BOGACZYK: Jasperse Ready to Finish What He's Always Started
The Word on the Herd-Dec. 16, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – In the next few days, Chris Jasperse will participate in his last Marshall football practice. A week from tonight at FAU Stadium, Jasperse will start his 53rd and final game in a Herd uniform, against Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl.
"It’s finally here," Jasperse said one recent day.
And those 53 games for No. 60? When he makes the Herd’s first offensive snap in the Boca Bowl, the veteran center and MU graduate student will have started every one of them.
Not bad for a guy who came to Marshall from Greensboro, N.C., as a walk-on with no other offers, a guy who became a genuine team leader in the formation of Coach Doc Holliday’s program construction, a guy who will have played 4,000 snaps in his college career with his 35th "hike" against the Huskies.
The redshirt senior been part of Herd teams that have reached three bowls. He’s a two-time all-Conference USA first team pick. For three seasons, Jasperse been the launch pad for one of the nation’s most prolific offenses, and on the 12-1 C-USA championship club headed for the Boca Bowl, he’s an unquestioned, rallying leader.
"It’s amazing … 4,000 snaps, can you imagine?" Holliday said Tuesday. "If I worked 4,000 snaps, I wouldn’t even be able to sit up here right now, probably. I’d be with a walker somewhere or something.
"But he’s an amazing kid, his durability, his leadership and what he’s meant to this program … That’s an unbelievable number of snaps."
And it all started back in 2010, when Jasperse arrived in the program for what coaches hoped would be a grooming, redshirt season, Jasperse made the travel squad to Ohio State for Holliday’s head coaching debut.
"I’d like to sit here and tell you we found him; I think he found us," Holliday said.
"It has all worked out for me," Jasperse said, "and it means everything. I came here, wanted to build a legacy and I just wanted to play football. I wanted to try to get onto the field as early as I could, and I got an opportunity and I set out to work hard. And all the hard work has paid off and now it’s become a reality. It’s something you dream about, but now it’s a reality."
His 53 starts will be a Marshall record for the Herd’s major-college eras (1953-81 and 1997-present).
Only two Herd players have made more starts – offensive tackle Chris Deaton (every game from 1990-93) and guard/center Aaron Ferguson (1993-96; missed three starts in 59 games). They played during the Division I-AA years, when the playoffs provided an opportunity for 15 games per season.
Jasperse’s 52 starts to date are tops among active FBS players (all positions) nationally. He won’t quite get the national record for starts.
Research through sports information offices throughout the country revealed that Hawaii center John Estes (2006-09) and Northern Illinois offensive tackle Trevor Olson (2008-11) made 54 straight starts. That 54 is the NCAA record. Among offensive linemen, LSU’s Ciron Black (2006-09) made 53 starts.
And those 4,000-something snaps? Well, since Estes was a center, chances are only he may have made more snaps than Jasperse – 3,684 at center -- in major-college football history.
"No one offered me," said Jasperse, looking back. "I didn’t have the best grades in high school. I had a good test score, but my GPA wasn’t as good. I was kind of lazy there, I guess. I guess I wasn’t big enough. I wasn’t fast enough. I wasn’t athletic enough to play."
Jasperse was the same 6 feet 4 then, but he’s added 24 pounds, to 294. He gained his undergraduate degree a year ago and is working on his masters’ in sports management. He game-plans and studies perhaps more than any Herd player, too.
"It’s all about your work ethic," Jasperse said when asked what he felt was the most important thing he’s done in the Herd program. "And the way that we went about our work -- and we went about it every day – was trying to get better.
"We tried to get everybody to follow along and combine as a team, as a program in everything we did. What Doc brought, it’s just been great, and we’ve tried to build on it. That’s what we’ve done.
"Things changed some after we graduated two classes and then it was more Coach Holliday’s guys. And I think then, going into the spring after my (redshirt) sophomore year (spring of 2013), Coach (Alex) Mirabal came in and he kind of brought a new culture to us up front.
"Everything you want to be about O-linemen, he brought to us. His perception, his teaching and his O-line pedigree, we really loved it and bought in and ran with it."
Marshall is 34-18 in Jasperse’s four seasons on the field and the Herd has won 18 of its last 20 games. And if you’re wondering, he’s played 99.1 percent of the snaps in that time. He didn’t snap all of them, however. Due to injuries up front, Jasperse started the final three games of the 2012 season at right guard.
