Tracee Hamilton - Sports Columnist

Redskins Rookie Jeremy Jarmon's Summer Plans Changed When He Failed a Drug Test at Kentucky

Jeremy Jarmon is Washington's first supplemental draft pick.
Jeremy Jarmon is Washington's first supplemental draft pick. (Tracy A Woodward/twp - The Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo     Buy Photo
By Tracee Hamilton
Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jeremy Jarmon had planned to spend part of his summer in France, working on his language skills with an eye toward a second degree. Instead, he's at Redskins training camp in Ashburn, seeing some time on the third-string defensive line and learning special teams play with an eye toward an NFL career.

Any regrets? Well, he had already paid for the trip. But an NFL salary will make up for that.

"I was working toward a second major, theater, and I was going to be taking some photography and video classes over there," said Jarmon, who speaks French well but not fluently -- yet. He'd like to find some cafes where he could practice the language. He plans to join one of the NFL's continuing education programs so he has "something to do when I leave the complex." He's already met Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and he hopes to meet his Tennessee senators as well.

In other words, he's a typical NFL rookie.

He's also a smart, confident young man. Vinny Cerrato says so. Special teams coordinator Danny Smith says so. And Jeremy Jarmon says so, too. Nothing wrong with that. When you lose your senior season of college eligibility over a failed drug test, scramble to enter the NFL supplemental draft, sign with the Redskins two days before camp and arrive in Ashburn with no minicamps and no organized team activities on your résumé, confidence is going to be a big help.

"I gave [Redskins officials] my word that I'd come in, I'd catch on to everything extremely fast and I would be able to contribute as much as I can," Jarmon said after a recent morning practice, carrying his pads and those of veteran Andre Carter as part of his rookie duties. "I think initially they thought that may have been a little unrealistic but I think that right now I'm in the beginning phases of changing their minds and showing them I'm going to be able to contribute some way this year."

It's been a year of highs and lows for the defensive end. As a junior, he helped lead Kentucky to a Liberty Bowl win in January, but experienced some discomfort in his shoulder. While he was inactive, he took a supplement to help him remain lean, but forgot to clear it with the strength and conditioning staff. By the time he did, it was too late. He tested positive for a banned substance after a random test, which meant losing a year of eligibility -- essentially ending his college career. Jarmon graduated in May with a political science degree, then received word that his appeal was denied. After consulting with the staff at Kentucky, he decided to enter the supplemental draft. But he admits the positive test left him a bit rattled.

"It kind of took a little confidence away that I had," he admitted, "in a sense where I thought I could go out and I could make decisions on my own as a 21-year-old adult based on the fact that I'm a smart guy and I know the difference between what's right and wrong."

He moved to Nashville and worked out for several teams, including the Redskins. Cerrato, the executive vice president of football operations, along with defensive line coach John Palermo and director of player personnel Scott Campbell, took him to dinner; they liked what they saw. After a trip to Aspen, Colo., to meet with owner Daniel Snyder and Coach Jim Zorn, Jarmon became the team's first-ever supplemental pick. What did they see that led them to give up a third-round pick in the 2010 draft?

"There was a lot of things," Cerrato said. "First thing was, we liked the film, we liked the way he played. Second thing was, he was very intelligent, he'd already graduated. He was a solid kid. . . . Everybody liked him as a guy, we knew he would fit with our guys."

Jarmon worked with the third-team defense Tuesday, at his usual defensive end position and also -- for the first time -- at defensive tackle. He believes he has already surprised his coaches and Redskins officials, and Cerrato agrees.

"I think one of the other things that impressed me was that he could pass the conditioning tests right away," he said. "He'd been drafted two weeks prior and he passed the conditioning tests right away."

Jarmon, listed at 6 feet 3 and 277 pounds, is at the right weight, but says the strength and conditioning staff wants to "reposition" some of his bulk to make him more top-heavy. He's hoping for some playing time on the defensive line but knows he'll see more action on special teams. Right now he's working with the punt and kickoff teams and both return teams, something he hasn't done since high school.

Smith said Jarmon has some hard work ahead of him.

"He is a confident kid, you know, and he's a good kid . . . but we just got him," said Smith, who added that it's too early to tell where Jarmon will end up among the special teams units. "He's working extremely hard and I'm sure he's happy with his work process, but he has so much to learn. And I don't mean that in a negative sense; it's just that he wasn't with us in the offseason. . . . We just got him a week ago, so he missed all of our OTAs, the minicamp, all that kind of stuff. His effort has been outstanding but he has a lot of work to do to catch up. But he's definitely headed in the right direction."

Like everyone else, Smith is already impressed with Jarmon's work ethic and quick mind.

"The thing that is very positive about a kid like him . . . he does get better as the practice goes on, which really proves that he is a quicker study," he said. "Hopefully that will continue on a daily basis. Sometimes that happens for three or four days and then you run into a wall and maybe that won't happen with him. He definitely gets better as he repeats the plays and hears corrections and comments."

Because he moved to Northern Virginia right after the July 16 draft, Jarmon had time to look around the area and has decided where he'd like to live once camp breaks and he can leave the mandatory team hotel.

"I'm really interested in the Reston area, I really like the Town Center area," he said, adding with a grin, "Lot of young people, lot of places for me."

Jarmon was born in Fort Knox, Ky. His parents were both in the Army. He moved to Tennessee when he was 4 but the die was cast; he wanted to go to Kentucky from that time and never wavered. He loves it there but thinks he'll make his offseason home in this area. The combination of area universities and politics makes it a perfect spot.

All that's lacking is a bit of French conversation. That should be easy to solve as well. Perhaps he can follow the formula that worked at Kentucky.

"I stayed in international dorms on campus so it was easier for me to really pick up on things," he said. "There were three French girls I was really close with, when we'd go out, we'd always speak in French, so I speak that really well."

I told you he was a smart kid.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company