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2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Jacob Birmelin, WR, Princeton University

Jacob Birmelin Princeton
Princeton’s reliable 3rd down target at WR, Jacob Birmelin, recently sat down with Draft Diamonds writer Jimmy Williams.
  • Name: Jacob Birmelin
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 170 lbs
  • Position: WR
  • College: Princeton University
  • Twitter: @JakeBirmelin

Tell us about your university/college. Did you participate in any other activities or campus organizations other than football?

I go to Princeton University. Princeton is an Ivy League school in New Jersey. On top of playing football there, I am also a member of Cannon Club (a co-ed club that organizes activities, provides dining and social events). I have a family within the football organization and a family of other students and student-athletes in Cannon. The two overlap quite a bit so honestly it’s just one big family. 

How did you end up at Princeton?

It’s a funny story actually. I had never even heard of Princeton before I got to their camp. I was not very highly-recruited going into my senior year of high school. That summer before my senior year started, my father and I drove just about the entirety of the East Coast in search of somewhere for me to play football for the next four years. We hit the camps of schools as big as UCF, but we also went to about five or six smaller satellite camps. Throughout the process, I was just so focused on my performance, rest and recovery that I eventually lost track of what school we were heading to next. I just remember lacing up my cleats for another day of football, and by the end of the day, I had a verbal offer from Princeton. I didn’t have a crazy good day or anything, but they felt like I fit their system. Once I learned more about Princeton afterwards I fell in love with everything about it. I took my official visit later on and committed on the spot. 

What do your teammates say is your best quality?

They’d probably say my competitiveness. I try to lead through my work and I take pride in everything I do once I hit the field. It’s easy to do when stance-and-start drills are fun, not to mention 7v7 or team periods. I have a blast… all the time… and I think it shows in my game. I’ve been told to slow down in walk through periods by my head coach quite often actually. 

What kind of role do you see yourself in on the team? What scheme and/or position suits your skill set?

This past year, I was a big third down target for our team. 3rd & 6+ I was just about always out on the field. Short yardage gains seemed to be my specialty; making guys miss in close-quarters and catching/getting down quick over the 1st down marker. I enjoy extending drives almost as much, if not more, than scoring. I also return punts and while I didn’t have any break-out 60 yard returns, I did my best to give us an extra 10-15 yards at the start of our drives. Next year, I’d like to expand my role a bit to threaten DB’s deep, I think that’s the next step I have to take. 

Who is the best player you have ever played against in college?

I don’t really recall many names of my opponents, my coaches do a great job of stressing to only recognize their numbers. Each team we played this year though had great players. I really enjoyed playing against Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth the most because they challenged me the most. If I were to give the name of the best player I’ve ever played against in college, it’d be Delan Stallworth; he’s one of our own starting corners. In high school, I played against a handful of 3/4/5 stars and they were great players; matching up against them really fired me up both before and during the game. 

Which one of your teammates impresses you the most?

My great friend Jeremiah Tyler (JT) impresses me the most. I strive to be his equivalent on the offensive side of the ball. He’s just the most fun guy to watch on the field. His presence is felt constantly by opposing offenses, and there’s never a stretch of time on the field where he doesn’t do something that gets everyone fired up. Apart from his talent, his work ethic and leadership abilities impress me daily. 

Describe a time in your life when you were able to overcome a struggle.

In high school, one of my best friends was shot at a party. I was lucky not to be there but I still think about him all the time. For a while, it was all I could think about, but time eased the pain and helped me realize that he’s watching me and that he’d want me to be great in any and every sense of my life. I still have one of his wristbands that I wear everyday and hide under my glove during games. 

What is something that you are most proud of? What would you say is your biggest achievement?

I am most proud of our 2018 undefeated season. Being a part of that team is something that I’ll never forget. What I remember most about that season aren’t the games that we won, but the practices, the meetings, and the overall feeling of hunger on that team. We could be up by 30 points and somehow it wouldn’t feel like enough. Our leaders that year made everyone really feel that they were being counted on; from top to bottom. I think to earn that gold Ivy championship ring will always be one of my greatest achievements. 

Check out NFL Draft Diamonds 2021 Small School Prospects

Describe one of the most memorable plays of your collegiate career.

