Cover Story: Senior Placekicker Josh Jasper
Josh Jasper Values His Team-First Role
Ranked first in the SEC and fourth in the nation. Kicked the most field goals in a single game at LSU. The list goes on and on.
LSU's senior placekicker Josh Jasper has it all, but to him, it is all about playing for the team.
"I don't really kick for me," Jasper said. "I kick for the team, the organization and LSU."
Jasper found his home at LSU after graduating from Ridgeway High School in Memphis, Tenn. His high school football career led him to the Tennessee state record for most career field goals with 44. Not only did he play quarterback, wide receiver and kicker in high school, but was also a two-time all-state soccer player.
"I played soccer my whole life," Jasper said. "I started playing when I was about three. Then, when I got to middle school I wanted to play football. I kicked for them, obviously, but they also needed some other personnel to play on offense."
As high school graduation neared, Jasper said he began to focus more on kicking.
"That pretty much led to where I am today," he said.
Jasper's grandfather was a member of Tennessee's 1951 national championship team. He said that although he grew up a Tennessee fan, LSU's football environment ultimately helped him choose the Tigers.
"I had a bunch of different offers, but when I came here, I liked the atmosphere of the stadium," he said. "The stadium was really what won me over. I liked the environment on game day, and I was really impressed with the training facilities."
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After serving as pooch punter and kick-off specialist, Jasper became LSU's full-time placekicker in 2009, succeeding Colt David. Jasper believes he had big shoes to fill.
"Colt was a tremendous kicker, and one I looked up to when I first got here," Jasper said. "He taught me the basics of college kicking, and I really paid attention to that. When he left, I felt like he had such a tremendous impact on the team that it wouldn't be good if we didn't have a quality kicker. I really felt it necessary to step up and take more of a leadership role, especially on special teams."
Punter Derek Helton said Jasper demonstrates leadership day in and day out.
"A lot of people look up to him because he just does what he needs to do," Helton said. "We may goof off outside of football, but that's the time to do it. When we're in football, he does the things he needs to do. I think a lot of people respect him for that."
Helton said he met Jasper on his first visit to LSU.
"We are kind of the same. We are goofy and pretty laid back," said Helton. "We don't' take anything too seriously unless we really need to."
On the field, Jasper has many accomplishments as LSU's placekicker. Fans praised him as he kicked a 41-yard field goal to send LSU into overtime against Arkansas in 2009. LSU claimed victory over Arkansas as he also kicked a game-winning 36-yard field goal in overtime to make the final score 33-30. Jasper kicked a total of four field goals in that game.
"That game was one of the better experiences of my life. It really allowed people to see what I was capable of."
Jasper was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against Arkansas. He was given the title again after his record-breaking performance during this season's game versus Mississippi State in which Jasper kicked five field goals, breaking the school record for most three-pointers in a game. Jasper said he was so focused on the game that he didn't realize until halftime that he could have the opportunity to break the record.
"As it neared halftime I realized I had kicked four, and I remembered from the Arkansas game that I had tied the school record with four. I was hoping I would be able to kick one more. When it got down to the third or fourth quarter, I remember us getting stopped in the red zone," he said.
"I was excited to have that opportunity and to put more points on the board. It was really exciting when they announced it on the PA system. That's when it set in that I had my name in the books."
Jasper also tied Colt David and David Browndyke for the third-longest field goal in school history with a 52-yarder against UL-Lafayette in 2009. He kicked a 57-yard field goal in the 2010 spring game, which would have been a school record had it been a regular season contest.
Coming into the 2010 season as LSU's all-time leader in field goal percentage (.864), Jasper is considered one of the best college kickers in the nation. To him, that is not what is important.
"I don't really think about it that much," said Jasper. "I just go out and think of it more as a job, putting points on the board and giving the best field position for this defense. I think of it more as helping out the team, and if it leads to something then that's great," he said. "My first goal is to help the team out, and it's worked pretty well so far."
Jasper started the tradition of wearing a one-dollar bill on his wrist in high school after seeing Cristiano Ronaldo, one of his favorite soccer players, wearing something sentimental on his wrist during games. He said it is a symbol of his dedication to his team.
"They kind of looked at me funny when I asked them to sign it, but when they asked what it was for and I told them, they understood," Jasper said. "I do it for them. They work so hard all the time, and I feel like I have to give back in some way. I don't know how many signatures I have. It's fully black now because it is so full of signatures."
As Jasper plays the last few games of his senior season at LSU, he said he's not looking too far into the future.
"I'm just going to concentrate on finishing the season out strong," Jasper said. "If I end up doing really well, then we will see what happens."
Among his favorite moments as a Tiger, he said the game against Arkansas in 2009 stands out, as well as this year's sudden victory over Tennessee.
"We went through such an emotion change so quickly. I was so bummed when we lost, but then I turn around, and 20 seconds later, we had won. That is definitely going to be in my memory bank for the rest of my life."
Jasper said his teammates are what make his time at LSU well worth it.
"I feel like we are just one huge family. I'm mainly going to remember all the friends and all the brothers I made through the years."
As for finishing strong, Jasper said he is not taking anything for granted.
"You have to live everything like it's your last day. I'm already halfway through my senior season. I still feel like I just got here, and that was four years ago. It goes by fast; I have to enjoy it while I can."