Jasperse said one of the most gratifying occurrences in his career was winning a C-USA championship, but not just because it was a title that eluded the Herd in a 2013 title-game loss at Rice, or because Marshall hadn’t won a conference crown since 2002.
"I don’t think we’ve had a game-winning drive like that since I’ve been here, where we were behind and needed a touchdown to win," Jasperse said of the 26-23 championship victory over Louisiana Tech, in which MU didn’t lead until that TD with 1:50 left. "To have to have a touchdown … And finally, we did that, we completed that and got a conference championship.
"And everything is coming together for this program, from all of our hard work. We knew if we kept working hard, kept pushing, it would happen. It’s from hard work, period. We knew it would come if we kept working hard, and it did. We bought in and we’re just so happy. It was such a great feeling to go into the locker room as a champion.
"Nothing about it has surprised me. Coach Holliday always spoke about how we wanted to win championships here in Huntington and I think he’s gone about it the right way. He said it would be a process, and we just embraced the process and kept grinding and it’s gotten us to where we are now."
I asked Jasperse to go back to where it started for him with the Herd, at a time Holliday always references as not wanting to go into the offensive line room because the unit was so bad.
"When I came in, I knew I was going to redshirt like most offensive linemen," Jasperse said. "And then I get a call, ‘Hey, Chris, you’re going to be in the scrimmage a lot,’ on like the second Saturday (of August camp). They told me, ‘We’re looking to travel you. You’ve got to have a good scrimmage and all this.
"And I’m like, ‘OK, I’m going to make the travel squad.’ And so I make the travel squad as a true freshman walk-on, and that was very exciting, and my first game – Coach Holliday’s first game – was at Ohio State. I mean, Ohio State, the crowd, the stadium, you can’t ask for anything better in your first game.
"I told one of my buddies -- he’s a big Ohio State fan – ‘Hey, we’re going to play Ohio State.’ And he says, ‘You’re not going.’ And I say, ‘Hey, I’m going.’ I called him and told him I made the trip. It was funny. And after that, our center that season (2010) was a senior (Chad Schofield) and the next spring I won the job, kept it in fall camp, and I’ve been the starter since then."
Jasperse said the job isn’t finished, that an attractive bowl game matching conference champions in a location the Herd uses as its recruiting "backyard" is one more step in helping the Herd get where it wants to go.
But how did the Herd get here? Some of Jasperse’s teammates view last season’s triple-overtime loss at Virginia Tech as a springboard. Others say a last-play loss at Middle Tennessee mad the Herd look in the mirror.
Jasperse said it was all of the above, and more.
"I agree with Rakeem (Cato, quarterback), that game at Virginia Tech, after that we knew we could play with anybody," Jasperse said. "But I also think the turning point was Middle Tennessee. Hey, guys, we came up one play short, and we know we can come back from this, and we came back.
"And another one was the Rice game … You get blown out like we did for the championship, and you don’t know how your team is going to react, and we came back and got after it in bowl practice and went up (to Annapolis) and beat Maryland in the Military Bowl.
"So, that shows some progress throughout last season that built up for this season. We went down, we got back up. We went down, got back up. You’re going to get knocked down, but how are you going to respond when you have to get back up?
"So, that’s something we’ve been good about, something we’ve preached, that you need to get back up and fight. That’s why we are where we are."
Marshall senior center Chris Jasperse, and games started rankings (offense and defense, does not include specialists):
Consecutive starts, active FBS players
52 – Chris Jasperse, C, Marshall
51 – Mickey Baucus, OT, Arizona; Kaleb Eulls, DT, Mississippi State; B.J. Finney, C, Kansas State; Clayton Geathers, SS, UCF; Daniel Quave, OG, Louisiana-Lafayette; Laken Tomlinson, OL, Duke; Robert waterman, C, UNLV
50 – Rowdy Harper, OG, Houston; Brandon Vitabile, C, Northwestern
All-time FBS consecutive starts
54 – John Estes, C, Hawaii (2006-09); Trevor Olson, OT, Northern Illinois (2008-11)
53 – Ciron Black, OT, LSU (2006-09); Marcus McGraw, LB, Houston (2008-11)
52 – Chris Jasperse, C, Marshall (2011-14; bowl game remaining); David Greene, QB, Georgia (2001-04); Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (2010-13); Steve Sciullo, OT, Marshall, (1999-2002); Lee Ziemba, OT, Auburn (2007-10)