A wise man once says, plans often go astray. For former Rockwood Tiger football standout Jaiden Hannibal, that was the case.
A little more than a year after he last put on the pads to step onto Civitan Field, Hannibal will once again be playing football.
Known for his speed and quickness, Hannibal recently attended a workout and tryout with the Juggernauts, team in the Great Eight Football League based in Sevier County.
After excelling there, he was offered a spot on the team.
The G8FL is a pro-football league where players can showcase talent and skills, attract colleges and NFL scouts, all while earning a paycheck.
“We practice in Kodak and will be playing our games in Sevier County,” he said. “It’s not a bad drive to get there.”
It seemed as if it was fate for Hannibal to be part of the team and the league.
“I was contacted twice, but missed the first two workouts,” he said. “Then they posted a free agency and contacted me again. This time I went there to work out.
“They do it like college. They come up and talk with you and ask questions. Afterwards, you get to pick the team to sign with and commit to.”
As per its name, there will be eight teams comprising the league with some in Tennessee and one in South Carolina.
“There will be a little bit of traveling,” Hannibal said.
As anyone that has done it can tell you, once you are no longer working out in preparation for games, it can take a toll on a body, particularly as a person ages.
Being out of the game of football for more than year, didn’t hurt Hannibal too much.
Most who know him knows how driven he can be to succeed and his drive to compete is commendable.
“I have a good sized back yard, so I got the ladder and cones out,” he said. “Before I even got the opportunity, I was out there putting in some work.
“I guess when I went up to try out and work out, I found out that I still had it.”
Playing for Rockwood through the years likely prepared him as well. The Tigers have been a top team for a number of years, so it is a foregone conclusion former players will be in pretty good shape.
“Playing at Rockwood and having the spotlight the way I did, really helped me out,” Hannibal said. “Once I got there, I thought there wouldn’t be anyone who knew who I was.
“Once I was there, they knew who I was and what I could do. They wanted to see it in person so they could give me the opportunity to showcase it come game time.”
Even after high school, Hannibal still maintains a quiet humility about his abilities and skills.
Anyone connected to high school football in East Tennessee would be hard pressed to forget him and his explosive speed with the football.
“I had the mindset to get there and shock them so they would know who I was,” he said. “I can’t say I was nervous, I can’t say I wasn’t. Once I stepped on the field it all went away and I was there to work and get better and play for a team.”
Now on the team, Hannibal and his teammates will know their schedule Dec. 23 when the G8FL releases that information.
Being part of the league opens some doors for Hannibal that may not necessarily have been open if he had taken the traditional route for departing high school athletes.
“I want to make future plans, but right now, I’m just going to take it as comes,” he said. “They were telling me it is a great opportunity. College coaches come out, NFL coaches come out.
“I just want to see where this takes me before I jump to the next step. I want to keep my options open.”
With Hannibal now part of this league, it can go a long way to show athletes there is options available if the path taken is a traditional one.
“It’s the same deal as college,” he said. “I get a chance at NIL deals and I get paid off my fanbase. I’m really hoping to get my fanbase and hopefully the Rockwood and Roane County community will get behind me and come out and watch.”