Carver quarterback Jawon Pass doesn’t remember where the nickname “Puma” came from.
He knows it was his cousin who started calling him by that name when he was a toddler, but that’s about where his memory of it ends.
“Everyone called me that since I was a baby,” he said. “Even my teachers call me that. I don’t know, it just kind of stuck.”
While the origin of the nickname may not be clear, the connection seems appropriate in a lot of ways.
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Like the eponymous cat from which the nickname is derived, Pass has great size, a long range and is adaptable to many different environments (or, in this case, offensive schemes).
Those traits, among other things, have made the sophomore quarterback, in his first season as the Tigers’ starter, an early success.
The first of the three traits is obvious with a quick glance at Pass’ 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame. In pads, he already resembles the next-level athlete he has the opportunity to become, having picked up scholarship offers from Clemson, North Carolina and Mississippi State with more sure to come. The other two traits were shown off in great detail in the team’s 48-24 win over Shaw two weeks ago.
He completed 16 of 21 pass for 280 yards and two touchdowns through the air in the game. He connected on short, mid-range and a handful of long passes, including three longer than 40 yards.
After an opening game in which he showed his inexperience, missing a couple of open receivers down the field, he seemed to have established a strong rapport with his teammates in Week 2.
“Each week, it gets better,” Pass said of his connection with his receivers. “I have more trust in them, that I can just air it out and I know they’re going to go get it.”
In the win against Shaw, Pass had a particularly strong connection with wide receiver Dreilon Freeman, who caught seven passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve had a good connection,” he said of Pass and himself. “We practice hard, work on the release and timing, and it shows in the game.”
Asked how many repetitions it takes throughout the week to get on the same page, Freeman laughed and said “about 500.”
“We work out after practice sometimes. Just a lot of time goes into it,” he said.
Pass has also showed an ability to adapt when the defense doesn’t give him what he wants in the passing game. On one occasion against Shaw, the quarterback, who has solid but not blazing speed, tucked the ball and ran 19 yards for a touchdown. He made a handful of tacklers miss on the play, then carried one into the end zone with him.
“I consider myself a dual-threat quarterback,” Pass said. “I feel like I can do both well.”
Things aren’t perfect yet by any means for the Tigers offense. Pass has started just three games, and he and the rest of the unit were shut out on the road against Class AAAAAA No. 3 Colquitt County last week.
The players know, though, that game was an opportunity to test their progress and see where they need to improve.
“We learned a lot from that game,” Pass said. “That was a game that helped us get better. Those kind of games make us go hard, and we’ll make mistakes. But they show us things we have to get better at.”
Like mechanics, for one, or reading defenses. Pass mentioned both as areas of focus for him as the season goes along.
If he and the offense continue to progress at their current rate, starting Thursday night at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium against Tri-Cities, his last name will become even more appropriate than his nickname.
On an offense that has been known more for its ground game in the past, Puma is quickly putting Pass back in the spotlight.
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