Randall Jette is accustomed to pressure. The former Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School football standout plays the cornerback position at the University of Massachusetts, usually defending the best receiver on the opposing team. He is always in the spotlight, and mistakes cost dearly.

Not getting around this cornerback. — Steve Myrick

In his junior year playing for U-Mass, he was facing Jordan Williams, a top receiver for Ball State who had already scored six touchdowns that season. His opponent was six inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than Jette. Things were not going well early in the game.

“I remember getting beat, and I came to the sideline,” he said. Defensive coach Tom Masella was waiting for him. He told Jette to back off if he needed to, not to try to press the receiver too close. Give up a short reception to prevent a long one. Then, well within earshot of the defensive teammates, Coach Masella looked him in the eye. Jette remembers well what he said.

“You’re my guy, you’re all I’ve got,” he remembers the coach saying. “The whole defense was sitting on the bench looking at me.”

That’s pressure.

Late in the fourth quarter, with U-Mass leading but Ball State driving toward a score, Jordan Williams was streaking down the sideline with a well-thrown pass about to fall into his hands. Jette was with him step for step, in perfect position. Both players jumped for the ball. Jette came down with it for an interception, his fourth of the season. It sealed the victory.

“I just had to go out and make a play, and I did,” he said.

He counts the moment as the highlight of a stellar career in college football, one in which he progressed from a small town high school quarterback to a well respected Division 1 defensive player.

Family has been to nearly every U Mass game. — Steve Myrick

And now he is a prospect for the National Football League draft.

Despite a disappointing 2015 season, Jette finished his college career with nine interceptions, 114 solo tackles, assists on 96 other tackles, 43 passes defended, 34 pass breakups, six quarterback sacks, three forced fumbles and four fumbles recovered.

Smart, well-spoken, humble, and funny in conversation, he credits family, friends and his Island for athletic and academic success at the college level.

“I’ve always been the guy who has more to prove, coming from playing football on the Vineyard,” he said. “You come to a school like U-Mass and you play other teams, they imagine Martha’s Vineyard and they don’t think football. They think Jaws, or they think of vacation. I had a lot to prove, and I’ve always been that chip-on-the-shoulder guy.”

The days of proving himself to other players are over. He has only one competitor now, as he prepares for the biggest athletic test of his life.

On March 24, scouts and coaches will come to U-Mass for what is called pro day, where he will highlight his skills, hoping to impress an NFL team enough to draft him. That one day, one workout, will be a critical test to determine most of his football future.

“Right now it’s just proving to myself,” Jette said. “I’ve done my due diligence showing other people how good I am and that a boy from the Vineyard can be good. Now, it’s just on me.”

That’s pressure.

Playing for the Vineyard, Jette could not be stopped. — Mark Lovewell

To prepare, he is training at the elite Parabolic Performance Training Center in Howell, N.J., under the tutelage of veteran trainer Brian Martin and NFL veteran Aaron Beasley. Six days a week, he wedges four or five hours of intense skills training, conditioning and weight work in between school work, meals and rest.

In the football world, there is a small industry of people who track college players, try to predict where they rank in the next draft and which teams are interested in signing them. In his junior year at U-Mass, Randall Jette’s name started popping up on those lists, a possible late-round selection in the NFL draft as an under-appreciated player with a lot of potential. He is by several draft trackers rated in the top half of the 270 or so cornerbacks available in this year’s draft.

Though a bit undersized by current NFL standards, at 5 feet 11 inches and 193 pounds, he is still plenty fast. At a personal best 4.44 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to the draft tracking website nfldraftscout.com, his speed puts him among the elite cornerback draft prospects in that category.

He is also graded as smart and a quick learner by draft evaluators. But he knows he needs to gain weight and get stronger to impress NFL scouts.

“I eat everything in sight,” he said. “It’s a healthy diet. I probably eat five or six times a day. I don’t count calories, I just eat.”

Recently retired Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School head coach Donald Herman is not surprised that Jette is catching the attention of NFL teams. He described him as one of the best overall athletes he coached in his 34 year career.

“I think he will have an opportunity,” Coach Herman said. “He’s high character, humble, and very much down to earth.”

From high school to college and now the draft, always in the spotlight. — Steve Myrick

Earlier this year, as part of their pre-draft scouting work, the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers all contacted Coach Herman asking for preliminary information about his high school career. Last month Jette was invited to play in the College Gridiron Showcase, an all-star game for promising NFL prospects. He attracted attention from the New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in that game, according to one report.

Perhaps the best endorsement of his skills came from the answer U-Mass teammate Tajae Sharpe, also a NFL draft prospect, gave to an interviewer. He was asked to name the best cornerback he faced.

“I get asked this a lot and the guy I always say is the guy I go against in practice every day, Randall Jette,” Sharpe said. “He’s a great corner and doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. No disrespect against the great ones I’ve faced, but Randall is at the top.”

Pro day is a pretty big deal. Just ask former New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker, or New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz. Both were overlooked in the draft, but they impressed scouts on their own pro day. Neither was drafted, but both were signed by NFL teams immediately after the draft and have excelled in professional football. The two players met in Super Bowl XLVI.

Jette is close to his family, and they are bursting with pride over his accomplishments.

Steve Myrick

His stepfather Albie Robinson played on the 1991 Vineyard team that won a state championship. He and Jette’s mother Grace managed to make it to almost every U-Mass home game, along with sisters Kendall and Keisha, when they could break away from their own college studies. Most of the extended family was in the stands at Gillette Stadium in October when Jette and his U-Mass teammates took on the University of Akron.

“When he puts his mind to something, he does very well,” Grace Robinson told the Gazette after that game. “Football has been his thing for a long time. I love the fact that he’s very humble. Even though there’s stuff going on, he’s all about team, and what he can do to help other people. I love that. He takes a lot on his shoulders.”

At university, Jette found his academic calling in public health, and hopes to some day continue his education and work in hospital administration. He is taking online courses while he trains in New Jersey, and expects to graduate on time.

But right now, the focus is on football.

Jette is accustomed to pressure and he says he is not nervous about pro day.

“My chance will come March 24, that’s when I can make a big splash,” he said. “I will be ready.”

His boyhood on Martha’s Vineyard prepared him for this moment, and the support of his family motivates him.

“My sisters kind of talk me up. You gotta prove you’re right. You don’t want your sisters to be wrong about you.”

Now that’s pressure.

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