Family ties fuel Jonathan Haden
Freshman running back and receiver Jonathan Haden’s Arizona football career didn’t start as quickly as expected, but the youngest member of a famous football family still is ahead of the game.
The true freshman graduated from high school early and enrolled at the UA last semester in order to participate in spring football, but couldn’t participate as he awaited NCAA clearance. Jonathan Haden said he appreciates football more now.
“It was pretty stressful,” he said. “I came here for one reason: so I could start early, but at least I got to take classes. I just had to stay in shape. I got to watch practice, so I learned some of the plays, that was the only thing I could do, but it was pretty stressful.”
After one week, he hasn’t made it into Arizona’s crowded backfield that produced two 100-yard rushers against UNLV, but he was one of the true freshmen to play in the UA’s season opener.
For week two, he is now listed at second string at one of the slot receiver positions on the UA’s depth chart.
Arizona freshman running back Jonathan Haden (7) warms up before Arizona's season opener against UNLV at Arizona Stadium on Friday. Haden has taken reps at running back and slot receiver so far this season.
Jonathan Haden came in as a running back, and he’s still listed solely as a back on Arizona’s roster.
“He’s been playing slot receiver more in the last week than he has tailback, so his head’s probably swimming a little bit,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said last week. “He’s a talented player. He’s going to get reps as a freshman, probably in both spots.”
Jonathan Haden comes from a prolific football family. Three of his brothers, Joe (at Florida), Josh (at Boston College) and Jordan (at Toledo) played college football.
“It’s just great to call them and I can ask them anything, and they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about,” Jonathan Haden said. “They’ve been here, they’ve done exactly what I’m doing right now and it helps me out a lot.”
He added that he talks to at least two of his brothers every day, usually by FaceTime.
Joe Haden is an All-Pro cornerback for the Cleveland Browns and signed a five-year $68 million contract during the offseason.
“I play how I play because of them,” Jonathan Haden said. “In the backyard playing tackle, just us doing a little moves, everybody trying to the little moves that Joe would do, just playing together and it made us what we are today.”
He said his brothers’ influence led him to graduate early.
“They all ended up starting as freshmen, so I felt like, ‘OK, they all did this and started as freshmen. I might as well try right now and see what I can do,” Jonathan Haden said.
He played briefly against UNLV but did not record a catch or a carry.
In high school at Friendship Collegiate Academy, he was on the honor roll, broke the school’s rushing record and competed in track and field.
Jonathan Haden was a four-star recruit according to ESPN. He picked the UA over Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, NC State, Ohio State, Tennessee, Syracuse and West Virginia.
“The transition has been great,” he said. “I actually hadn’t seen mountains before I came out here, and Arizona is the only state I haven’t been in on the West Coast. So it is just way different. I like it; I like it a lot.”
He almost had more support at the UA in five-star cornerback and Friendship teammate Jalen Tabor, but it was not to be. Tabor picked Arizona over Alabama on national TV at the Under Armour All-American Game, but a few days later, switched his commitment to Florida.
“When he first committed here, Jalen wouldn’t tell me. We were best friends, but he wouldn’t tell me,” Jonathan Haden said, laughing. “When he decommitted, he didn’t tell me. So I called him and was like, ‘What’s up, man? What happened?’ And he was just like, ‘some family things,’ he ‘didn’t want to go far away’ and stuff, so I was like, ‘OK, man. Just do what’s best for you.’”
—Follow James Kelley @jameskelley520