Buffalo's Jaret Patterson intent on showing everyone what they missed

John Wawrow
Associated Press

Jaret Patterson was nearly inconsolable upon learning how difficult it was going to be to land a football scholarship despite a decorated high school career. 

Turned down outright during a visit to Eastern Michigan, the undersized running back left his traveling party to hole up in a bathroom, where he broke down and cried. 

“We had like four people walking around Eastern Michigan’s football house looking for him, and James found him,” Justin Winters said, referring to Patterson’s twin brother. 

“Literal tears. He didn’t understand why he was the one who was getting slept on,” added Winters, who was an assistant coach at St. Vincent Pallotti in Maryland, where the Pattersons played. “So we went in and talked. I told him to wipe his tears, ‘Don’t let nobody see you cry.’ ” 

Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson barely got a sniff as a high school recruit in 2017 but has made the Bulls happy with his record-setting performances in 2020.

The memory from 2017 is distant now for Winters, a former walk-on linebacker at the University at Buffalo who played a key role in persuading his alma mater to take a chance on both Pattersons. 

“He came here, fifth string or first string, and said, ‘I can’t wait until I put the pads on and show them,’ ” Winters said. “And look what he did.” 

Four games into his junior season, the 5-foot-9, 195-pound Patterson has re-written the Mid-American Conference program’s record book, and last week had his most impressive, attention-grabbing moment. 

In a 70-41 win over Kent State, Patterson finished with 409 yards rushing, the second-most in FBS history and 18 shy of Samaje Perine’s single-game record for Oklahoma in 2014. He also rushed for eight touchdowns, matching the record set by Howard Griffith of Illinois in 1990. 

Coming off a 301-yard showing in a win at Bowling Green the previous week, Patterson joined Ricky Williams of Texas in 1996 in becoming the second player to top 300 yards rushing in consecutive games. 

Patterson’s 920 yards rushing this season rank fifth in the nation, with the four players ahead of him having played nine or more games.  

Reminded about his breakdown at Eastern Michigan, Patterson acknowledged he wouldn’t have envisioned this kind of production during such a low moment of his life. But the memory of being overlooked drives him. 

“It made me work even harder,” Patterson said. “(Winters) always used to tell me, you only need one school to love you. And I knew whatever school me and my brother had the same offer, we were going to give them everything.” 

The twins were a package deal, most schools favoring James over Jaret. Buffalo already had a commitment from running back Kevin Marks, but made room for Jaret Patterson by having him join the program the following January.  

James Patterson, a linebacker, has been a three-year starter and defensive captain, and leads Buffalo with 37 tackles. 

Jaret, though, has become impossible to ignore, and it takes Winters back to the days when he was desperate trying to find him a place to play. 

“I was calling coaches every day, coaches coming into our building and offering everybody but him, and I was telling them, ‘You all are going to regret it,’ ” Winters said. 

“I’ve cried a few times watching all the goals he’s reaching. I’ve seen the low end. I knew how it hurt him. Every run, that’s what he runs for. He runs with that pain.”