UNI Panthers

After multiple position switches, UNI's Christian Jegen finds a home at safety

Kansas native started at wide receiver, moved to running back, then the other side of the ball

UNI defensive back Christian Jegen tackles Iowa State running back Breece Hall at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)
UNI defensive back Christian Jegen tackles Iowa State running back Breece Hall at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)

CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa safety Christian Jegen is an example of how unique a career can become in FCS football.

With only 63 scholarships compared to its FBS peers’ 85, there are examples throughout the FCS of student-athletes arriving on campus at one position and finishing their career successfully at a different one.

UNI senior safety Christian Jegen has become one of them.

After being named Kansas’ Gatorade Player of the Year in 2015, Jegen built a relationship with UNI defensive coordinator Jeremiah Johnson during his recruiting process.

“Coach Johnson, he recruited me, and I loved his personality and how upfront he was about things. Never sugar-coated anything, so I knew I could trust him,” Jegen said. “It was a good home, a good program and something I wanted to be a part of.”

Despite Johnson being a defensive coach, Jegen came to Cedar Falls as a wide receiver and totaled 136 yards as a true freshman. By the time fall camp of his sophomore season arrived, Jegen found out he was being moved to running back and once again proved himself as a reserve contributor with over 200 all-purpose yards in 2017.

But, after two years as a contributing reserve at both wide receiver and running back, Jegen — who was a talented defensive back in high school — decided he would ask head coach Mark Farley about moving to safety.

“It was kind of a rollercoaster, I’d say, of thoughts going through my mind,” Jegen said. “As (my sophomore) season went on, there’s just so many offensive skill players at receiver and running back so it was just a lot of sharing time and that’s not really what I wanted. I talked to Farley after the season and we both came to an agreement that safety would be a good choice for me.”

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Now, in his second season at the position, Jegen has become a key contributor on a UNI defense that ranks 11th in the country in yards allowed. Through nine games, the Shawnee, Kan., native has 66 tackles, four pass breakups and two interceptions.

“(Christian) has really become a good safety for us,” Farley said. “He’s came over (to defense) and really adapted well. The checks and the decisions he’s making on the field are just as important as the plays he’s making.”

With three regular season games remaining and his team in a good position to get a first-round bye in the 24-team playoff field, Jegen says he and his teammates are aware of their chances to get a coveted bye.

Knowing too that his college career has just over two months remaining, he’s struggling to grasp how his time as a Panther has gone by so quickly.

“It hasn’t hit me yet, but I think back about freshman year, and wow, it’s gone by so quick,” Jegen said. “It’s been a crazy process and I’m just hoping that I can make the most out of my senior year with the few games I have left.”

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