Nashua South’s Pacheco poised for football season

Staff photo by TOM KING A slimmer, quicker Jaylan Pacheco, shown taking a handoff in pracitce from Dante Young, should help the Nashua South football team this fall.

NASHUA – Introducing the New Jaylan Pacheco.

You might not recognize him these days. The Nashua High School South running back/linebacker underwent a complete physical transformation into a slimmer, even more athletic body than his 2017 predecessor.

Gone is the old 5-foot-9, 235 pound Jaylan Pacheco.

Now arriving is the 5-9, 195 Pacheco.

“I liked being big,” he said, “because I had a lot of weight that I could use (for contact). But I didn’t feel healthy.”

What prompted the change? Pacheco, thanks to numerous hits, suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder early last season. But after consulting with the trainers, doctors, parents, etc., “They said if I could take the right steps I could finish the season with it.”

And, of course, if he could handle the pain. He said there were times where it hurt, depending on how he moved, but was something he could deal with. In his mind, he didn’t really have a choice.

“I didn’t have that many years of (South) football left,” Pacheco, now a senior, said. “If I could finish the season, I wanted to finish the season.”

And he did just that, having the surgery in late November after the Turkey Eve Bowl.

“He just loves football,” Nashua South coach Scott Knight said. “A kid like that has so much passion and will do everything he can to play. With a labrum, once we knew he needed the surgery, once you know you have it, if you can manage the pain. … He would play Friday night, and we’d get him functional for the next game. There were some games he couldn’t be functional, and he had to sit.”

Football is something he loves – Pacheco has been playing it since he was 6-years-old – and he definitely wants to play in college. What also led to the injury was his love for playing linebacker, another high contact position.

“Everybody likes scoring touchdowns,” Pacheco said. “But the way I play football, I like being aggressive. As a linebacker, I don’t have much responsibility, I just have to go get the ball carrier.”

Pacheco feared that his inactivity following surgery could lead to him gaining weight from what others warned him.

“I took that to heart,” he said. “I felt I can’t let me having surgery be an excuse for letting myself go. So as soon as I could I was running, doing anything I could to stay in shape. I was losing weight and I started feeling healthier and faster. Then I could only imagine what would happen if I put the right stuff in my body.”

Gone were potato chips, soda, candy. Welcome fish, chicken, rice.

“I try to eat what makes my body feel good,” he said.

And he notices the difference.

“I just feel like an athlete now,” he said. “I feel I can move better, I can breathe better, I’m quicker. I just feel like I’m a better athlete overall.”

How much discipline did this take? Well, for one, Pacheco works at Dunkin Donuts. Yikes.

“So the kid with the sweet tooth,” Knight said with a chuckle, “that’s dangerous.”

Knight, knowing Pacheco is tough, aggressive and also great in the weight room, had a conversation with his player over the winter. He told him he was as strong as he needed to be “to be a great high school football player right now. We need to focus more on things that could really help you, which is your mobility. And he really bought into that. And he’s figured out he’s maintained his strength.”

What plays will Pacheco be able to make for the Panthers that he couldn’t make before?

“Last year, because I was so much bigger, I didn’t have to worry about making moves, I’d just run into you,” he said. “Now I’ve been working with my teammates on changing my cutting, changing direction, a lot of speed and lateral movements.”

He can chase people, but he can also become from a plowhorse as a back to one with breakaway speed.

“This will be his third year starting at linebacker,” Knight said. “And he’s good at running back up inside. What he’ll have this year, he’ll get up in there a little bit quicker. But now once he gets past that second level he can break.”

Pacheco also plays lacrosse and plans on running indoor track this winter. But football is number one.

“Football,” he said, “will always be my passion.”

Pacheco is considering a future in the military or studying criminal justice in college. Meanwhile, he’s not stopping with the progress and changes he’s made.

“I’m not done,” he said. “I’m not done, I can always get better. But right now I look in the mirror and I’m happier with myself.

“I’m making the right choices to better myself in life. When I see myself and see the progression that I’m making, it motivates me more to keep doing what I’m doing.”

The Panthers will most likely like the new Jaylan Pacheco just fine.