Playing sports in high school while keeping pace academically can be a difficult feat in normal circumstance but imagine becoming a parent the same week you’re about to play a playoff game against the No. 1 team in the state. That was the case for Good Hope senior wide receiver Jager Burns, whose girlfriend, Destiny Jones, delivered their baby girl Blakely, on Nov. 16., three days before the Raiders were scheduled to take on top-ranked Madison Academy in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state playoffs. Burns was also dealing with a shoulder injury but had played through it all season, but his coach, Alan Scott and his teammates were there to help any way they could.
“I didn’t watch a whole lot of film that week,” Burns said. “I got to the game an hour and a half before we got started. I got there when we were warming up. I went to talk to Coach Scott, and he talked me through everything. We went back to the fieldhouse, and he gave me a sheet about 10 minutes before the game. I got the feel for what they would do when I got into the game. After the first quarter, I could tell what they were doing, so it helped me a lot. My teammates helped out a lot. They’d always check in on us and make sure that if I miss practice, make sure I got caught up. They’d come over and we’d hang out, just talk about the baby and just try to cheer us up.”
About playing through his injury, Burns said, “It was tough. I had to come out a few plays or a quarter and go back in. Every time I would get hit, it would go numb, or I couldn’t feel it. I still went in after I couldn’t feel it, though, because the team needed me.”
Becoming a father in the middle of all of this? Burns says he couldn’t be prouder.
“It’s been amazing,” Burns said. “She’s a great baby. It’s indescribable how it feels to be a dad.”
“He’s doing really good. He’s strong,” Jones said. “You get told that you can’t do it. Playing in high school with a hurt shoulder at the least, most guys would’ve given up. He didn’t. We went through a lot during the pregnancy. We had a really rough pregnancy and he never stopped supporting me. He never stopped putting family first, but he always supported his team as well. He did everything he could for his team. When we were in the doctor’s office, he would be studying the plays. He would study for school. He still has all A’s, and he went virtual. He’s doing a lot to keep up with what he’s doing.”
During the hectic process, Jager and Destiny were surprised with a baby shower.
“They helped me out a ton,” Burns said. “Coach (Alan) Scott was amazing during the process. He always called and checked in, even if we were at the doctor. He would always call every time we get out of the doctor’s office and asked us, ‘How did it go’? and ‘What’s wrong’? He still checks in.” Jones added, “They threw a baby shower for us. Tanner Malin’s parents, they threw us a baby shower. The whole team is very supportive and the whole school is very supportive.”
Though the balance between work, school and being parents has been a rough, both Jager and Destiny say they are finding a balance that is paying off.
“The balance is rough,” Jones said. “And he works, so that’s rough. He works until five or six at night. He comes home at night, we study. He does his work, and we still try to find time for her. During football, it was harder. He would have morning practices, afternoon practice, and still trying to get doctor’s appointments. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to come home on Friday because of how the birth went. It wasn’t really well, but we ended up coming home. He went to the game.”
“Don’t listen to everyone telling you that you can’t do it because you can,” Jones said. “I go to Wallace. I have all A’s. Jager’s still in school and he has all A’s. She’s (Blakely) perfect. He did football the same that he would if we didn’t have her. He may have missed a couple of practices, but he definitely made up for it.”
Jager gave some advice to a lot of young parents who may be going through similar situations.
“It’s hard, but once you put your mind to what you need to do and want to do, you can do it.”
Jones concluded, “I’m very proud of Jager for everything that he’s gone through, even since he was little. He grew up without a dad. He didn’t have that dad influence. He’d never had that. He couldn’t be a better dad. I’m adopted. I grew up without my mom and dad and for us to be better than what they were, it’s a really good thing.”
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