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CHARLOTTESVILLE – As a true freshman in 2017, University of Virginia wide receiver Terrell Jana didn’t get to pick his jersey number until a week before the team’s season opener.
This year, Jana was among the 41 players who selected their numbers a full three weeks ahead of UVA’s Sept. 1 opener against Richmond at Scott Stadium.
After the Cavaliers’ 10th practice of training camp, Tuesday morning at historic Lambeth Field, the 6-1, 185-pound Jana said he’s tried to follow the example set by senior wideouts Olamide Zaccheaus and Ben Hogg, two of the team’s leaders.
“I guess the hard work paid off,” said Jana, who went with No. 84 again. “I got my number a little earlier than last year. It means the world to me. It’s special to put a number on my back and my chest, and I’m going to do everything to uphold the standard that it took to get the number in the first place.”
Before enrolling at UVA last summer, Jana spent two years at Woodberry Forest, a prestigious boarding school about 35 miles northeast of Charlottesville, but he’d never been to this state before 2015.
“It was my first time on the East Coast, really,” said Jana, a Canadian who grew up outside Vancouver in British Columbia, where his family still lives.
Jana transferred to Woodberry from St. Thomas More Collegiate in British Columbia after meeting Lindell Stone at a football camp in Texas. Stone, who’s from Dallas, was a record-setting quarterback for the Tigers who turned out to be a talented recruiter, too.
“He told me about Woodberry,” Jana recalled. “It was a great opportunity, so I went and visited and thought, ‘This is the place for me.’
“I just wanted somewhere I could get better as a person and just challenge myself and my ethics and my morals, and it was a great place to grow as a person and a man.”
Jana became Stone’s favorite target at Woodberry, and they remain teammates at UVA. (A third classmate from Woodberry, John Kirven, played defensive end for Virginia last year but had to retire from football for medical reasons.)
Stone appeared in one game as a UVA true freshman last year, completing 2 of 9 passes for 26 yards against Boston College. Jana had a larger role. He played in all 13 games, with one start, for a team that advanced to a bowl for the first time since 2011.
Jana caught only two passes (for 21 yards) in 2017, but he’s expected to be a key part of the rotation at wideout this fall.
“I really am excited to see what the season holds for him, because all spring, all offseason, he’s done exactly what’s been asked of him,” wide receivers coach Marques Hagans said last week. “He’s never flinched. He hasn’t backed down from any challenge that’s been issued to him.”
At this time last summer, Jana had been at UVA for only about a month. A year later, “I’m just more comfortable with the plays, more comfortable with myself,” he said Tuesday. “The summer was a lot of help, just working out with older guys and gaining confidence. Now it’s about applying all we learned in the film room out on the field.”
As a true freshman, Jana said, he learned about “getting those first-game jitters out and being comfortable, hearing the play, getting in the huddle, making blocks, running routes, and just the pregame routine. Seeing what the older guys were doing and how they approached the game. It was just a great opportunity for me to gain some experience.”
The Cavaliers’ freshman class includes four receivers, at least two of whom (Tavares Kelly and Ugo Obasi) are likely to play early. Jana knows he has to earn his playing time.
“Competition breeds greatness,” he said. “Coach Hagans talks about it all the time. The [freshmen], they’re balling out. They’re doing a great job so far. But also, I’m competing with myself. I’m competing with O. I’m trying to be O in drills. I’m trying to be [Hasise Dubois] in drills. I’m trying to beat [cornerback] Bryce [Hall] in one-on-ones. I’m going against the older guys. I’m trying to go against the best.”
The Wahoos’ starting quarterback is junior Bryce Perkins. Battling for the No. 2 job are Stone and true freshman Brennan Armstrong, who like Perkins enrolled at UVA in January.
In training camp, Stone has looked more comfortable and confident than 2017, while displaying a stronger arm.
“He worked really hard this summer,” Jana said. “I know last year he was kind of thrown into some situations, but I’m definitely impressed [with Stone’s improvement]. I’m glad that he’s kind of come into himself this year, and I’m excited to see what he does the rest of fall camp.”