Preparing for the start of his first NFL preseason camp, Jake Gervase finds himself on a road he has traveled before.
"My experience of arriving at Iowa as a walk-on and working my way onto special teams, earning my stripes there and getting a chance as a reserve and then in the lineup, there are some similarities to where I’m at right now," Gervase said.
"That past experience has taught me what can happen if you never lose sight of the goal. It’s guiding me now, and I’m anxious to see where it can lead."
Gervase has already had his perseverance tested.
Undrafted after leading the Iowa football team with 89 tackles and sharing the team lead with four interceptions and seven pass break-ups last season, the defensive back from Davenport Assumption did not get the chance to sign as a free agent immediately after the draft.
He went through a tryout with the Raiders before ultimately getting a chance to do the same with the Los Angeles Rams, who liked what they saw and signed Gervase to a free-agent agreement.
"There was a little frustration at first. Things took a little longer than I expected, but things work out the way they do for a reason. I feel good about where I’m at now," Gervase said. "I feel like I’m in a great situation, the best possible situation for me."
Gervase has participated in five weeks of organized team activities with the Rams, giving him a feel for the organization and how it operates.
Saturday, Gervase begins preseason training camp with the Rams on the campus of Cal-Irvine with the same objective he had when he arrived at Iowa out of high school.
He hopes to catch somebody’s eyes with his attention to detail, his knowledge of the game and his work ethic.
"I’m grateful for the opportunity the Rams have given me, and I’m looking forward to the start of camp," Gervase said. "I feel good, I feel strong and I feel ready to go to work."
Gervase prepared for the preseason camp in Iowa City, joining the sizable group of former Hawkeyes who train and prepare for their NFL seasons under the watch of Iowa strength and conditioning coordinator Chris Doyle and his staff.
"Being around coach Doyle and the staff for the past month, they’ve gotten me ready for the start of camp," Gervase said. "Year after year, they do such a great job of getting guys ready. There isn’t any place else I’d rather train."
He said the chance to be around former Hawkeyes doing the same has been a welcome experience.
It also has helped him prepare.
"There’s a reason guys like Marshal Yanda and the other guys come back to train at Iowa year after year," Gervase said. "They know the work they put in will have them ready for preseason camp. Coach Doyle does a great job of getting everybody physically ready to go."
The experience also provided Gervase with a chance to talk with other former Hawkeyes about what to expect in the upcoming weeks.
It’s given him an idea of what the routine will be like, what the day-to-day expectations will be and how to best prepare for them.
Conversations with the only other former Hawkeye currently on the Rams roster, four-year veteran center Austin Blythe, have proven beneficial as well.
"There’s not a better example than the guys who have gone through it," Gervase said. "You see a guy like Yanda, who has the type of experience he has, in there grinding day after day to get ready. It shows you what you need to do."
That provides Gervase with a starting point.
Now, as was the case then when he was just starting his collegiate career at Iowa, it creates a foundation to build on as Los Angeles works toward its first preseason game on Aug. 10 at Oakland.
"The goal is to put myself in a position to give myself an opportunity to compete, to get a chance to be in a game, be in the right place, do the right things on special teams or wherever I’m needed, get those things on tape and see where it leads," Gervase said.
"I understand the percentages, what the challenge is when it comes to making a roster, but all I’m looking for is an opportunity. That’s all I’ve ever wanted."