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Native set for Super Sunday

January 27, 2003|By ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Jefferson High School assistant football coach Mark Hash might be a big Indianapolis Colts football fan, but he'll be cheering for the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl today.

Raiders wide receiver James Jett, who wears No. 82 for Oakland, honed his football skills in high school under the tutelage of Hash and head coach Jay Kirby.

"We always thought James might be the one to make it the NFL," said Hash, who also served as Jett's assistant track coach. "But I don't think you ever dream one of your athletes or students will make it to the Super Bowl. It would be great to see him walk on the field."

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It's not known whether Jett, 32, will play when the Raiders face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Jett has played in 139 games with 74 starts in nine pro seasons, catching 256 passes for 4,417 yards (17.3 yards per reception) since entering the NFL in 1993.

Jett played in 11 games in 2001 - scoring a touchdown during the AFC divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots - but has played in only one game this season.

"I hope he gets into the game," Kirby said "Either way, we're rooting for his team."

An undrafted free agent, Jett was one of three first-year receivers to make the Los Angeles Raiders roster in 1993. Kirby remembered his former player's excited phone call following his tryout with the team. Jett would have been happy just making the practice squad, Kirby said.

Jett, a Kearneysville, W.Va., native, is celebrating his 10th year with the Raiders - longevity which Kirby attributes to Jett's athletic prowess, intelligence and personality.

"He takes good care of himself. He's blessed with great speed. He's smart. And he's a nice guy," Kirby said.

The Jefferson High sports standout established himself as one of the fastest players in college football during his time with the West Virginia University Mountaineers. Jett, who was the only true freshman to play on WVU's 1989 Gator Bowl team, lettered in football and track during all four years at the school.

He was honored as the West Virginia Track and Field Athlete of the Year in 1992 - the same year he won a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. Jett won his medal as first alternate on the U.S. men's 400-meter relay team, for which he ran the anchor leg in its semifinal preliminary heat.

A Raiders' Super Bowl victory would give Jett another priceless souvenir - even if he doesn't play in the big game.

"How many kids do you coach who have an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring?" Hash asked.

Jett won the NFL Fastest Man competition in 1996. And he recently was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.

"I'm very proud," said his father, Louis Jett of Charles Town, W.Va. "James is very talented. I've dreamed about him going to the Super Bowl."

Jett and his wife, Cara, live in the Oakland area with their children, James Jr. and Jordan.

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