Skip to main content

What motivates renaissance man? 'Life!'

Sun Devil, NFL player, Iraq War veteran and scholar Jeremy Staat has been inducted into Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame

Jeremy Staat
November 09, 2016

The famous British explorer Sir Richard Burton — soldier, poet, linguist, botanist, ethnologist and discoverer of the source of the Nile — once wrote to a friend about his motivations while on an expedition he did not expect to return from.

“I ask myself, ‘Why?’ and the only echo is ‘Damned fool! The Devil drives!’”

Ask former Arizona State University Sun Devil, NFL player, Iraq War veteran, and scholar Jeremy Staat about what makes him go, and he will tell you he is a driven Devil.

“Life!” Staat says when asked what motivates him.

Jeremy Staat

Jeremy Staat with his wife, Janelle

“It frustrates me that people are set up for mediocrity, that they settle for the little things in life,” he said. “I think most people don’t realize what they can accomplish in their lives.”

Staat was inducted into the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame this year. He is being recognized as part of ASU's Salute to Service week. The annual celebration is held across the university's campuses this week to honor America’s men and women in uniform, past and present, and their families.

He is a former American football defensive end who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the St. Louis Rams. From 2006 to 2007, he served as a lance corporal with the 1st Battalion 3rd Marines in Iraq. He earned his bachelor’s degree from ASU in 2009. To the ASU community, he will forever be one of the immortals who started in the legendary 1997 Rose Bowl game.

Now he teaches welding at Bakersfield Community College in California. He earned a master’s degree in education and is now shooting for a doctorate. He is also aiming to compete in archery in the 2020 Olympic Games.

How does he excel at being an athlete, scholar and soldier?

“Your priorities have to be set correctly, and you have to be driven and passionate about what you’re doing,” Staat said. “It all has to do with priorities, and what’s important in life to you. And you have to make sacrifices to accomplish things.”

Two things he eschews are social media and television.

“I do without most of that stuff,” he said. “I’ll see my students spend hours with their faces in their phones, and it’s like, ‘Man, do you know what you could have accomplished in the hours you spent with your face in that phone?’ There’s a lot of time in the day. … I love structure in my life, plotting out my day and sorting out my time management.”

His single-season sack record stands today. Being a Sun Devil taught him about teamwork, he said.

“The greatest thing was teamwork, brotherhood,” he said. “What was fascinating about being at ASU an as an athlete, basically on the academic side you could accomplish anything you wanted if you took the time and made sacrifices. I learned what teamwork was all about, especially on that ’96 team.”

Staat has two mottos in life. As an academic: “If he can do it, I can do it better.”

As an athlete: “Train hard for your worst day.”

How did his military experience compare with his other life experiences? In the Marines, they do not allow you to fail.

“That’s the biggest thing I take from the Marine Corps into my classroom,” he said. “It’s a choice. … You see people in today’s society give up so easily.”

For Staat, there is no giving up.

“The sky’s the limit,” he said.

More Sun Devil community


Portrait of Graham Rossini

Q&A: Rossini on the opportunities, challenges ahead as ASU's new athletic director

Graham Rossini opened a drawer in his office and pulled out a rookie baseball card of Atlanta Braves outfielder Mike Kelly. Rossini bought the card when he was 11 years old and a Braves fan growing…

The ASU women's volleyball team is seen from behind as they stand on the court for the national anthem

Sun Devil Athletics by the numbers: A look back at the 2023–24 season

With the 2024–25 season — and Arizona State University's entrance to the Big 12 — right around the corner, here's a quick look back at Sun Devils' top moments during the 2023–24 season. In addition…

Old Main building

9 winners of prestigious Flinn Scholarship choose ASU

Nine Flinn Scholars, winners of the state’s most prestigious scholarship, have chosen to become Arizona State University Sun Devils for fall 2024. The nine first-year students, among 20 Flinn…