When addressing his players, Saint Francis football coach Kevin Donley frequently references his 2014 squad as the team that transitioned the Cougars back into one of the NAIA's elite programs. After finishing 6-5 in 2014, the Cougars claimed two national titles and advanced to the national semifinals twice in the next four seasons.
Senior receiver Jay Segal sees plenty of good despite his squad's 2-4 start to this season, a record that matches the 2014 team through six games. Segal hopes his work on and off the field – starting Saturday in Upland against Taylor – helps aid the Cougars in springboarding back into national prominence.
“Being able to work with a lot of these guys on the team, there's some great young talent here,” Segal said. “I'm hoping I can inspire them.”
After catching 61 passes for 838 yards and 11 touchdowns in leading Lafayette Jeff to a 10-1 record, Segal matriculated to Saint Francis, which he credits for helping him find faith. Putting that faith into action, Segal started working with a youth ministry program at his church.
Those efforts, as well as serving as a role model within the football program and in the classroom earned Segal a nomination for the 2021 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, an award for players who demonstrate exceptional leadership on and off the football field.
“He's just a wonderful human being,” said Saint Francis assistant coach Patrick Donley, who also is Segal's position coach. “He just does everything right. He's one of those guys that's very coachable on the field, and off the field he's an example for others. He just inspires and leads people all around campus.”
The combination of playing college football – particularly in his senior year – coupled with being a resident adviser in the Saint Francis residence halls and an 18-credit-hour course load forced Segal to step back from the youth ministry program this fall, where he previously mentored children from pre-K to third and fourth grade.
With football starting to wind down, he explained that he plans to launch a Bible study on campus, while using his remaining time on the field to serve as an example for the younger players within the program.
“That was a good opportunity for me and I really enjoyed that,” Segal said of his time with the youth ministry. “I see a lot of programs (in our conference) have changed their culture. I hope we can rebuild what it means to be a USF Cougar and use this season as a turning point. I want to keep doing more so that's really pushing me to bring this program to something better.”
And as Patrick Donley explained, Segal's work, rather than his actions, will leave a good legacy at Saint Francis that both coach and player hope leads to success moving forward.
“He's not a vocal guy, but when he does talk, people listen,” Donley said. “He's just a tremendous leader by example. Really the epitome of that.
“He's not the person that does those things to gain recognition, it's just something he's passionate about. He does his work quietly but it's certainly effective.”
Where: Turner Stadium, Upland
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Records: Saint Francis (2-4, 0-3 MSFA Mideast League), Taylor (2-5, 1-3)
Broadcast: 106.3 FM