From South Burlington High to St. Francis, Jared Lebowitz traveled nearly 3,000 miles looking to fulfill a dream upon the football field.
“My dream was to get a Division I scholarship,” Lebowitz says. “The dream hasn’t changed.”
But plenty has changed for the Golden Knights senior since he ventured from Vermont to the hot bed of high school football that is Southern California.
However, one thing that hasn’t changed has been Lebowitz’ consistency.
Forty-four consecutive varsity starts marked his high school football career over two states, with plenty of gaudy statistical numbers in between.
Of course, the final number that likely stands out most in Lebowitz’ final season with the Golden Knights is 4-7 — St. Francis’ final record in a season marked by fresh and inexperienced faces filling starting roles for the first time.
Thus, one could easily argue that Lebowitz could’ve likely produced a lot bigger numbers had his situation been a bit different.
“No doubt, they could’ve been better,” said St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds of his quarterback’s statistics. “We were very young up front [on the offensive line]. That affected Jared two ways. We had difficulty protecting him, but we also had difficulty running the ball. So, everybody knew we had to throw the ball and he still put up big numbers.
“For him to put up the numbers he did is pretty darn impressive.”
While one could argue how much better Lebowitz’ numbers could have been had the circumstances of the season been different, nobody can argue that his numbers were the best in the area, as he had more touchdown passes and yards per game than anyone else.
Thus, the argument for Lebowitz as the best in the area was an easy one, as he was unanimously voted the 2012 All-Area Football Player of the Year by the sports writers of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader, La Cañada Valley Sun and Pasadena Sun.
“I think the biggest attribute he showed this season was the ability to get the job done,” says St. Francis safety Joe Velladao, a first-team All-Area and All-Mission League pick, who was also one of three of his team’s captains along with Lebowitz and center Matt Kubly. “He’s really a sleeper. He put up the same numbers [as other standout quarterbacks] with less talent around him.
“Our record didn’t really display the kind of talents he can show.”
At the end of the season, Lebowitz completed 192 of 350 passes (55%) for 2,560 yards and 23 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. For good measure, he added 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground.
When Bonds describes Lebowitz and the skillset he showcased in 2012, it’s as one that displayed great arm strength, escapability and the prowess to make plays on the run.
“He did all those things for us this year,” Bonds says. “The biggest asset for him is he can handle every throw a quarterback needs to make. ... He’s one of the best I’ve ever coached.”
In his sophomore season at South Burlington, Lebowitz posted 30 touchdowns and 2,700 yards passing to 13 interceptions. It marked the halfway point of a varsity football career that saw him start 44 consecutive games from his start as a South Burlington Rebels freshman to his conclusion as a St. Francis Golden Knights senior.
But the transition from football in Vermont to football in Southern California was one that took some time to get used to.
“There was definitely some growing pains,” Kubly says. “But he was able to work them out and learn from whatever mistakes he made.”
Lebowitz was afforded the luxury of starting on a team that, heading into the first game of the 2011 season, had 20 senior starters on the field. Thus, despite playing such an important position, the pressure wasn’t as magnified.
“I was patchy,” says Lebowitz, an 18-year-old Pasadena resident. “I showed flashes of what I could do.
“It was a little overwhelming.”
At the end of his junior season, Lebowitz was a second-team All-Area and All-Mission selection, having passed for 2,234 yards and 21 scores to eight picks, completing 156 passes for 307 yards in 12 games, while tacking on 257 yards and four scores running the ball.
“He had a nice supporting cast and he was a deer in headlights just getting used to the speed and physicality of California football,” Bonds says. “But his senior year, everybody looked to him and he stepped up. He went out there and he got knocked down, but he kept getting up, he never wanted to leave a game.”
Indeed, the offseason between the 2011 and 2012 campaigns was one of staggering change for St. Francis. Lebowitz, a transfer who was one of the only fresh faces in a vaunted 2011 lineup that would key a 9-3 CIF quarterfinal season, and Kubly were the only Golden Knights who were penciled in as starters leading into both years.
“Complete polar opposite experiences,” Lebowitz says. “[The seniors in 2011] were all great leaders in their own way.
“This season, we really had to rely on heart and being tough. We definitely outplayed our talent with heart and hustle. We just got outgunned sometimes.”
St. Francis’ 4-7 record was a bit deceiving, as its losses came to top-10 teams that nearly all had CIF success, including two state-championship contenders in Monrovia and Gardena Serra, in addition to La Mirada, Cathedral, Harvard-Westlake, Chaminade and Lompoc. Not to mention, four of the losses came by seven points or less.
By most accounts, the losses hardly rested upon the right arm of Lebowitz.
“He progressed with his physicality — his passing and his running — his confidence and on being a leader,” Kubly says. “He improved immensely from last season.
“He was able to take the pool [of talent] we had and make the best of it.”
Lebowitz has a slightly different slant on the past season.
“It’s melancholy because I’m so proud of the team, but I demand more of myself,” Lebowitz says. “[I have] absolute pride for the team for the way those guys battled.”
It’s clearly evidence of the way Lebowitz led his team, a manner that was both by example and vocal, according to his teammates, but one that stressed playing hard above and beyond all else.
“He wanted us to go out every game playing our hearts out, giving it all we had,” senior running back Daniel Kawamura says. “He wanted us to play as one.”
Adds Kubly: “He has no quit in him. He’ll play to the very last second of the game.”
And just as Lebowitz never quit on a game, he’s not close to calling quits to his days on the gridiron.
“Football’s been an obsession of mine since the fourth grade,” he says, “and I’d like to see how far I can take it.”
Lebowitz says he’s received a few smaller division offers and though he doesn’t snub his nose at them, he’s still moving forward on realizing his dream of a Division I scholarship.
Bonds, who Lebowitz calls a “second dad,” is in his corner along with plenty of others, including quarterback guru Steve Clarkson, who’s previously worked with the 6-foot-3, 195-pound signal-caller, and even NFL Hall of Famer Warren Moon, who Lebowitz has developed ties with.
“I have all these people going to the plate for me, I’m so happy for it,” Lebowitz says. “They believe I can play on Saturdays.
“All I need is one [school to believe in me]. My dream since I first picked up the pigskin was to be a Division I scholarship quarterback.”
Blessed with prototypical size and stature, arm strength and accuracy, fleet feet and forward-thinking, Lebowitz is seen by those around him as a Division I quarterback that simply hasn’t found a university to call home just yet.
“If you just look at him, he looks like a quarterback,” Kubly says. “He knows what to do, how to do it and when to do it.”
Lebowitz’ football story began in a small Vermont town, where he realized success seemingly from his first game on. It took him to La Cañada Flintridge and the Golden Knights, where, as a wide-eyed junior he found team success alongside a cavalcade of talented seniors. And as a senior, Lebowitz ended his days as Golden Knight as the area’s best.
Alas, his best days might very well be in front of him.
“That’s been the most impressive thing with Jared is how much he has improved. Not just physically, but his confidence,” Bonds says. “To me, he’s the best quarterback in the area without a Division I offer. I’d go as far as to say in Southern California. I’m shocked he hasn’t been grabbed up.
“Whoever picks him up is gonna get a diamond in the rough.”