Jashon Cornell can’t help but laugh as he talks about his gameday superstitions.
Highlights include his lucky pair of socks, and the same breakfast and pregame meals every week. The pregame meal is a Chipotle burrito, chips with guacamole and coconut water.
But it’s his choice of pregame music that is perhaps most unusual. What gets Cornell into a rhythm gives quarterbacks the blues.
“I usually listen to some R&B songs to get me hyped,” Cornell said. “I just love R&B music and that’s what gets me in my zone.”
It’s a recipe that has helped him become one of the nation’s most sought-after defensive ends. Over the last two years, Cornell has racked up 122 tackles, 29 sacks and five forced fumbles. Also an accomplished student with a 3.5 GPA at prestigious Cretin-Derham Hall High School in Saint Paul, Minn., Cornell aims to major in international business.
Although he dabbled with basketball and lacrosse in high school, Cornell’s passion for football was developed at an early age. It was the only sport he played from kindergarten until the sixth grade.
While his love affair with the game began early, his journey to becoming a 5-star recruit was far from smooth. As detailed by Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports, Cornell’s drive and work ethic—traits he inherited from his mother—are what turned a raw athlete into a powerful force as a pass-rusher.
Cornell chuckles as he recalls playing receiver simply because his coaches felt he was faster than everyone else.
“When I was at receiver, I was like, ‘yeah, this is not going to work for me.’” Cornell said. “I think around eighth grade, I decided to play defense. I knew I’d rather hit somebody than to get hit.”
His transformation into the hulking 6’4”, 255-pound defensive end with a 40-inch vertical and a 40-yard dash time of 4.6 seconds began a year after his epiphany to focus on defense.
“Watching those guys go through the process, I looked up to them,” Cornell said. “It made me want to become one of those players and become that prestigious athlete that every college in the country wants. I feel like ever since that first camp my freshman year, hopping in that car to go to camp with them, it was like my eyes opened wide to the college football world.”
It didn’t take much longer for the rest of the nation to take notice. Prior to the start of his junior season, ESPN tabbed him as the top overall prospect in the 2015 class, according to Marcus R. Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Now, schools such as Notre Dame, Michigan State, Michigan, and Penn State are among the schools fighting to earn his commitment—which will come on Aug. 28.
Cornell realizes the hype and pressure that comes with such accolades.
Furthermore, since he hails from the same school that produced Chris Weinke, Michael Floyd and former No. 1 recruits like Joe Mauer and Seantrel Henderson, he wants to establish a tradition of excellence on the defensive side of the ball.
“CDH is known for their offensive players, so for me to be one of the top defensive players to come out of CDH, I feel like it’s my responsibility to show my talent and be the best player I can be,” Cornell said. “I try to stay in the weight room and do all the little things and make sure that I’m not taking days off.
With that mindset fueling him as he approaches his senior season, his next challenge will be trying to help Cretin-Derham Hall capture its first state title since 2009.
“It’s my last high school season,” Cornell said. “As a team captain this year, I feel like it’s my duty to lead our team to a state championship. That’s the main goal.”
Sanjay Kirpalani is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.