Embracing The Uncomfortable

By JP Hadley

This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

I did about the worst thing you can do as an athlete.

I got comfortable.

As a walk-on long snapper at West Virginia, I should’ve had a chip on my shoulder.

Maybe I did for a while, but I got far too complacent.

I didn’t fully realize this until my sophomore year.

After traveling with the team the entire year before, I didn’t get an invite to fall camp.

With a new coaching staff in place, they didn’t believe I had earned my spot.

More importantly, they didn’t think I had the work ethic to earn my spot.

That was a tough pill to swallow.

The worst part of it was, this was something I had control over.

This wasn’t an injury or a change in position like so many football players go through; I simply didn’t work as hard as I should’ve.

Needless to say, that lit a fire under me.

When I entered the transfer portal, I decided right then and there that whichever university took a chance on me was going to get everything I had.

The days of doing the bare minimum were over, and wherever my journey took me, I was determined to give my best effort and make a significant impact on my team and university.

A fresh start

While I spent four years at WVU and graduated from there, I had two years of eligibility left, so I was looking to find the perfect school where I could thrive and end my collegiate career on a high.

During my search, I was presented with the tremendous opportunity to coach a snapping camp. At the camp, that’s when I got in contact with the coaches at UNT and decided to take a visit.

Not only did we have great conversations, it just so happened that they had an opening for a long snapper.

Nate Durham had graduated and was preparing for the NFL, so they needed someone to fill his position.

When they offered me a scholarship, it didn’t take long for me to accept.

I felt at home here right away.

That might sound strange coming from someone who grew up in Jersey, but to be honest with you, I’ve always wanted to move to Texas.

My fiance and I have talked about moving to the Texas area in the past, so it all just came together as if it was meant to be.

The campus here is beautiful, and the proximity to the Dallas-Fort Worth area couldn’t be more perfect.

Don’t even get me started on the food here in Texas.

UNT is a far trek away from West Virginia and my home in Jersey, but I looked forward to a fresh start in a completely new environment to prove myself and all I have to give to this university.

A winning culture

There’s always a bit of an adjustment going to a new school and playing for a different coaching staff, but I’m no stranger to new coaches.

In my nine years of playing high school and college football, I’ve had seven head coaches.

It’s been trying at times because just when you start to develop a good relationship and understand the philosophy of one coach, you have to scrap all of that and get used to another coach coming in.

I will say when I arrived at UNT in 2022, it wasn’t a difficult transition by any stretch of the imagination.

Without question, my teammates at UNT are some of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever been around. These are guys that truly care and want to make a difference on and off the field.

We push each other every day in practice, as we’re motivated to keep getting better and improve as football players and men.

When the 2022 season ended, I was a little worried that the work ethic and togetherness we spent so much of last year building would get lost in the shuffle when Coach Morris got hired as the new head coach, but it’s been the opposite.

If anything, it’s taken off to a whole new level.

Coach Morris and his staff are doing incredible things in their first season here. Football’s a game of inches, and in my opinion, we’re just a handful of plays away from having our record prove that point, too.

Coach Morris has established a winning culture, and I can’t tell you how proud I am to put my helmet on every Saturday to represent a university and culture I believe so much in.

When I entered the transfer portal, I decided right then and there that whichever university took a chance on me was going to get everything I had. The days of doing the bare minimum were over, and wherever my journey took me, I was determined to give my best effort and make a significant impact on my team and university.

Leading with purpose

Before the 2023 season, my teammates voted me as a team captain. I know the season’s wrapping up, but it’s difficult to even put into words how much that means to me.

As a specialist and long snapper, it’s not easy being recognized as a captain. That’s not something I take for granted in having that honor bestowed upon me.

I’ve always been one to lead by example, which was instilled in me at a young age. My dad was my first coach, and he taught me how important it is to lead on and off the field.

My high school coaches, Dan Dudy and Dan Curcione, also taught me about the sacrifices and desire it takes to be a leader and take my game to the next level.

That “C” I wear on my jersey isn’t there without those three men who have been instrumental to my development and growth as a football player and man.

Giving my all

When my time at UNT comes to an end here soon, I’m not exactly sure what the future of my playing career holds, but I do know this university has left an indelible impression on me.

I went from a guy who wasn’t even invited to fall camp at WVU to being named captain and making sure everyone in that UNT locker room learned from the mistakes I made in not living up to my potential.

I knew when I transferred to UNT that I couldn’t get those years back. But I also knew those four years didn’t have to define my career, and thanks to my time at UNT, they didn’t.

Take it from a Jersey kid – Denton, Texas is a special place, and it’s changed my life more than I can possibly say.

The fan support is unmatched, and as we continue to make our mark in the American Athletic Conference, that support is what’s going to separate us from the pack with tons of success in the future.

I love this university.

I also wholeheartedly believe in Coach Morris and the winning program he’s building here.

Believe me when I tell you that UNT is on the rise.

And I couldn’t be more grateful to have transferred 1,200 miles away to embrace the uncomfortable and give everything I have to a program and university that’s given everything to me.