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Bison Game Day: Javier Derritt's older brother also a mentor, savior

Jacob Derritt was 16 years older than his brother Javier, but took the time to help raise the teenager

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Jacob Derritt, right, took his younger brother of 16 years in during Javier Derritt's high school years in hopes of getting him to a Division I level of football.
Submitted photo
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FARGO — There have been a couple spectacular January days in the North Dakota State football career of Javier Derritt. One came in 2019 when, as a true freshman, he was part of an FCS national championship team.

The other came two years later at the same Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. Derritt played in all 15 games that ended with another national title. He gave his first championship ring to his mother, Wanzetta Derritt.

He gave his second to his brother Jacob Derritt. Both raised him in different degrees to the 6-foot-1, 279-man he is now. Mom will always be mom. But Jacob, 16 years older, went extra brother miles.

“Both of us growing up without our biological fathers in our lives, it’s kind of crazy how he stepped into that role in a sense,” Javier said. “He showed me what hard work was, how to be a man and how I get to where I want to be through hard work.”

The relationship evolved over time, with Jacob assuming more of an active role in Javier’s life as both got older.

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The coaching angle started when Javier was in second grade. Jacob, a college basketball player at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, had just graduated and began a career in high school coaching in football and basketball. Jacob coached the running backs in football, but seeing his younger brother had the look of a lineman took the extra effort to pay attention to how the offensive and defensive line coaches worked.

It was becoming obvious by the time Javier was in middle school in Warrensburg, Mo., that he had potential. To help, Jacob offered to have Javier come and live with him in Kansas City, with the caveat being playing for one of the state of Kansas’ best high school programs at St. Thomas Aquinas in Overland Park.

Jacob talked to his mother on the idea, saying the visibility and opportunities at a bigger school would benefit Javier. It wasn’t an overnight decision, but all involved eventually said yes.

“She really didn’t want that to happen but she allowed it after me begging her for two years to do it,” Jacob said. “The story really starts with my mom teaching us about family, what it means to be family.”

Wanzetta Derritt worked two to three jobs to support the family. She had an MVP in Jacob, who routinely dropped Javier and his younger sister off at daycare. Or doing things that his mother needed at home.

Javier said he had his moments of getting into a little trouble, which went into the decision.

“That went into it too, maybe he needs a little more of a male influence in his life,” Javier said. “And he was someone who I respected and looked up to. I just felt like I needed a fresh start. Everything worked out how it was supposed to.”

Plus, Jacob through a Nike program was coaching future NBA players like Michael Porter Jr. at the time, meaning Javier got to hang around them and see first hand what elite level of coaching was like.

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“Just seeing the work that they were putting in,” Javier said. “It showed me what I needed to do to get to the next level and keep on improving my craft.”

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Javier Derritt (58) celebrates with his family after the 2021 FCS national title game in Frisco, Texas with his older brother Jacob, his son Jacob Jr. and his mother Wanzetta.
Submitted photo

St. Thomas Aquinas was led by a Kansas coaching legend in Randy Dreiling, who won multiple state championships at another school and knew former NDSU head coach Chris Klieman well as well as current Bison defensive line coach Nick Goeser. Javier started when he was a freshman and led his team to the school’s first Class 5A state championship when he was a senior co-captain.

He was named Kansas’ Class 5A defensive player of the year. At the same time, Jacob took on more responsibility in being a father figure to his younger brother. He drove him to college prospect camps like NDSU’s annual summer camp.

“We had never really heard of it until we got into the recruiting process,” Jacob said.

The number of college offers Javier had by the time he got to the Bison camp was in the double digits.

“But this is the one we really wanted because it’s North Dakota State,” Jacob said. “I’ve always taught him about legacy and (NDSU) has a rich tradition and legacy up there. He really wanted that scholarship from North Dakota State.”

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North Dakota State's Javier Derritt pressures Southern Illinois’ Nic Baker during their football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, in Carbondale, Illinois.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

Goeser remembers talking with Jacob just as much as he did with Javier in the recruiting process. When he made a home visit, he did so with both Derritt brothers.

Jacob had been through the recruiting rigmarole as a former basketball prospect.

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“He was showing me what coaches are looking for and the things you should be looking for in schools,” Javier said. “He brought me all around the country, and he did most of the driving. It was a really nice experience just to get to hang out with him."

These days, Jacob is leading JP Morgan Chase & Co.’s business banking expansion efforts, which in his central region includes North Dakota and South Dakota.

“For me it was not just trying to mentor him on getting to the highest level of football,” Jacob said, “but also to get him to think, what do you want to do with your life? Everybody eventually has to walk away from the game and we have countless examples of that.”

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On Saturday, Javier and his Bison teammates play the University of Montana in an FCS second-round game at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. Derritt has started every game for a young but improving interior defensive line. He’s had 20 tackles and 1.5 quarterback sacks.

“I see a man who is focused, I see one who is determined,” Jacob said. “He understands the sacrifices he has to make in order to pursue his goals.”

Conversely, Javier is well aware of the sacrifices his brother made in him reaching a college career. He’s a junior on the roster but technically because of the pandemic has two years of eligibility remaining after this season.

“I think it’s a pretty special relationship,” Goeser said. “Obviously Javier relies a lot on what Jacob says. I certainly know Jacob is a big part of Javier’s life. I think it shows you what kind of person Jacob is and the support he gives Javier and how Javier trusts what Jacob has to say.”

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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