J.J. Uphold is no stranger to moving.
Because of his father’s career, the Garces Memorial High School senior and his family has lived in Bangladesh, Kuwait and Calgary, the last stop before arriving in Bakersfield before his seventh grade year at Norris Middle School.
Uphold has now made a decision that will take him three states away after declaring a verbal commitment to the football program at The University of Wyoming Wednesday afternoon with the Cowboys’ coaching staff during a phone call.
“This is really exciting knowing that my future is being situated to have a strong life on and off the field,” Uphold said.
Always a basketball standout, the Garces Memorial senior knew that his body type (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) gave him advantage over smaller players on the hardwood, but he was also aware that his frame was better built for football after high school.
“I always knew I had a football body, but at the beginning I felt my big stature was an advantage on the court,” Uphold said. “But knowing that I have this big, athletic body, it’s helped me get noticed in by college football coaches.”
Uphold was a standout at defensive end in his first year as a varsity starter for the Rams in 2019 with 35 tackles.
Garces coach Paul Golla, in his first year after taking over the program, knew there was something special immediately with Uphold.
“Right away with J.J., it was his leverage and athleticism. He has intanglines you can’t coach,” Golla said. “The first time I saw him run around, I knew he was a college football player.”
Uphold was a freshman starter on the varsity basketball team for Garces and earned first-team BVarsity All-Area honors this past season while averaging a double-double for the Rams.
“J.J. is not polished at football. He has played basketball his whole life. His upside in football is incredible,” Golla said. “He is a young football player. With just upside, he is just going to get better and better.”
Uphold also had offers from New Mexico and Cal Poly, but said he chose Wyoming because of the relationship he built with the coaching staff with the Cowboys.
“The coaches really showed how much they cared about me,” Uphold said.
Uphold is not the only Garces senior with college football offers.
Fellow defensive end Zach Buckey has two dozen offers from around the nation, wide receiver Zion Hall has a handful of offers, including Cal Poly and Nevada and offensive lineman Aidan Meek recently received an offer from the University of San Diego, an FCS program.
“It’s exciting. It’s exciting with J.J. It’s exciting with four or five of our seniors to play Division I football,” Golla said. “But it’s really exciting because of the work they have put in the classroom academically. It’s hard work paying off.”
As for the change in weather from Bakersfield to Laramie, Wyoming, Uphold knows what is ahead, and simply says, “It will be fun living in the snow, again.”
Garces is set to open the amended football season on Jan. 8 against Clovis West at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis. The home opener for Garces is set for Jan. 15 against Santa Barbara-Bishop Diego.
Verbal commitments are non-binding. First day to officially sign a National Letter of Intent is Dec. 16.