Choctaw Grad Jacobs Named All Sports Pro Athlete of the Year
Travis Downey, NWF Daily News
Mark Jacobs has won his fair share of awards.
A former standout football player and wrestler at Choctawhatchee High School, Jacobs graduated in 1994 and went on to become a three-year starter at the University of Kentucky, playing on the Wildcats 1999 Outback Bowl team, before beginning a highly successful career as a pit crew member for some of NASCAR’s biggest names.
But when Jacobs returns home next month for the All Sports Association’s 42nd Annual Awards Dinner on Feb. 18 at the Emerald Coast Conference Center, his latest award might be his most gratifying.
Jacobs, who is currently preparing for a return to the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team with Felix Sabates, where he will serve as the jackman for Juan Pablo Montoya’s No. 42 car, has been named this year’s recipient of the All Sports Association Professional Athlete of the Year award. For Jacobs, whose 11-year career in NASCAR has seen him take part in over 500 sanctioned events and well over 3,000 pit stops, being recognized by the Fort Walton Beach-based organization carries with it a special sense of accomplishment.
“It means so much more when it comes from where you grew up,” Jacobs said. “I’m humbled by the whole situation … with my wife and I both being from the area and how much we love the area. There’s 12 years of work that’s been put in, massive sacrifices that you don’t think about while you do it. To be recognized for it, it means so much more being from there.”
Jacobs’ career in NASCAR began in 2000, when, following an abbreviated stint in the Canadian Football League, he landed a spot with Bill Elliott Racing. Not long after the pit crew he was part of won the Pit Stop Challenge at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Jacobs was approached by Ganassi Racing. Jacobs signed and worked alongside Sterling Marlin, Casey Mears and Montoya before joining Hendrick Motorsports following the 2008 season.
During his stint with Hendrick Motorsports, Jacobs helped lead his team to a third-place finish at the All-Star Pit Crew Challenge last year and later served as jackman for the Dale Earnhardt Senior Tribute No. 3 car. Later in the year, Jacobs was once again approached by Ganassi.
Jacobs quickly agreed, leaving Hendrick Motorsports to return to his racing “home.”
But life in the pits isn’t easy. Jacobs’ schedule has him on the road in upwards of 39 weeks of the year, zigzagging the country from one track to the next.
“The downside with that is the sacrifice that goes on for 12 years,” Jacobs said. “It’s silly, but it’s not racing, it’s a lifestyle.”