When this call came, there was no question Jerrett Overland wanted to answer it.
And that helps explain the Anaheim Jr. Ducks defenseman’s commitment this week to the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Not only did Overland become the 18th player with ties to the club to make a Division I commitment in the past five years, but he is the club’s first to commit to a service academy. And he’s joining one that has reached the elite eight of the past two NCAA Tournaments.
“It’s really exciting,” Overland said. “Going to the Air Force Academy is a life-changing decision, and I am proud to make it.”
Overland, a 2001 birth year who is projected to enroll at the Academy in 2020, will play for the Jr. Ducks 18U AAA this season. The continuity of staying with the club is welcome, he said.
“I’ve been a bit of a suitcase over the past four years,” said Overland, who played in his native Las Vegas through Pee Wees before heading to Utah, North California and back East in the seasons preceding this past one.
He found his way to the Jr. Ducks through his friendship with fellow 16U defenseman Ryan Johnson, who recently committed to Minnesota.
“I knew Ryan and his dad (Craig) growing up. Whenever I was at Pacific District and National (Select) camps I would hang out with the California guys,” Overland said.
He was thrilled to become one of them this past season. The Jr. Ducks 16s went on to win bronze at the USA Hockey Nationals, the club’s best finish ever at the AAA level.
“It was eye-opening for me to work with coaches like (Craig Johnson, Alex Kim and Scott Niedermayer),” Overland said. “I saw up close how competitive hockey in California is now. Being in the Tier 1 (Elite Hockey) League was great for the competition and being scouted.
“Our entire team worked hard. That was the biggest difference. Everyone was dialed in all season long.”
The 5-foot-10 Overland, who also played on Santa Margarita Catholic High School’s national championship team with Ryan Johnson, had a strong age 16 season for the Jr. Ducks. He collected 11 points in 12 CAHA games and added 11 more in 36 Tier 1 league games.
Craig Johnson, who also serves as the Jr. Ducks’ director of coaches, sees plenty of upside in the young defenseman.
“He’s very calm, very poised with the puck,” Johnson said. “He understands the game well and likes to make plays. He can run a power play, too, and I’m sure that was appealing to the next level.
“Defensively, he improved his gap control a ton this season, and he has a good stick. He stays on the defensive side of the puck and defends with his feet.
“He was a big part of our team last season.”
Overland, who is the eighth 2001 to play for the club to make a D-I commitment, emphasized how much the Jr. Ducks helped him reach this step.
“I saw support all the way down from the top,” he said. “The Jr. Ducks gave us the right tools. We have a good rink, a good locker room and weight room, terrific support from parents and coaches.
“They set you up for success.”