Last season, in our game against Harvard, the coaches had drawn up a double move for me to open the game with. It was something we practiced all week and I thought about it from the moment they told me until the moment it came to fruition. My roommates could probably tell you how excited/anxious I was to play that game. Harvard is always a rivalry game for us and for the coaches to trust me to make a big play to start things up, it was such an honor and Kevin (our QB) and I must’ve ran it 20 times post-practice. Before the game started, I told one of my roommates, who’s a teammate, to stand at the Harvard 40 yard line on the first play. Sure enough, the play worked to perfection and to see him, along with the rest of the team get so excited really made me happy. I owe all the credit for that play to the coaches as well as Kevin for making that beautiful throw. It’s something I’ll always remember. 

If you didn’t play football, what other sport would you play?

If I didn’t play football, I’d probably be playing baseball. I was a great hitter and my lateral quickness served well while playing center field. I haven’t played since I was a teenager and that’s because I fell in love with football at a young age and dedicated all my time to it. I did play for one more year in 8th grade but I was only used for stealing bases. I had a blast not having to bat or field and just steal bases and scoring, it was pretty great. 

What was your major/minor? Other than football, what would be your dream job?

I’m majoring in Politics, with a minor in Political Economy. It’s been a long road for me in terms of settling in on a major at Princeton. I actually started off in pre-med, but I couldn’t tell you why I ever tried that, given I’d never done anything medicine related before Princeton. That ended rather quickly, after my first exam in Chemistry actually. I then moved on to Economics and really enjoyed it, but I realized the Politics department had an Economics track within it and switched over again. If the league doesn’t call, I’d like to work in sales and trading or asset management, somewhere where my competitiveness can be beneficial and where I can move up through a company over the following years. 

What have you been working on in the off-season?

This off-season I’m really focusing on gaining weight and top-end speed. I’ve also been watching a ton of film from this past year and taking mental notes on my releases, the top ends of my routes and my field vision once I have the ball. I’d like to be around 175 come season and 180 postseason, while keeping my 40 time in the 4.5 range. 

Do you have a favorite athlete or professional team? Is there a player that you model your game after?

My favorite athlete is Julian Edelman. I watch him play, and I see a bigger version of myself. His hands, quickness and football IQ are spectacular. He’s just about as unorthodox as you get for a receiver in the NFL; but for small guys who don’t run sub-4.4 forties, I feel like you kind of have to be. I see a lot of similarities in not only our play style but in our personalities. He never backs down from a challenge and he adores the game of football. I watch his hands and footwork on releases, and it often inspires me to work on new things that I can add to my skill set.

What do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies? Do you have any secret talents?

If I’m not training or watching/playing some form of sport or outdoor activity in my spare time, I’m usually reading up on the market in some form or fashion. There are definitely days though where I feel as though I’ve been productive enough to sit down and join my friends in some Call of Duty. 

Why do you play football?

I play football for many reasons. First things first, I love the feeling of lining up 1 on 1 against someone. There’s no better feeling than catching a pass in man coverage and having a little verbal fun with your opponent afterwards. I always look forward to talking with the guy(s) who guarded me after the game and just getting to know a little more about them. The next biggest reason for me is because I love the team aspect of the game. I live and breathe for my teammates and for my coaches’ successes, and I very much enjoy when they get excited for me as well. I also play for my family. My parents have given so much for me to be where I am now and playing well and working hard is the least I can do for them. They have been my biggest supporters from day one and I strive to make them proud in every facet of life, not just in football. The last, and biggest reason as to why I play football is because of how it brings me closer to God. Leading up to a game I always pray for the safety of all the players and for God’s support in our team. I thoroughly believe the love that I have for football has been provided by God, and that I’m competing all the time for a reason.

Who or what motivates you the most?

The majority of my motivation stems from my smaller stature. Throughout high school, and even now at times, people put ceilings on my game because of my height and weight. Every time I set out to the practice or game field, I always have a chip on my shoulder for this reason. I want to prove that being a receiver isn’t defined by size… instead, it’s really defined on how and if you can get open and catch the ball. I play hard for opponents/spectators who disregard me at first glance, then witnesses that I can be just as productive as anyone else.

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