Stefphon Jefferson always dreamed of seeing his name on his jersey — something he’d never experienced in his illustrious career at El Diamante High School and Nevada.

When the moment finally came in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, it didn’t live up to the expectations.

A disappointing performance in the NFL Combine and not being selected in the NFL Draft soured the experience. His name would stay on the jersey for a few weeks before being cut after rookie minicamp.

The release was the lowest of lows for Jefferson. Five months prior, Jefferson was riding the highest of highs after a monster season with the Wolf Pack, where he rolled up 1,883 rushing yards and 24 rushing touchdowns — both second most in the entire nation.

“The biggest takeaway was nothing plans out the way you want it to,” he said. “You have to really adjust to the moment. There’s two ways you can go — you can go the right way and make it into a positive thing or go the wrong way and make it a negative thing.”

But for the next five months, Jefferson waited — no right or wrong way to choose from — for an opportunity. As days turned into months, self doubt began to creep on Jefferson.

“There were days where I was like, ‘why is this happening to me?” he said. “Those days built character.”

While playing the waiting game with football, Jefferson devoted his time to the charitable organization he co-founded, Neighborhood Servants.

The organization is aimed at mentoring youth to pursue their dreams. During Christmas, Neighborhood Servants teamed with a police department and hosted a toy drive for needy families. Jefferson has also given motivational speeches at different schools for the organization.

“We’re trying to be a voice for the youth,” Jefferson said. “There’s so many kids with dreams but don’t have tools to accomplish those dreams. We want to be that tool.”

Jefferson started the organization with his best friend, Kyle Grant. The two met at a leadership conference in Sacramento during middle school and instantly clicked. Both were from similar worlds. Grant, was a football player too, and currently plays wide receiver for Saint John’s in Minnesota.

Jefferson, who grew up in central California and Grant, a southern California kid, went their separate ways afterward. Their relationship would be rekindled more than a year later at a basketball tournament. This time, the two swapped contact info and kept in touch.

Though the two have met only a handful of times in person, their friendship runs deep.

“We have a mutual understanding that we want to live a life with a purpose and really do something meaningful when we leave this world … We motivate each other,” Grant said. “Everything seems to be in place with us. We both have a purpose to our friendship.”

During Jefferson’s junior season at Nevada, the two’s relationship grew by doing bible studies over the phone every night. Before he went on to a record-breaking season, Jefferson was struggling to crack the starting lineup.

The previous season, Jefferson hung in the depth chart behind Mike Ball, Lampford Mike and Nick Hale. Nonetheless, Jefferson stayed patient. Come his junior season, Jefferson seized his opportunity and never looked back.

“Those bible studies every night really allowed me and him to take a step away from being a football player and athlete,” Grant said. “We were like, ‘how can we become better people? What can we do to make our lives better?’”

The idea for Neighborhood Servants was planted during the season. Jefferson and Grant gave meaning to a personal mantra of theirs, “love God, love people,” — a quote they continue to use for their organization.

Faith has always been a staple in Jefferson’s life, especially while away from his family during college. Jefferson’s faith was the leading factor in his decision to enter the NFL Draft and forgo his senior season at Nevada.

Shortly after the New Mexico Bowl, Jefferson phoned his agent to mull over the NFL. To Jefferson’s surprise, his agent told him her spiritual pastor had told earlier in the day that an athlete was going to call. Jefferson took it as a sign of God and declared for the NFL Draft.

After his stint with the Titans, Jefferson didn’t play football until October when the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders came calling.

Jefferson’s CFL stint iced a whirlwind year for the running back. Nonetheless, Jefferson doesn’t regret turning pro early.

Grant believes the rollercoaster ride was a humbling experience for Jefferson.

“For any athlete that had such a great season you always see yourself in the future,” Grant said. “You don’t necessarily see yourself in the situation …. The adversity really humbled him and made him stronger as a person. I don’t think Stefphon would be doing what he’s doing today if it wasn’t for that”

Jefferson re-enrolled at Nevada this semester. With just 15 credits separating him from an Art degree, Jefferson expects to graduate in May.

He wants to start a fashion clothing label and branch it off Neighborhood Servants. Jefferson wants a laid-back, business-casual a la Express.

Jefferson is heading back to play with Calgary once the season restarts in Fall. Despite an up-and-down 2013, Jefferson’s passion for football hasn’t wavered. But he understands football is only temporary.

“Football is just a platform…. For the moment, football is my purpose,” Jefferson said. “But I think eventually my purpose is something else.”

What that purpose is remains a mystery to Jefferson. But like he’s done throughout his life, he’s going to remain patient.

Eric Uribe can be reached at euribe@