The illness, passed on through his father’s genes, changed his life – in a good way. His hypertension was brought under control with medication and diet, and he realized he wanted to help others as the doctors had helped him.
“They were my heroes,” says Wynn, of New Brunswick, N.J. “I wanted to work in their profession.”
And he will soon, thanks to his success at the University of Rhode Island. The 22-year-old scholar-athlete will graduate in May with a degree in criminology and, if all goes as planned, eventually enroll in a two-year program to become a physician assistant.
Only one thing could derail those dreams: A chance to play for the NFL. At URI, Wynn was a wide receiver for the Rams, an experience that he says instilled the values of hard work, commitment and persistence.
During a recent “pro-day” at Rutgers University, where he went for two years before transferring to URI, he says scouts from three NFL teams expressed an interest in him. If he’s invited to a rookie mini-camp, he’ll jump.
“I love football and would never pass up this kind of opportunity,” he says. “But I will always have my great education from URI.”
The son of a cable sales manager father and financial advisor mother, Wynn has excelled at sports and academics since he was a kid. He was named after Juwan Howard, a former NBA player for the Houston Rockets, and his middle name is Malcolm, for the civil rights leader Malcolm X.
Wynn spent his early years in Piscataway, N.J., playing football and basketball and running the 200-meter in track. But football was his passion. He played at Rutgers for two years, then, in the spring of 2013, came to URI.
On a typical day during pre-season camp, the 6-foot-3 215-pound receiver would be on the go from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., with a full workload of running plays, drills, meetings, weight training and film viewing. After school started, he’d practice from 7 to 11 a.m., before heading off to class. Sometimes, he was back in the gym at night. “Extreme determination, discipline, time management – football taught me all those things.”
In addition to his sociology classes, he also took rigorous pre-med science courses to prepare for a physician assistant program down the road. “I knew I had it in me to take those classes. I just had to will myself to buckle down and focus.”
His tenacity has paid off. His grade-point average is 3.7, but “will probably be a little higher” at graduation. He made the Dean’s List every semester he was at URI.
In 2014, he won the Estes Benson Award for Academic Achievement, presented annually to a URI student with the highest overall grade-point average among African-American male seniors.
He is also a member of the Rhode Island Onyx Senior Honor Society and the Golden Key International Honors Society and was named to the Colonial Athletic Association Football Academic All-Conference Team in 2013 and 2014.
One of his highlights at URI was being recognized as the scholar-athlete of the week during halftime at the basketball team’s game against the University of Nebraska in November. His guest was his favorite teacher, Judy Van Wyk, an associate professor in sociology.
“She had a huge influence on me,” says Wynn. “She pushed me to think outside the box and to excel as both a student and young man.”
URI was a great experience. The professors and administrators are excellent, he says, and he made new friends. Not surprisingly, his best buddies are on the football team. “They’re like brothers to me.”
His faith – he’s a longtime member of the First Baptist Church in New Brunswick – has helped him through difficult times, on and off the field.
“If I get in a tough situation, I pray for the strength to make it through,” he says. “My faith is very powerful. I do everything to my fullest and then let God take over.”
URI senior Jawaun Wynn, of New Brunswick, N.J.
Photo my Michael Salerno Photography.
Jawaun Wynn in a game against Central Connecticut State University.
Photo by Mike Scott, URI Athletics.