Global Gridiron

Sisson Relishes Time Overseas

players from Team USA pose for a photo with players from Team China following their World University American Football Championship game in Harbin, China. Submitted photo

Jake Sisson emerges from his home Tuesday night with his hands full. In his possession are a helmet, a jersey, a couple stuffed animals and a silver medal that hangs from his neck. He places them on a table, arranging them so that each one can be identified from a photo for which he is about to pose.

And then the greatest quarterback in Jamestown High School history, and one of the most prolific passers in Edinboro University annals, carefully unscrolls a piece of paper. On the top line, written in English calligraphy, are two words: “Jake Sisson.”

On the second line are a series of characters that can only be understood by someone who knows the Chinese language. Sisson certainly doesn’t qualify as a Chinese-to-English translator, but he knows what this sentence means, because his new QB buddy, Li, who had the sign made, told him so.

It reads: “Greatest quarterback in the world.”

As the flash from a camera lights up the yard on his property on Jamestown’s southside, the young man who spent two weeks at the other end of the world playing a game he loves smiles broadly.

Jake Sisson, far left, is pictured with Team USA and Team China quarterbacks during the 2018 World University American Football Championship in Harbin, China. Submitted photo

But the ear-to-ear grin isn’t because of the touchdown passes he threw at the FISU World University American Football Championship in Harbin, China. It’s more about the other “connections” he made with people from around the globe.

In two weeks time, those connections were deeper than any “fly pattern” could ever hope to be.

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Sisson completed his final year of eligibility at Edinboro last fall as one of the top signal callers in school history.

He ranks second in career touchdown passes (85), third in career passing yards (8,313), third in career total offense (8,672), third in career pass completions (702), and third in career pass attempts (1,243). He also has six of the top 11 single-game total offense records and five of the top 10 single-game passing yards records.

Team USA quarterback Jake Sisson — a Jamestown High School graduate — poses for a photo upon his arrival back in the United States. P-J photo by Scott Kindberg

Those gaudy numbers came on heels of a high school career that was capped by a senior year for the ages. In 2013, Sisson completed 178-of-275 passes for a Western New York-record 3,184 yards, tossed 33 touchdown passes and was intercepted just four times. He also ran for a team-high 732 yards and 24 more TDs. His defining game came against Kenmore West when he set the Section VI single-game passing record with 508 yards, which is tied for the fourth-highest total in the state.

With that bulging resume, it was no surprise that Sisson spent the first half of 2018 working hard to continue his career on the professional level. In January, he played in the Dream Bowl in Roanoke, Virginia; participated in the Podyum Showcase in Miami and the National Scouting Combine in Indianapolis; and performed in the PSAC Pro Day hosted by California (Pennsylvania) University.

Yet when he learned in April that he had been selected to represent the U.S. in the World University American Football Championship in Harbin, China, Sisson admitted that traveling to the largest city in that country’s northeastern region not far from the Russian border in Siberia didn’t exactly excite him.

“At first, I was hesitant,” he said.

And then he met his team for the first time for training camp in Xenia, Ohio in early June. A week later, Sisson and company were in Harbin.

“The second day there, I knew just about everybody on the team,” he said. “If anybody asks me if it was a good experience (and if I’d go again), I’d tell them, ‘In a heartbeat.'”

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For the record, the U.S. posted a 3-1 record, routing China, Japan and Korea, and losing to Mexico, the eventual gold medalist, 20-17. Sisson shared time behind center for each game and, admittedly, didn’t have the opportunity to throw the ball much, although he was a perfect 5 for 5 and a touchdown against Korea. He also rushed twice for 30 yards and another TD in that game.

“I thought for a team that had only been practicing for a week, we did pretty well,” Sisson said. “The game where we may have missed a couple opportunities was against Mexico. We had our chances.”

But this trip was more than chasing statistics or even medals. In fact, it was more about forging friendships with opponents from different countries, ones that will be kept alive courtesy of social media. It also allowed Sisson and his teammates to experience another culture.

“We talked on the plane (on the way back to the U.S.) that (we hope) we made some change,” he said.

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In addition to the memorabilia he brought home from China, Sisson also has gear and trophies from his playing days at JHS and Edinboro. He’d like to put it all together in one big display as a way to remember his football journey.

From Strider Field in Jamestown, to Sox Harrison Stadium in Edinboro, to the Stadium of Harbin University of Commerce, it’s been quite a ride the last six years..

“I hope this wasn’t it,” Sisson said of his personal gridiron odyssey. “While I was in China, I was getting messages from German (pro) teams, so there is still an opportunity to get out there and play … but for right now football is on the back-burner, because I want to get my degree.”

Sisson said he will graduate from Edinboro in December with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a concentration in forensics and a minor in biology.

Given the kind of “chemistry” that he experienced during his travels abroad, Sisson might consider asking his professors at Edinboro for some extra credit, because if the son of George and Kim was being graded on how he “interacted” with others in the last month, it’s clear that he aced that test.

Just ask his Chinese friend, Li.

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