Ventura College alumnus Jake Luton's ('16) journey from Ventura College to the National Football League will reach a major milestone Sunday as the he is slated to make his NFL debut starting for the Jacksonville Jaguars as they host the Houston Texans. The 2016 SCFA Northern Conference Offensive Player of the Year will start in place of the Jags' injured starter Gardner Minshew II head coach Doug Marrone confirmed at a media videoconference on Monday. Luton will become the first Pirate alumnus to start in the NFL since Jordan Cameron '07 started at tight end for Miami in 2016, closing out a five-year career with the Dolphins (2015-16) and Cleveland Browns (2012-14).
"He was mentally and physically tough," said Mooshagian. "Our staff including (offensive coordinator) Daniel Algattas, (offensive line coach) Ryan Clanton and (wide receivers coach) Bobby Mooshagian did a good job helping him improve during the season."
Luton set single-season and career records for passing yards (3,551) and touchdown passes (40) in 2016 in leading the Pirates to an 8-3 record and a Northern Conference title. He transferred to Oregon State where, after a season-ending injury in 2017, he played two more seasons, throwing for 2,714 yards, 28 touchdowns and only three interceptions as a senior in 2019. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL draft, 189th overall, by the Jaguars.
Marrone tabbed Luton as the starter over veteran backup Mike Glennon.
"I think Jake has a high ceiling," Marrone said. "That's my opinion of him. Not to take anything away from Mike. I have a ton of respect for him. I just want to see where this kid is at. … I've watched him enough. Now, it's going to be when the bullets are flying."
"We might as well look," Marrone said. "We might as well see what we have. Go ahead and play him, and let's go."
Marrone was asked if Minshew would return to the starting lineup when healthy.
"You'd like to as a coach to be able to say, 'Yeah, as soon as Gardner's ready he'll be able to come back,''' Marrone said. "But with the record where we are now, we're at 1-6, we have to see what this kid (Luton) can do. If this kid comes in and plays extremely well, then what?
"I just think it's common sense. Opportunities create themselves. If he (Luton) does well, we'll see where we're going and make that decision when the time comes."
"I think he'll play within the system," said Mooshagian. "He made a lot of throws in the pocket under pressure when he played for us. He has the ability to play at that level.
"He'll make some throws people will be impressed with.
JESSIE LEMONIER UPDATE
Another Pirate alumnus, Jessie Lemonier '17 has seen game action with the Los Angeles Chargers this season. The 2017 SCFA Northern Conference Defensive Player of the Year was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2020 NFL draft and made the team's practice squad. He was on the active roster for games against the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints, chasing after future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Drew Brees in the latter two contests.
"He has been week-to-week," said Mooshagian. "With injuries to their defense, he could very well be activated again this week, which would give us two players active in the NFL."