BOGACZYK: For Jasperse, Senior Day Not Just a Snap
The Word on the Herd-Nov. 25, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Chris Jasperse arrived in Marshall’s football program as a walk-on from Greensboro, N.C., in the summer of 2010.
The Thundering Herd center said his time in kelly green and white has gone by like a snap … which seems appropriate for a guy who has made 3,801 snaps in his career.
At noon Friday at Edwards Stadium, it’s finally Senior Day for Jasperse, as the unbeaten and nationally ranked Herd (11-0, 7-0) plays host to Western Kentucky (6-5, 3-4). He knows it won’t be his last home game, with the Conference USA Championship coming up eight days later.
Still, for Jasperse and 18 other seniors, it will be an emotional day. The 6-foot-4, 289-pounder has been a leader for the Herd in many ways – and an unquestioned one of those is his time on the field.
The game against WKU will be Jasperse’s 51st career start – every game he’s played in a Herd uniform, and one shy of the MU major-college career record, set by tackle Steve Sciullo (1999-2002).
"It’s been so fast," Jasperse said of his time at Marshall, which also includes graduation with a 3.08 GPA in sports management last December. "I remember my first Senior Day, when guys were going out my freshman year, and seeing them go and it was like, ‘Wow, it’s crazy.’
"Those seasons go by and now it’s my turn as a senior to go out five years later. It’s gone by way too fast, but it’s been such fun."
Jasperse’s four seasons on the field (2011-14) have included an 18-4 home record to date, two bowl victories – with another postseason game in the offing – and two C-USA title game appearances. The center -- with senior teammates quarterback Rakeem Cato, slot receiver Tommy Shuler, linebacker Jermaine Holmes, cornerback Darryl Roberts and place-kicker Justin Haig – have been starters for at least three seasons.
They have constructed a foundation for coach Doc Holliday’s five-year program and the Herd’s football future. Redshirt junior offensive tackle Clint Van Horn said he wants to build on what Jasperse and Co. will leave behind after the 2014 bowl game.
"You look at these guys, and it’s a special group," Van horn said. "They make the least amount of mistakes off the field. They’re always the guys who never had many classroom issues, always the guys who make the least amount of mistakes on the football field, day-in, day-out, practices or games.
"Jasperse specifically, it’s going to be really hard for me because I’m a lineman like him. I’m probably not going to cry as much as he is, but I’ll still cry. I’ve been taking notes on leadership from him for two years now. Just the way he handles himself, the way he approaches coaches, both the good and bad, failure and success, and I’m going to really miss these guys.
"It’s been a pleasure playing with them. And you noticed how special they were from the first time you met them, as a freshman. The first time I met Jasperse was before I came here (from Beckley), on my visit in the winter time, right before (2011) spring ball.
"He had finished his true freshman year (redshirting), and I didn’t know the other guy’s name. It was in the dorm room and he said, ‘I’m going to be a four-year starter, and I’m going to beat the guy out that’s older than me (then-redshirt junior Chris Bowers). And I thought, ‘All right, this guy is really confident and really full of himself.’ But, hey, he’s very goal-oriented and it shows every day."
Van Horn said Jasperse – seeking a master’s degree in sports administration – will be particularly missed by his fellow offensive linemen.
"No question," Van Horn answered when asked if next year’s seniors plan on using the 2014 senior group as a template. "Seeing these guys, we have younger guys stepping up who you wouldn’t think would lead and they attribute that to the older guys showing the way. It’s just contagious. I’ve seen (sophomore guard) Mike Selby taking notes from (Jasperse), too. Selby and I follow him everywhere, so whatever he does, we carry ourselves the same way, and it’s guys like Selby who have really stepped up in the leadership roles because these older guys have set such a great example."
The Herd has won 18 of its last 19 games, and its 12-game winning streak is second longest in major-college football to Florida State’s 27. The Herd has won 13 in a row at "The Joan." And Holliday’s five teams have been their best in November, with a combined late-season record (post-Oct. 29) of 19-5, including 11-0 at home.
"I didn’t know if we’d get to this point while I was still here," Jasperse said, "but I knew where we are now is what we were striving for. I knew we’d eventually get there, I just didn’t know how fast or how long it would take it.
"Everybody just had to buy in. We had to go with the flow with Coach Holliday. We’ve done a great job with that, and now we’re seeing it on Saturdays, winning the football games, and going out to try and win a championship now."
Two years ago, Marshall trotted out only eight players on Senior Day – and one fourth of that group was the one-season graduate transfer duo of former Boston College safeties Okechukwu Okoroha and Dominick LeGrande.
Jasperse has seen success go in hand with stability since then.
"I don’t think there are many guys left in my class from when we came in, but all the guys who played as (true) freshmen when Tommy and Cato came in (2011), those guys, everybody stuck around and really bought into it. It shows on the field and we have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football, and now we’re winning games."
From Holliday’s first scholarship recruiting class in 2010, the Herd still has starting defensive end Ra’Shawde Myers, defensive tackle Malcolm Strong (out with a knee injury), wideout Demetrius Evans, Roberts and Haig, and walk-ons Jasperse and starting left tackle Trevor Mendelson.
They helped turn the tide last season.
"Losing the heartbreaker at Middle Tennessee (51-49) on the last play was definitely a turnaround for our program last year," Jasperse said. "And then Rice was definitely a wake-up call, in the (C-USA) championship game there.
"Then, we bounced back and went to Maryland and had a good game there, and we realized, ‘Hey, guys, it’s not going to be easy.’ We have to put a lot of work in if we wanted to be great, and we put a lot of work in in the offseason – in the winter and the summer – and it’s really showing up."
So, what will it be like for Jasperse when he and the other seniors have their introductions to a cheering home crowd Friday morning prior to kickoff ?
"I’ll definitely have some emotions; I don’t know if I’ll cry," Jasperse said. "I’ve been here and played in this place so many times and seeing the crowd and what it’s about will be special. It’s going to be a weird feeling walking out there for the last time in a regular season."
Van Horn said he knows Jasperse well enough to know what the man who starts the Herd offense will be like.
"Oh, he’ll cry," Van Horn said. "I know he will."