There’s Jesus Javier Sr., a 6-6, 330-pound auto mechanic and former high school defensive tackle.
There’s his 21-month old rambunctious son, Jesus Jose, who already appears to be quite big for his age.
And … oh yeah, there’s Jesus Javier Jr., the 15-year-old football prospect at Champagnat Catholic (Hialeah) who speaks softly but happens to have a scholarship offer from defending national champion Alabama as an eighth-grader.
Actually, it’s the fifth scholarship offer received by Jesus Machado, a 6-1, 195-pound defensive lineman/linebacker who started playing football at age 4 and had 97 tackles and 12 sacks last season as the starting middle linebacker on the varsity.
“It was difficult for me to do my play-calling because (Machado) is a game-changer,” Hallandale coach Benedict Hyppolite said after his team beat Champagnat 8-6 in the spring game Thursday.
“Even when we tried to scheme for him, he was able to play sideline to sideline, beat our tackles, beat our guards and get in the quarterback’s face. He lived in the backfield tonight.”
He is not the first eighth-grader to be offered a scholarship and not the only player in the Class of 2020 with offers, but he has gotten national attention, largely because of Alabama’s involvement.
“There’s been a little bit of an uptick (in eighth-graders getting offers), but I don’t think it’s because school are prioritizing eighth-graders,” said 247Sports national scouting director Barton Simmons. “There are just more freaky eighth-graders who are given some exposure.”
On Thursday night, Machado was used on the line. Sometimes he stood up and rushed the passer as if he were playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. But, more often, he had his hand in the dirt and did his work from a defensive tackle alignment on the right side.
He jammed a finger on his right hand on the game’s opening drive, but he never missed a play, getting taped while his offense was on the field.So … just who is this Machado kid, and why would big-time college programs such as Alabama, West Virginia, Michigan State, Iowa State and North Carolina State offer him a scholarship before he even shaves for the first time?
Here are some answers:
* Machado lives with his father, stepmother and three siblings, including Jesus Jose in Miami Gardens, about five minutes from where the Miami Dolphins play football. Champagnat is about 15 minutes away from home, and many rival high schools have tried to recruit him, his father said.
* Machado, who wears jersey No. 99, can already bench press 210 pounds. He might play varsity basketball next season. But as far as football is concerned, he has no ambition to play offense. He’d rather deliver a hit than take one.
* Machado has Cuban heritage on his father’s side. Machado understands Spanish but doesn’t speak the language very much. Then again, he’s so quiet, he doesn’t exercise his command of the English language all that much, either.
“Sometimes you don’t even know he’s in the house,” said his father, who has a much bigger personality. “He’s one of the (best-behaved) kids I’ve ever seen.”
* Machado plays for a Champagnat team that competes in 2A, the second-smallest enrollment classification in the state. Class 8A is the largest. The team went 3-7 last year.
Champagnat, however, is not afraid to schedule up. Hallandale, for example, is Class 5A, and the Lions did not seem out of place, battling to the very end.
The roster has as many as 11 Division I prospects.
* Machado’s nickname is Little Zeus, a moniker that is taken from the second-half of the name Jesus. Machado’s father goes by Big Zeus.
* After struggling academically earlier in his scholastic career, Machado has improved greatly at Champagnat, his father said.
His father said he walked into his son’s classroom at a previous school and saw the boy’s teacher chatting on his cell phone and ignoring the students. Soon after that, Machado transferred.
While Machado is no doubt talented, college coaches are doing a lot of projecting when offering him a scholarship. Coaches see his father’s massive size – how could they not? – and figure that his son is athletic, tough, big … and destined to get even bigger.
“I just pray to God I see my son play Division I football, get his education and go somewhere I’ve never been,” his father said. “And if he goes to the NFL, even greater.”
Plus, there is no downside to offering Machado – or any other young player – a scholarship. The offer is non-binding until National Signing Day, which in Machado’s case isn’t until February 2020.
If Machado continues to ascend as a prospect, coaches such as Nick Saban at Alabama can say, “I believed in you from the beginning. Come sign with us.”
But if Machado peaks early or falls off for any reason, colleges can simply stop recruiting him and pull their offer with no repercussions.
“Right or wrong, kids look at early offers (from colleges) as the programs that believed in them first,” said Simmons from 247 Sports.
While coaches are not allowed to publicly acknowledge scholarship offers, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell recognized the importance of getting in early with a player and alluded to that being a reason for the Cylones’ reported involvement with Machado.
“In recruiting, there’s times you have to jump in to be relevant, or to even get in the door, to recruit some of these guys,” Campbell told the Des Moines Register. “If I ever recruited somebody as an eighth-grader — that would be the only reason to do it. That’s the trap we all run into. I don’t think it’s just football; I think it’s every sport.”
The first scholarship offer in Machado’s case came from North Carolina State. Machado took part in a camp at the University of Miami last summer, but his name took off this spring as college coaches toured South Florida schools during spring practice.
Beyond that, Machado’s eighth-grade highlight tape has 6,000 views on Hudl and his seventh-grade youth football highlights have 12,000 views.
Machado, who said he has grown up a fan of the Miami Hurricanes, hasn’t let all this attention go to his head.He was shooting baskets during the end of his lunch break at his school’s outdoor court recently when Champagnat coach Dennis Marroquin told him he had an offer from Alabama.
The news was digested calmly, as if he had just been told that football practice had been cancelled. In fact, a cancelled practice might have drawn a bigger reaction from Machado.
“I didn’t really say anything,” Machado said when asked for his reaction.
Pressed for an explanation, Machado proved to be much wiser than his years.
“I was excited, but you have to stay focused,” he said. “A lot of people get too excited, and it could go away fast, the offers. If you get too excited, you stop working hard, start behaving bad and having bad grades.”
Machado said if it were up to him, he would have told no one outside his family about his scholarship offers.
But his coach posted the news on Twitter, and it became a national story because of his age.
“Jesus is as humble as they come,” Marroquin said. “Some kids get their heads blown up. I’ve seen a lot (of kids) fall off.
“But Jesus is rare. You saw (Thursday night), he was all over the place. He did a great job. He made a couple of good plays inside. The running back came and he crashed down and made a big hit … 99 is special.”
Josh Barnett contributed to this report.