By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
Exceptional athleticism runs in the blood of each of the six Sterns boys. Coincidently, the color orange and collegiate football careers also run thick.
The family will soon have to plan several trips to Houston this coming fall following the youngest Sterns student-athlete signing a National Letter of Intent with Houston Baptist University — where he’ll join his brother on the gridiron for the first time.
Josh Sterns, a Waxahachie senior, recently inked his NLI with the Huskies during the early national signing period in late December. The signature at his family’s house was sent via old-school fax over to HBU coaches and honored a verbal commitment he made during his junior year. It will also reunite him with Jerreth, a current HBU sophomore wide receiver, 2018 Waxahachie grad and one of Josh’s five older brothers.
“I made my decision…it was just easier because he (Jerreth) was already there and the coaches actually showed that they wanted me there and actually thought I was good,” Josh told KBEC Sports during an episode of The Press Box.
Josh is coming off of a senior season cut short due to injury. And, honestly, short is putting it too lightly, as he did not step back onto the field following an ankle injury on the Indians’ first offensive drive of the season.
“It was rough this season,” Josh explained. “I just had to watch them play every game but I was happy for them during all of the good plays they made. Now, I am just hungry and ready to go play my first game in a while. I am ready to play and play my heart out to make a name for myself.”
He added, “[The injury] made me learn that, one, you have to play every play like it is your last. And, two, it gave me an opportunity to go into college with a fresh everything and no other injuries. It will help me to get as strong and as fast as I can.”
Josh entered his senior season on the heels of a junior campaign that put the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex on notice. Without knocking others, he was an offseason favorite to snag KBEC Sports All-Ellis County Player of the Year honors and was thought in many circles to be one of the most gifted student-athletes in the area.
To put it simply: Josh is a game-changer.
Listed at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, Josh will step on to the HBU campus after being a two-year letter winner at Waxahachie High under head football coach Todd Alexander. He recorded 37 receptions for 603 yards and eight touchdowns during his junior season, while also posting a jaw-dropping 4.37-second time in the 40-yard dash.
“I can’t wait to be down there because I can’t wait to be lined up across from my brother for once,” Josh said of the upcoming football season. “We haven’t actually gotten to line up on the field at the same time playing together.”
According to both Josh and Jerreth, the early plan relayed to the duo is for Jerreth to primarily play in the left slot at wide receiver with Josh lining up in the right slot.
Good luck, play-by-play announcers.
In high school, Jerreth accounted for 18 total touchdowns and eight interceptions during his senior campaign at Waxahachie.
He then took the HBU campus by storm during his freshman season, ultimately appearing in all 11 games for HBU, earning an All-Southland Conference honorable mention along the way.
Jerreth led the conference with a then-program record 68 catches for 684 yards and four touchdowns and also recorded three of HBU’s then-seven 100-yard receiving performances in university history, all while recording a program-high 11 receptions against Central Arkansas and Nicholls.
The now-5-foot-8, 180-pound wideout then exploded in 2019, noting the game began to slow down as his sophomore season unfolded.
“Whenever the game does slow down to you, you are just having fun out there because you aren’t nervous and can just do you and do what you do and just be a playmaker,” Jerreth told KBEC Sports during an episode of The Press Box. “You aren’t feeling like, ‘Oh, I can’t mess up’ or ‘I can’t do this,’ everything just comes more naturally and you are more smooth. It’s just a lot slower.”
He added, “I think Josh will be able to adjust to it pretty quickly because he’s already around me and we always go do one-on-ones at the field (in Waxahachie).”
As a sophomore at HBU, Jerreth was an All-Southland Conference third-team pick after he led all of NCAA Division-I Football Championship Subdivision with 105 catches, which was the second-most in Southland Conference history.
“It was a blessing,” he said of the program record in receptions. “But, honestly, I was making a lot of the routine plays, so next year I want to take those plays and turn them into the next-level plays like taking a 5-yard out and turning it into a 70-yard touchdown. And, just whenever the ball is in the air, come down with it every time.”
Jerreth ultimately finished sixth in the FCS with 833 receiving yards and tied for fifth with nine touchdown receptions. He also rushed and threw for at least one touchdown for the second consecutive season.
Jerreth matched his three 100-yard performances posted during his freshman campaign, which included a season-high 136 yards against the University of Incarnate Word, and tied the Southland Conference record for receptions in a game (18) against UIW. He also recorded nine or more receptions seven times, with four of those occurrences resulting in double-digit catches.
“I just love how football is a brotherhood and it takes all 11 players on the field to make a play work,” Jerreth added. “Football is just a lot different than a lot of other sports. You know, in basketball, one player can take over a game completely. And you could say the same thing about football, but it really requires all 11-players to win a game.”
ORANGE IS THE NEW FAST
Josh and Jerreth will not be the only Sterns brothers to don orange at the collegiate level — next season included.
Caden Sterns, who is just a few months younger than Jerreth, is a two-year starter in burnt orange and at safety for the University of Texas. There is also Jordan Sterns, who most recently played for the Kansas City Chiefs following a collegiate career at Oklahoma State University.
The eldest brothers, Jamison, who attended West Texas A&M University, and Jay Sterns shined on the football field for Waxahachie.
Of course, their father, James, was a standout basketball player at Waxahachie (1979-81) and Baylor University, and also enjoyed a professional career with the Harlem Globetrotters and Pensacola Tornados.
And, truth be told, it was James that first alerted me to Josh’s potential on the gridiron. We were seated just inside the front door of his then-newly-opened Ellis County Performance and Recovery Center in downtown Waxahachie during December of 2017.
At that time, Josh had just wrapped up his freshman season, pushing any thoughts of his potential breakout to the back burner. It then took just a few catches in space for his father’s prediction to come true — Josh is the fastest of the Sterns boys.
When Josh and Jerreth were asked who the fastest of the six brothers is, it was Josh who quickly answered first.
“Josh,” he said with a laugh.
Jerreth, with a bit more composure and thought, countered and noted through a laugh that it would either be Josh or James.
“I think that I am going to be ready to prove it,” Josh confidently added.
Jerreth then credited their athletic upbringing for the on-field (or track) success.
“Our father always pushed us and our mother held us to a high standard, so our household was always competitive and always competing and it just made us better along the way,” he explained.
WHEN TO WATCH
The Sterns brothers will look to help the Huskies best their program-record win total set in 2019 (5) next fall. The previous program-high in wins (4) was set in 2016, which was the third under current head coach Vic Shealy. HBU launched its football program in 2014.
HBU is scheduled to open the 2020 season Saturday, Sept. 5 at the University of North Texas on Sept. 5 in Denton. A kickoff time has not yet been set.
Portions of this report were first heard during a KBEC Sports airing of The Press Box. Those interviews can be heard in their entirety here: http://bit.ly/2syfpQs.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith