Coming into the National Preps Collegiate Showcase on November 21 at Vacaville Christian High, Salinas senior linebacker Jason Palodichuk had never won an individual award at any camps or showcase events.
Now, after gradually improving since the end of last season and impressing the National Preps coaches at three of their showcases, in Fresno and Reno, and finally Vacaville, the 6-2 1/2, 199-pound Palodichuk was named one of the co-Defensive Breakout Prospects of the Camp along with Folsom senior defensive back Dorian Blackwell.
“It was a little bit of a surprise because getting an MVP never happened before,” Palodichuk said. “I know there was a lot of great talent out there in Vacaville, and to be honored as an MVP for the showcase was truly an honor and humbling.”
“I felt that I had been improving from other showcases I attended,” he continued. “But everything that day felt right and I felt like I had my all-around best performance and a crowning achievement, a fact that I took home Breakout MVP for defense speaks to the truth of that.”
What does Jason feel made him stand out enough to snag an individual honor?
“Since this was third time attending a National Preps Showcase, their coaches like Coach (Trent) Herzog, Coach (Jordan) Reyes, and Coach (Paul) Gregorian had told me how much I had improved from their eyes,” Palodichuk responded. “Examples were my increase in speed and explosiveness, my lateral movement really stood out to them, but the highlight had to be setting a new PR for my 40 yard dash, a 4.6 laser timed that Coach Herzog got to watch first hand and congratulated me on.”
Palodichuk also posted a decent 8’5” standing broad jump but what might be his most impressive number that could be a benefit to him in the recruiting process is a 4.325 GPA in the classroom.
“Jason is an incredible athlete and has a work ethic you want in every kid on your team, and we look to our seniors like him to lead us in everything,” Salinas coach Steve Zenk said. “He’s great in the classroom, a great teammate, and coachable. I can’t say enough nice things about him.”
Besides the National Preps coaches and his high school coach, Palodichuk also impressed Brandon Huffman, the 247Sports.com National Recruiting Editor.
"I like his frame and his range,” Huffman said. “He could put on weight and play inside, or stay outside, but has the frame and length with athleticism to play at the next level.”
Last season on a team that went 9-2 and 7-0 in a Pacific Coast Athletic League-Gabilan Division that includes perennial power and cross-town rival Palma, Palodichuk, who played wide receiver as a sophomore, had to learn defense and started a little slow the first couple of games. Even so, he had 37 tackles, a sack and forced fumble, and a blocked field goal.
In his best game, a 24-17 victory over San Benito, he had 10 tackles and the blocked field goal, and he did it playing the second half with a broken wrist.
If we have some kind of season, Zenk will look to Palodichuk to be a contributor on both sides of the ball.
“He played strong safety for us last year and was previously a wide receiver,” Zenk said. “We are looking to use him at free safety this year and all over on offense, a true NFL H-back type tight end spot.”
Like players at every level, Palodichuk has attributes as well as areas in which he can improve.
“My best attributes are I feel my size and length really help me excel at the position I played last year, a hybrid linebacker/safety,” Palodichuk said. “It was my first time playing defense and I took first-team all-league as well as honorable mention for all-Central Coast Section.
“I also have excellent hands, as I played wide receiver, before I moved to defense,” Jason continued. “I also played basketball and lacrosse at Salinas High, which helps with my speed and lateral movement. But I feel my greatest strength is being a smart player and very coachable. I pick up things really fast and then I am able to help other teammates transition to what is happening.”
With respect to where he feels he can improve, Palodichuk had this to say:
“There is always room for improvement. An area I am really focusing on is putting on weight. I have been putting extra time in the weight room, as I would like to be pushing 220 pounds by summertime. I would also like to maintain or increase my agility and speed as I put on weight.”
As a senior who has just shown he’s become a breakout D1 prospect, having a season would significantly help increase his college opportunities.
“I really hope we get to play,” Palodichuk said. “I really want the chance to play with my teammates one more time and play our rival Palma. I would be happy if they even just let us play that one game. That is, if they let us play.”
Right now Palodichuk has several offers, including Pacific, but all are D2 level programs. Hopefully, with his newfound recognition, and an A-plus GPA, his opportunities will expand.
“Recruitment during the age of COVID is so difficult,” Palodichuk remarked. “My recruitment started great right out of the chute. I had lots of D1 schools, as well as D2 and D3s direct messaging me on Twitter, emails, and texts with their interest in me. I was planning on visiting several schools and meet the coaches. Then, the pandemic hit and everything really started to slow down.”
“By fall, and by the time school had started, it seemed like there was no interest at all anymore. I do feel fortunate that I was able to start attending these showcases and get my recruitment back on track,” Jason continued. "I am also fortunate that I had a great junior season with great Hudl film. It got me on the radar of some schools. Sacramento State is a school who reached out with some interest (but no offer) after seeing me at National Preps, so I am blessed that I feel I have a future playing college football.”
As an exemplary student-athlete, it’s not surprising Palodichuk has lofty ambitions.
My long-term goals are I want to major in computer science. I love coding and everything about computers. I would like to design software and work for a successful tech company. I also have a desire to be a firefighter, as my dad is a fire captain in San Jose. One thing is for sure, I will have time to figure it out and enjoy college and, hopefully, playing some really great college football in the process.”
As a senior who has experienced a final year of high school like no other high school student may ever have had to endure, we thought we would give Palodichuk an opportunity to give us his final thoughts.
"What I'd like to conclude with is everything I have worked for the last several years has finally come and I’m rapidly approaching graduation and becoming a college student," he said. "I know there is this massive thing in the way that has affected everyone and I refuse to let COVID stand in the way of my goals and my future. I know this is a slight setback in a very bright future I have ahead of me.”