If it wasn’t for Fresno State football, it’s highly possible Jake Haener would not exist.
The newly-named starting quarterback for the Bulldogs told the media Tuesday that his parents, Ryan and Julie, first met at Bulldog Stadium while watching a football game.
“My dad went to UC Santa Barbara, got his degree there, and then came back to Fresno,” Haener said. “My mom had gotten her first TV job in Fresno and was working here and had some friends. I think my dad and mom had mutual friends, and they all went to the Bulldog football game, because obviously why not, great setting.”
Haener said his father saw Julie at the game and asked his friends about her, but they thought he didn’t have a chance.
“The first time he sent something to her house, he sent some flowers and said, ‘Wow, what a smile.’ And from that time on they started talking, getting to know each other,” Haener said. “She actually had a boyfriend at the time, and it kind of ended up dissipating because he was in Washington and she was here, and then they kind of just gravitated towards each other. Then I came along.”
Haener initially followed in his mother’s footsteps by attending the University of Washington. He spent two years as a Husky before battling for the starting quarterback spot last year, which he lost to Jacob Eason.
At the time, then-Washington head coach Chris Petersen said the decision to pick Eason – a former five-star recruit who went on to be picked in the fourth-round of the 2020 NFL Draft – was a “gut feeling,” even though Haener had performed very well in the competition.
“You know how everything happened up there, it matured me as a young man, and I think it was a really good experience to go through,” Haener said. “And it taught me a lot about myself and how to handle things as a 20-year-old young man at the time and what I had to overcome and persevere through.
“A lot of quarterbacks have had to do that, and a lot of guys have had to transfer and find new beginnings somewhere else. I took it as a learning curve. I took it as a challenge, and I took it as a building block for me personally.”
With his transfer to Fresno State in September 2019, Haener had to sit out for the season because of NCAA rules. In practice he worked on the scout team to emulate what Fresno State’s opponents would look like, so he did not get any real practice time within the offense.
He would have received those reps in the spring, but the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out Fresno State football until up to about a month ago.
“I’ve only been doing our offense really for three weeks, so it’s a lot of new stuff, a lot of new material,” Haener said. “But I’ve clicked with it, and I’ve really gelled with the receivers and gelled with the offensive line in those three weeks. And I feel really comfortable come Saturday.”
When Haener takes the field at Bulldog Stadium for his first collegiate-start – which he called “a dream come true” – he expects Fresno State to get back to its winning culture as he leads the ‘Dogs as a team captain.
“I’m really excited to play for the Bulldog fans and the Bulldog community,” Haener said. “I’m really excited to play with my teammates and execute at a really high level with them. They’ve worked their tail off to be in this position. We all have, and it’s really not about me, it’s about what we do together that’s going to matter. And I think our defense is really well prepared.
“But I think as far as my skill set, I think I’m going to be aggressive. I’m going to be smart, and at the same time it’s going to be knowing our checks, knowing our protections and being really well prepared come Saturday. I’m going to put a ton of time into the process and what it takes to be completely prepared for Hawaii and what we think they’re going to do. So as far as that, I’m looking forward to it, and I think they got a really good squad. And we’re all ready for the challenge. So I’m ready.”