In the 2010 football season, the Buffalo Public Schools joined Section VI for the first time. That was Jasen Oden's senior year at East High, and he sure looked forward to those games where he had a chance to prove himself against suburban small school powers like Cheektowaga and Depew.
"Before we played a suburban school, I got into a zone," Oden said with a smile on Tuesday afternoon. "I had to represent not only my school, but Buffalo and the city schools. It didn't just open the door for me, it opened it up for all Buffalo Public School players."
Oden said that senior year, and his showing that he could compete outside just the city schools, helped give him added confidence that his dream of playing Division I football was worth pursuing.
On Tuesday, with family and friends and green-and-white balloons surrounding him at the Delevan-Grider Community Center, just a few blocks from where he grew up, Oden signed a scholarship offer from Colorado State.
"It's amazing," said Oden, wearing a green Colorado State cap and a Rams lanyard he was given during his visit. "It's a dream of mine that just came true. It means a lot to me, and more importantly it means a lot to my family; I'm the first one going to a big-time college. It's a dream come true for all of us."
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Oden had a breakout season as a senior, earning a third-team All-Western New York selection as East went 6-3 to become one of the several former Harvard Cup teams turning heads in Section VI. East's win at Cheektowaga was one of the signature wins by city teams that season.
"Knowing that I could do that against guys who were getting recruited to good schools like UB, it gave me a lot of confidence," said Oden. "I wasn't talking to any schools until that senior year, and that brought a lot of attention."
As Oden graduated from East in 2011, he wanted to play at that next level. He received some more attention at a summer camp in Syracuse, but needed to become eligible for NCAA schools by improving his standardized test score. This past year he played at North Carolina Tech Prep, where he got that score up.
The time at NC Tech, which boasts many players going on to sign with major colleges, helped attract the attention of Colorado State. The Mountain West school is entering its first season under former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, whose signature adorned the letter from Colorado State as well as the athletic financial aid agreement Oden signed Tuesday, which lists "full" aid in all five fields: tuition, general fees, room and board, books and special fees.
Oden, who said he liked his trip to Fort Collins, Colo., so much that he passed up scheduled visits to Illinois and Connecticut, said he'll likely play cornerback and return punts, but "I'll do whatever I can to help the team."
"Everyone has a dream of playing in the NFL," Oden said. "My dream is to play Division I football. I love to play football, but I'm going to be a student first and a football player second. I'm going to go there and capitalize on the opportunity I've been given. I've been given a free scholarship to go to school to get an education, so I'm going to take advantage of that."