BOCA RATON, Fla. — There was a point before he arrived at Marshall that Chris Jasperse realized the true extent of his desire to have football in his life.
Mainly because there really wasn’t much desire for stocking auto parts to remain in his life.
— Chris Jasperse
That’s where Jasperse was in Greensboro, North Carolina, after his career at Page High School was done, out of football and working at a NAPA warehouse after a prep-school stint failed to live up to expectations. College football was the goal and Marshall was the destination, first as a walk-on, then as a scholarship player and now as the man considered the top center in Conference USA.
Jasperse will end his collegiate career likely playing more than 4,000 snaps. His start in Tuesday’s Boca Raton Bowl versus Northern Illinois will give him more starts on the offensive line for Marshall in the team’s major-college era than anyone else. With such seniority often comes a leadership role, but Jasperse has embraced it and will carry it through to Tuesday’s kickoff.
His road to Marshall wasn’t direct. After graduating from Page, Jasperse spent a semester at Central Carolina Sports Academy to boost his stock. That didn’t happen. The team played only a handful of games. Jasperse said the film he got there wasn’t good enough to send to colleges. He took the spring semester off and got a job stocking auto parts.
“It gave me a year to mature physically and mentally,” he said. “And it showed me I definitely wanted to go to college and definitely wanted to get a degree.”
He walked on to Marshall and walked right into the starting lineup, then never left. Jasperse has started every game he’s played in a Thundering Herd uniform. From the start, he was set on showing Marshall’s coaching staff that they made the right choice in putting him on the roster.
“I had a lot to prove to myself and to everybody else,” he said. “I just knew that if I put my head down and went to work, that good things would happen to me.”
Those good things have rolled in ever since. After being named to the Conference USA all-freshman team, he earned honorable mention all-C-USA as a sophomore and spent the past two years on the all-C-USA first team. With Jasperse in the middle of the action on the offensive line, Marshall has averaged 563.4 yards per game, second only to Baylor in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The fifth-year senior Jasperse has started 52 consecutive games, tied with Steve Sciullo for the most in Marshall history during its FBS tenures from 1953-81 and 1997 until now. He’ll walk into Tuesday’s game having played 3,965 career snaps.
The secret to that longevity is really no secret, he said, just a simple method.
“It’s just outworking people,” Jasperse said. “I don’t miss practice, I don’t miss reps. It’s all important to me. I always work out extra. It’s just a mindset of just going to work and trying to make sure you’re able to get the job done when you get there.”
Some find the leadership role that comes with a starting job and the accolades attached to be more of a chore that has to be completed. Jasperse has always felt the opposite. He understands the responsibility that comes with his position and has sought out opportunities to lead, whether its joining players while visiting hospitalized children, counseling younger teammates on the college game or keeping the sidelines calm when calamity happens.
“What great leaders do is set standards and make sure everyone lives up to those standards,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “The standards that he’s set are extremely high and he brings up all the guys in that room around him. That’s what great leaders do, and he’s a great leader.”
The players appreciate Jasperse’s dedication to his job and his team. The way he carries himself, redshirt junior guard Sebastian Johansson said, boosts the entire roster.
“His confidence is just spreading throughout the team when he’s out there,” Johansson said. “I think you can really tell that. You can see how he’s acting and so on. He’s just, man, one hell of a ballplayer.”
Snap after snap for four seasons, Jasperse has seen Marshall evolve from a team with a struggling offense to a scoring juggernaut to the balanced Conference USA champion it is today. Nearly 4,000 snaps don’t seem like they could go by in a flash, but Jasperse says they have. He’s still getting used to the idea of Tuesday being his final game in a Marshall uniform, but he’ll be leading the pack through the final whistle.
“They say if you have your hand on the ball, you should be a leader,” Jasperse said. “I get to touch the ball every play. I get to lead my group of guys up front and I have to lead the whole offense. Without leadership up there, we can’t get the offense started. So I had to take on the task of leading the offense so we could try to build something up.”