Jaster departs defense, leads offensive line at St. Scholastica

By : 
S. Lee Epps

Most quality high school football players play both ways - on offense and defense - in every game. The very few who get the opportunity to extend their gridiron days into college specialize on only one side of the ball.  That has been true for Honorable Mention All-State and two-time All-District Spring Grove High School standout Jordan Jaster (2015-2016), but he has now played on both sides of the ball at the College of St. Scholastica (CSS), a NCAA Division III program in Duluth. The Saints are members of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC)

It was not in the same game (like in high school) or even the same season, but Jaster played defense during his first collegiate campaign of 2017 and then on offense as a sophomore.

Jaster loves football and savors the chance to be on the field, no matter the position. "Amazing - great experience, happy to get back at it," he said of his freshman season when he saw limited action at nose guard in the middle of a three-man defensive front or as a defensive tackle in a four-man front. 

Before heading back to campus as a sophomore, he said he expected to play a more significant role in the defensive line. He did earn more playing time, earning a starting position in 2018. But little did he expect it to be on the other side of the ball. 

Just before workouts began for his sophomore season, the coaches told him he would be most valuable on the offensive line. 

There was no guarantee he would be a starter if he made the switch, but Jaster agreed to the change and quickly earned the starting nod at center. Listed as a 5-foot-10, 264-pound defensive lineman during a 7-win, 3-loss freshman season, he was on the 2018 roster as a 5-11, 273-pound center. The Saints won six, lost 4.

College coaching staffs are often more hesitant to sign nine-man football players ahead of those coming from 11-man programs. 

Jaster said the game is a lot faster in college along with everyone going against bigger players than they had faced in high school. That would especially be true for gridders making the big step from nine-man to the collegiate level.

He said weight room workouts are "more intense and more serious" than in high school. At St. Scholastica, the weight room was organized to foster team bonding; no one was allowed to wear anything but team colors in the weight room where players toiled three to four days a week.

Jaster came in with a large class of defensive linemen, but coaches told him they were pleased with his progress in learning to take advantage of his size. One senior defensive linemen took the freshman from Spring Grove under his wing and taught him a lot.

"Jordan has an expanding role at CSS," said coach Matt Krivinchuk of that freshman season. "He came in and established a solid work ethic and enthusiasm. He was a tremendous team-first player in year one."

Unfortunately, he sustained a ligament injury in his wrist near the midpoint of that freshman campaign. Surgery would be needed. But Jaster loves football. He told the coaches he wanted to finish the season before the surgery. So he was fitted with a hard cast, which was padded for games. 

He finished that first collegiate season and then had surgery. The doctor told him he would not regain 100 percent efficiency, but Jaster estimated he had 85 to 90 percent flexibility heading into his sophomore season.

Jaster had played the same positions, nose guard and center, while anchoring the line for three years at Spring Grove High School. But he said being a college center requires more responsibility. And he has met that obligation well.

"Jordan Jaster is easy to talk about," said head coach Michael Heffernan. "He is a great young man, one of the hardest working guys on our football team. He gives absolutely the best effort in everything he does. 

"He started off as a defensive lineman here and out of necessity, he was moved to play offensive line this last fall camp. Not only was he moved to play offensive line, but he quickly became our starting center.

"Being the center in the offensive line unit is a huge responsibility, and he did a great job. Jordan has a bright future, not only here at the College of St. Scholastica, but he will do great things long after he has graduated. 

"With his work ethic and determination, Jordan is becoming a leader on this team. I couldn't be more proud of Jordan. He understands by working as hard as he does, he is going to give himself an opportunity to accomplish anything he sets his mind to. Jordan is a great teammate, student - and most of all - a great person. I am thankful he is a part of our football family."