Jacob Patek was enjoying the rest of his life.
The former UH safety was back in his hometown of Victoria, Texas, working as a surveyor for national gas pipeline. He worked outdoors, often surrounded by deer, turkeys and hogs.
“I enjoyed it,” Patek said.
He believed his football career was in the past.
At UH’s Pro Day in 2008 — nearly four months after his final UH game, in the Sugar Bowl — Patek ran a slow time in the 40-yard dash. He admittedly was not prepared, having spent the time leading to the NFL audition trying to complete work on his bachelor’s degree.
“I had so much pressure,” Patek said. “I wanted to train and stop going to school, as bad as that sounds. I ended up not doing well in school and not training. I threw it all away.”
But Greg McMackin, UH’s newly hired head coach, extended Patek’s scholarship, allowing him to earn his degree (in history) in December 2008. Then Patek trained in Arizona under Chad Ikei, received a do-over invitation to the 2009 Pro Day, and did well enough to earn a tryout in the Canadian Football League. An injury led to his release, and that appeared to be that.
The past December, he ran into Jerry Glanville, his UH defensive coordinator in 2006. Glanville said he might be considered for a coaching job in the United Football League. They promised to keep in contact.
Patek had made peace with giving up football. Still, he prayed for direction, as he did every day.
Last month, Glanville was named head coach of the UFL’s Hartford Colonials. Calls were exchanged. Glanville suggested that Patek attend a Colonial tryout in Houston.
“I knew Patek was good, but I never said a word to my assistant coach (Bill Bradley),” Glanville said. “I didn’t want to give any special treatment.”
In the drills, Glanville said, Patek shut down the inside receivers.
“Bill Bradley was high on him,” Glanville said. “The slots never caught the ball.”
Then came the 40-yard dash.
“The first time, Patek ran 4.41,” Glanville said. “I always make them run it twice, in case you miss something the first time.”
Patek ran 4.41 on the second attempt, too, Glanville said.
“I didn’t think he could run 4.41, but he ran it twice,” Glanville said. “I knew that was legit.”
Glanville then offered a free-agent contract.
Patek accepted, went to his car, then got lost in emotion.
“I started to cry,” Patek said. “I’m not going to lie. It was something. I give the glory to God.”
Patek said he will work another week with the pipeline company. Then he will train in Arizona, under Ikei again, to prepare for the start of the Colonial’s training camp in July.
“He did it on his own,” Glanville said. “This is what happens when you work hard.”