By Jim Irish
Like many Texas high school football players, former Bastrop High School running back Jhe’Quay Chretin departed the Lone Star State to pursue his goal of playing in college.
Chretin, however, moved more than a 1,000 miles to Aurora, Ill. to compete at Division III Aurora University in 2019. The Spartans saw potential in Chretin.
“We really poured into him, and here he is now, doing everything he dreamed of doing when he was a kid,” Aurora head coach Don Beebe said.
"...You can't run from the cold."
-- Jhe'Quay Chretin about weather in Illinois
Chretin said the only difficult adjustment at Aurora was the weather.
“…You can’t run from the cold,” said Chretin, a business administration major.
Chretin not highly recruited by colleges despite outstanding senior season
Despite rushing for 1,600 yards his senior season at Bastrop, including 353 yards in a double overtime 63-62 loss in the playoffs against Kerrville Tivy, Chretin received only one offer from a Texas college — JUCO Trinity Valley.
Chretin, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound junior with 4.5-second speed in the 40, has taken advantage of his opportunity at Aurora. He set the single-season rushing record with 1,342 yards and scored 12 touchdowns this year. As a receiver, he has caught 21 passes for 203 yards and one touchdown.
“He’s definitely one of the top running backs in the country (in DIII), no question about that,” said Beebe, who played in six Super Bowls as a receiver in the NFL and is famously remembered for sprinting from behind and causing the Cowboys’ Leon Lett to fumble before the goal line in Super Bowl XXVII. “His strength is very quick feet in the hole, which means that when he gets in the crease he can change direction very, very quickly.”
"He's definitely one of the top running backs in the country, no question about that."
-- Aurora University coach Don Beebe, who played in six Super Bowls in the NFL
Beebe added that Chretin is “extremely balanced and strong. He’s hard to bring down.”
Beebe also makes a point of knowing his athletes as individuals.
“He’s a high energy kid, really a bubbly personality, a million-dollar smile,” Beebe said about Chretin. “I’ve never had an issue with him. Every time I’ve coached him, it’s ‘Yes sir.’ “
Chretin's success has not surprised former Bastrop head coach Todd Patmon, the current defensive coordinator at Del Valle.
"We always thought he was a very gifted running back with great vision, explosiveness, and competitiveness, Patmon said. "His parents did a good job of raising and preparing him for college."
With Chretin the lone setback in a variation of the West Coast offense, the Spartans have compiled a 10-1 record and play Alma (Mich.) College at 11 a.m. on Saturday on the road in the second round of the DIII playoffs. The contest will be broadcast live on YouTube.
Running back learned patience as a backup
Chretin played little his first two seasons and learned patience as a backup.
“We tell recruits all the time when you come into a good program, you’re going to have to work your way up,” Beebe said. “(Chretin) was very humble. There was never an issue. Yes, he wanted to play; he’s a competitor. I kept telling him, ‘Your time will come.’ Now, that day is here.”
For his part, Chretin said he struggled to learn the 400-page playbook as a freshman.
“It was difficult,” he said. “I was just immature.”
Aurora, ranked No. 36 in DIII, faces a highly competitive Alma squad, 11-0 and ranked No. 6.
“I am a firm believer that when you get to the playoffs and tough games, you have to be able to run and stop the run,” Beebe said. “I don’t think that’s ever changed and ever will change.
“Alma is a very sound, well-coached, scrappy team. They play together and have great chemistry.”
Chretin has another opportunity to display his running ability.
“I’ve been doing it since high school,” he said. "I’ve been working hard on my craft.”
Jim Irish is a freelance writer living in Bastrop, Texas