Neyland Jean first came to Baylor in the winter of 2019 as a brand new student knowing no one. Within months of learning about Baylor and being urged by his father to take the opportunity, he was put in contact with Baylor’s football coach Phil Massey and made the decision to attend Baylor within the month. He left Lincoln County, TN, which has a population of 34,117 (for reference, Chattanooga has a population of 180,557), and transferred to Baylor.
Jean's been a natural leader ever since he started playing football at three years old. This idea of a three-year-old playing football did catch me by surprise, and when I asked Jean about it, he reassured me that he didn’t start tackle football until he was four or five years old. He also justified this statement with the fact that he has always been a larger kid, so it wasn’t weird when he was playing tackle football with seven-year-olds at age five while his father yelled at him from the sidelines. Jean's father and older brother (the latter now aged 22) also played football for Lincoln County, so, naturally, Jean caught onto the sport quickly.
He quickly began to excel, which is why the switch to Baylor in 2019 was sudden but no surprise. Jean knew it was the right move for him in the long run but was reluctant to leave behind his friends and family. His family got an apartment close to Baylor, but the move still wasn’t easy. Coming in to any school as a new kid is hard, but it is doubly so halfway through the year with no preexisting connections. But Jean wanted to get used to Baylor before football season and used this period as time for adjustment. Coming in halfway through the year, he decided not to play basketball (which he had played at his previous high school) and instead focus on schoolwork and the new school.
Although Neyland admits that the adjustment was at times very mentally difficult, he continued on and this past Friday led our team as the starting quarterback. His leadership has shone through from when he first picked up a football to every game on the field and will continue to shine wherever his path takes him next. Although leaving his friends behind was tough, many of them still continue to come and watch him play and support him.
With both the Lincoln County and Baylor community behind him, people are excited to see what lies ahead for Neyland Jean.