled in the area to trade with the numerous people entering California in search of gold. Unlike its sister school in Sin City which languishes in relative anonymity in its hometown, the University of Nevada Reno, has long held a central place in “The Biggest Little City in the World.”
Nevada is hoping things come full circle, and a prospect(or) leaves California, crosses the Truckee River, and strikes gold with its football program. Over the weekend, Jax Leatherwood, one of the top recruits in San Diego, took an unofficial visit to the school. On Tuesday morning, Leatherwood committed to the Wolfpack.
“I had no clue what to expect but when I stepped on campus for the first time, it exceeded anything I could’ve expected,” Leatherwood told EVT. “The campus and environment is amazing.”
Nevada offered Leatherwood on February 21, the same day his hometown school, San Diego State extended him a scholarship. While the Aztecs won the battle to hold the distinction of being the signal caller’s first offer, the war for his services was won by their division rival. Right up to his commitment, SDSU was pushing hard to secure his pledge. Along with the Aztecs, Leatherwood listed Nevada, Washington State, Hawaii, Temple, and Cal as the schools recruiting him the hardest.
Saturday’s festivities certainly helped the Wolfpack’s cause. Nevada’s hospitality included a campus tour, a look at the football facilities, meetings with the coaching staff, and a photoshoot at midfield of Mackay Stadium with what appeared to be the Fremont Cannon.
“I was lucky enough to be there for their spring scrimmage and the football team already looked great,” Leatherwood added. “The coaches were all incredible people, who know what they want with the direction of the program.
— Jax Leatherwood (@JaxLeatherwood) April 12, 2022
Ultimately, the visit was enough. Leatherwood initially thought he would commit in the summer, but “when you know, you know,” he said. As these decisions often do, Leatherwood chose Nevada because of his connection to the coaching staff, the environment of the program, and because at the end of the day, Nevada “felt like home.”
The Scripps Ranch star has had a storybook junior season. A first-year starter with only six career varsity attempts coming into the season, Leatherwood took the reigns for the Falcons and led the school to the D2A State Title while throwing for a gaudy 3,975 yards and 52 touchdowns against only two interceptions.
A few months later, he hoisted a second state championship trophy. Leatherwood, a forward for the Falcons’ basketball team, scored seven points in Scripps Ranch’s 46-37 victory over Justin-Siena in the Division IV title game. The win completed one of the rarest feats in California High School sports history. SRHS was only the fourth team all-time and the first outside of the LA area to win a football and a boys basketball championship in the same school year.
With such success, it might be easy to forget Leatherwood is only scratching the surface of his potential. His first start this upcoming season will only be the 15th of his career. This offseason, he is working on his footwork with the aim of improving his already terrific throwing strength. “By putting more weight on your back foot, more power can be generated with your hips, which eventually benefits arm strength,” Leatherwood said.
The rising senior is also working on his leadership. Among the four teams to win a football and boys basketball title, Scripps Ranch was the only public school. Private schools recruit players to their institutions. Players travel from hours away to play for the elite teams. Public schools with their residency requirements find it harder to compete. Leatherwood is doing his part to help bring together a team capable of making another run at a state title.
— Jax Leatherwood (@JaxLeatherwood) March 16, 2022
Unsurprisingly, given his play as one of the top QBs in California, there has been “lots of interest” in Leatherwood’s offer. Scripps Ranch’s tremendous trio of Jalen Shaw, Conor Lawlor, and Nijah Richards is gone. Replacing them will not be easy, but the opportunity to play with a next-level signal-caller should be attractive to players in the area.
Leatherwood has already been laser-focused on his senior season but admitted that getting the commitment over helps him to lock in even more. As of now, the talented QB plans to enroll early at Nevada. While it did not factor much into his decision, the opportunity to play in San Diego every other year was an added “bonus.”
It is estimated that 750,000 pounds of gold were found during California’s Gold Rush. The influx of people into the state looking for fast money led to the founding of Reno, Nevada. The university at the heart of “The Biggest Little City in the World” hopes that by mining Jax Leatherwood out of America’s Finest City, they will strike it rich.