BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- From Damascus High School to Super Bowl Champion, Jake Funk is living the dream.
WJZ's Rick Ritter had the chance to catch up with the Los Angeles Rams Rookie Running Back just hours after confetti fell at SoFi Stadium and the Rams were hoisting the Lombardi trophy.
"It's a dream come true. It's a title that I dreamt of since I was a kid" Funk told Ritter. "Words can't describe it. The feeling we got on the field when we won was unbelievable. To be honest, it didn't even hit me that we were playing in the Super Bowl until I walked out on the field. It was an unreal experience and I was trying to soak it all in because it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity."
It hasn't all been celebrations and confetti for Funk. Let's backtrack and talk about how the 24-year-old and Maryland native got to this point.
Despite being named 2015 Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year at Damascus High School, earning two all-state selections and scoring 7 (yes 7) touchdowns in the state championship game his senior year, Funk had little interest from big-time Division one schools. In fact, Maryland & Wisconsin were the only big-time programs to offer him a scholarship. Once Maryland offered, Funk hopped on the opportunity to play in his home state.
Funk ended up being the first commit for Mike Locksley, who was the interim head coach then. When it was time for the versatile back to get rolling in his Junior & Senior year, both seasons ended with a torn ACL.
His Redshirt senior year was his golden opportunity to chase his dream and make a big enough impact to not only stay on the field for the Terps but catch the eye of NFL scouts.
"Being under-recruited was tough. Not a lot of schools thought I could play running back at the D1 level. I couldn't tell you why but not a lot thought I could do it" says Funk. "Coach Locksley really believed in me from the jump. I'm extremely grateful for that."
In what was a COVID shortened season, Funk finished with 516 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns, while catching 10 passes for 68 yards and 1 touchdown. All of that, in just four games, including a career day against Minnesota when had more than 250 total yards and 2 touchdowns.
After lighting up his pro day at Maryland, Funk went from being predicted to go undrafted, to a possible mid-round selection. Ultimately, it was Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams who took a chance on Funk, drafting him with the 233rd selection in the 7th round.
Back then WJZ spoke with Funk, who credited his work ethic, support system & Coach Mike Locksley for helping him land on an NFL team. That, along with Sean McVay & the Rams staff, for giving him a chance.
His agent Sam Sankovich and the team at Steinberg Sports and Entertainment saw the potential in Funk, as well.
"Jake had the tenacity, vision, talent, and work ethic coming out of college. He was always going to succeed. He just benefitted immensely and continued to take advantage of access to the proper tools and the opportunities that came his way" says Sankovich, NFL agent & Vice President of Football Operations at Steinberg Sports & Entertainment.
Funk impressed enough in training camp to make the Rams 53-man roster. Most of the 2021-2022 season, saw him serve primarily as a special teams player for the Rams. He ended with 2 carries on the season and another 2 in the postseason.
"Coming in and just being able to do everything I could to contribute to this team, that was my goal from day one. I didn't care if it was Running Back or Special Teams. I just wanted to come in and help this team win ball games" says Funk. "Winning is the number one priority and winning one of these (a Super Bowl) makes memories that last forever."
Despite winning the Super Bowl as a rookie, Funk remains more humble than ever.
"I truly feel blessed, I am spoiled. I come in year one and this is what my first year has been. We have guys on my team and that have been in the league for a decade and they just got into the playoffs for the first time" says Funk. "It gives me perspective on the actual accomplishment of being in the Super Bowl."
Funk shed light on the team's mood, as they watched Matthew Stafford and the offense get an opportunity to take the lead, late in the game.
"Whenever Matthew and our offense get the ball, there's full confidence they can go all the way down and score. It doesn't matter what possession or what time of the game" Funk said. "Him and Coop were doing it all year and they continued to do it when it mattered most. Coop had one hell of a year and if not, one of the best years for a Wide Receiver in the entire league's history."
As soon as Aaron Donald sacked Joe Burrow to essentially end the game, Funk says it all just hit him.
"I was tearing up, I was crying. It's literally everything you dreamed of as a kid. You work so hard in this sport, for that moment and not a lot of people get it, obviously" Funk said. "Everything that has led me to this point. It gave me a whole different perspective. You realize how far you've come in such a short amount of time, which is something I can't even put into words."
"It means the world to me to see him not only accomplish a life-long dream of showcasing his talents at the highest level in the NFL and to be a season-long contributor on the field (with both the RB and ST groups) but to also reach a dream only few can imagine and touch, winning the Lombardi. This is what it's all about" Sankovich said.
"I just thank God every day that he's blessed me these past couple of years," Funk said. "After so many years of losing, I feel like I've finally won."
His story plays out like a sports movie, with the perfect ending. It's one that many across Maryland have been following all year. One that's inspiring athletes all over.
"What's your message to every kid who's been following you and your journey?" Ritter asked Funk.
"Dream big and never give up. You have to be able to dream big and consistently work at it. Even when no one is watching or no one is giving you the time of day, you have to believe in yourself and continue to do the things you need to do to be great" Funk answered.
"Your mind is a powerful thing," he continued. "You have to envision yourself in the spot you want to be in. For years in college when I was injured, I had it planned out in my head how the draft process would go. How I would get drafted. I couldn't predict me winning a Super Bowl but I did have it all planned out in my head. It's incredible when you see things you envision in your head and finally control the thoughts in your brain and focus on what you want to do in life. When you have that power in your mind and the relentless attitude, good things fall into place."
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