One of the key attributes a coach must have is seeing something in an athlete that the athlete doesn’t necessarily see in himself.
That was the situation Fayetteville coach Daryl Patton faced with Jase Rapert after his sophomore season quarterbacking the junior varsity Bulldogs. Rapert was a tough, hard-nosed and smart player who got the job done in leading the sophomore team to an 8-2 record. He was a leader and other players naturally followed him.
The only issue was that there were more talented quarterbacks ahead of him on the varsity squad, including former three-year starter Austin Allen, who is now a redshirt freshman for the Arkansas Razorbacks and senior Mitch Marshall, the Bulldogs’ current signal caller.
“When he was at quarterback, Jase was more of Tim Tebow type than a Tom Brady,” Patton said. “But he would just find a way to beat you. The sophomores went 8-2 that season, and while Jase might only complete 5 of 20 passes in a given game, each one of them would be big or late in the game on a touchdown drive. He is just a winner. You can’t have enough of that on the field.”
But unlike Tebow who has refused to even attempt to make the adjustment from quarterback to another position to remain on an NFL roster, Rapert embraced the opportunity to play another position.
“I ran the scout team as a sophomore,” Rapert said. “I kind of expected to get moved to another position. I knew the offense and I think that’s allowed me to adjust.”
Rapert now plays tight end, H-back and fullback as the Bulldogs utility man. He’s been the Bulldogs’ third leading receiver in their 5-0 start with five catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.
“It was easy going from position to position because I knew the overall scheme from playing quarterback,” Rapert said. “I’m not the most athletic guy on the field, but I understand the offense and know my assignments and can help the other guys out.”
Fayetteville (5-0, 2-0) vs. Rogers Heritage (3-2, 1-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11
Location: Gates Stadium, Rogers
Patton said the move worked out well for the Bulldogs last year when the 5-10, 205-pound Rapert played 20 to 25 plays a game, and even better now that he is figuring into 40 to 45 pays a contest.
“This year with moving Tommy Coker to linebacker, Jase has taken on a bigger role, playing more fullback and H-back,” Patton said. He’s very, very valuable to our football team. He’s just blossomed with the move. We ask him to do a lot of different things, but nothing we’ve thrown at him has blown his mind. He’s a little undersized, but has great hands. Last year he was a big, big asset for us in our title run and he’s just picked up where he left off.”
With the move of 6-5, 220-pound C.J. Grady to tight end, Rapert thought he would actually see less playing time as a senior than as a junior, but the two make a formidable tandem.
“I’ve gotten a lot more playing time than I thought I would, especially with C.J. moving to tight end and him doing such a good job,” Rapert said. “We’re adapting. I handle more of the blocking. We all try to help each other out on the field, playing our roles. I’m playing more fullback and or wing than tight end, but I’m trained to do it all.”
The Bulldogs stand 5-0 at the midpoint of the season. Rapert feels the team has great cohesion and potential.
“I think we’ve handled the season really well so far,” Rapert said. “We didn’t have that many returning starters so we’ve all pulled together. It really seems like a team effort.
“Our offensive line has done a great job with five guys who really hadn’t played a lot of varsity football. They’ve adapted to the system. All of us still make our mistakes, but I think the line has played really well so far considering everything. They are physical and get the job done.”
Neither Patton nor Rapert have any qualms mentioning the Bulldogs’ end game, another state title, but both said taking each game and play one at a time is the key to accomplishing any gridiron goal.
“Winning another state title is the goal, but we really do just take it one game and one day and one play at a time,” Rapert said. “Our thoughts are only on Heritage this week. We don’t have any other game in mind. It’s going to take all the effort we have to win this one. They are the best team we’ve seen so far, no doubt about it.”
The Bulldogs travel to Rogers at 7:30 p.m. Friday to face Heritage High at Gates Stadium.
Rapert, who knows his football career will end on the high school level, said he hopes to make the most of his time left playing the game. He thinks being involved in the extracurricular activity has helped him as student, as well.
“You might think it would take away from schoolwork, but I think playing football has helped me manage my time and helped me develop a work ethic and discipline,” said Rapert, who plans to study business as an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas. “I know I have only so much time to get things done, so I don’t put things off. You also learn there are things you have to do that you may not necessarily like to do to reach a goal. Even though it’s tough, the outcome is worth it.”