Jake Balliu: 2022 Pro Prospect Interview
Name: Jake Balliu
School: Winona State University
What goals did you set and/or accomplish in your final collegiate season?
From a team aspect the goals I set at the beginning of the year were to win a NSIC conference championship and national championship. Personally, I wanted to be the best return specialist in the NSIC and break Winona State’s all-time leading punt return record. Additionally, I wanted my name to be among multiple return categories across all the NCAA divisions. Lastly, I wanted to finish my college career as an All-American. At the conclusion of the season, I ended up being All-NSIC South First Team Special Teams, D2CCA Super Region 4 First Team, Special Teams, and D2CCA Second Team All-American Return Specialist. I am currently Winona State’s all-time leader in punt return yards. As a team we finished with a 7-4 record.
Q: How do you think you took advantage of the extra year of eligibility to increase your chances of going pro?
I took this extra year to grow as a player on and off the field. The training and working out is a given but I wanted to advance on my football lQ. Overall, I was able to work on my craft and improve on my strengths and grow on my weaknesses. This put me in the position I am now as I feel I am the fastest, strongest, and smartest I have ever been. This helped me develop into the player I am today as I continue to strive to be a better version of myself every day.
Q: What would your coaches and teammates say about the type of player you are?
Fearless. A player that is willing to give it his all in everything he does on and off the field. Also, a lead by example type of player and willing to always put the team first. A player that loves all aspects of the process and is a constant competitor but has fun doing it at the same time. A player willing and ready to change the momentum of a game at any moment.
Q: When you are studying film, what are the things you focus on to improve your game?
A major component I focus on is identifying my strengths and weaknesses in both practice and game film. Once those are identified I can focus on how to improve those to amplify my game. Also, a large piece of watching film is to look at tendencies of the defense. Additionally, I look up the players I will be going against and get a feel for them on all levels whether it’s on or off the field. Not only do I look at the defense, but I look at the punt and kickoff units. I look at the snapper, kicker, punter, gunners, and main players that fly down the field as those will be the first guys I will I have to make miss me when the ball gets in my hands.
Q: What separates you from the other pro prospects at your position?
I am versatile. I play wide receiver, but excel at punt and kick return. I have managed every year to be among the best in all NCAA divisions in multiple return categories. Whenever I touch the ball, I always make the first person miss while looking at the second and third wave of players. I am willing to do anything to help the team in anyway. Lastly, I am a fast learner and want to know the ins and outs of everything before I take a step on the field.
Q: What is your offseason plan to train and prepare for professional opportunities?
I am currently training at Three Rivers Performance (TRP) in La Crosse, WI. My personal trainer Eddie Hodges has a multitude of experience training professional athletes.
Q: What kind of strengths and abilities will you bring to a team that will stand out both on and off the field?
I bring the sauce while others might bring the juice. Thus meaning, juice is temporary, and sauce is forever. I will always bring the energy day in and day out as every day is a privilege to play the best game on earth. Every day is another opportunity to get better on and off the field. I want not only myself, but the people around me to get 1% better each day. I want the people around me to have the same vision as me and that is to win and do whatever it takes to get there. Additionally, I am always involved with the community and willing to give back in any way I can.
Q: What is your final pitch to the NFL and any other pro leagues?
Any team that takes a chance on me is getting a young man willing to put the extra work in everyday and will strive to be reach new heights. People have been doubting me since I was young, and I keep proving them wrong and no part of me has any reason to stop now. No matter how tough things may get, I will never give up. I have worked too hard and too long to get to this point and not give it my all to live my dream. I am a versatile player and willing to do anything to get a chance and make a roster spot. I am a player that loves everything about the grind.
Roll Warriors!⚔️ #CareerHighlights pic.twitter.com/kdcvpAHETw— JB✨ (@BabyBalliuga) December 13, 2021