Since graduating from Kaua‘i High School in 2006, Jett Jasper has fought hard for his dream. Five years later, Jasper is living that dream as a member of the UH football team.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a five part series profiling the five members of the University of Hawai‘i football team that are from Kaua‘i. One profile will run each Saturday leading to Hawai‘i’s season opening game against Colorado, Sept. 3.
IN THE FALL of 2005, Jett Jasper walked off the field at Hanapepe Stadium for the last time as a star football player.
During his tenure at Kaua‘i High School, the 6-foot-2 wavy blond haired wide receiver dominated the high school ranks; He was named all-state twice and led the Red Raiders to three straight conference championships. He also lettered in baseball and track — all while maintaining his status as an honor roll student.
From the outside it looked like it came easy, as if it was effortless. But as Jett walked off the field for that time as a Red Raider following a heartbreaking 14-7 loss in the first round of the state playoffs, he headed in the direction of his father, Richard. As others sulked and mourned the loss of their seasons — their careers — Jett marched to his farther, looked at him, and said, “Dad. I’m going to play football at the University of Hawa‘ii.”
Richard nodded and both men walked off the field knowing the uphill battle that they were facing.
THERE WERE A lot of things for colleges to like about Jett coming out of high school. He was a tall wideout that wasn’t afraid to throw his body around. With the right grooming and some added pounds, he had the potential to be a solid component of a college team.
But Jett didn’t care too much about what schools were looking at him. The only one he cared about wore green and black.
“It’s always been his dream to play for Hawai‘i,” Richard said. “He applied to one school. One.”
The only problem was, UH didn’t offer Jett a scholarship; the best they could do was bring him in as an invited walk on. The UH coaches were interested in him, but he would have to come to camp and earn his spot over guys who were bigger, faster and more talented than himself.
To counter this, Jett took a greyshirt his first year. This meant he was a part-time student and wouldn’t join the football team until the spring.
While Colt Brennan and the Warriors basked in the lights and cheers of a packed Aloha Stadium en route to an 11-3 record in the 2006 season, Jett and his dad spent mornings alone in quietude of Vidinha Stadium in Lihu‘e.
Starting that June, the father and son pair drove to Jett’s old stomping grounds every morning — sometimes again later in the afternoon — for seven straight months. They didn’t take days off. No weekends. No birthdays and definitely no holidays.
“We didn’t even take Christmas off,” Jett said. “We liked it like that. Nobody else was working out like we were on the holidays, it was something we could take pride in.”
By the end of the seven months, Jett had added pounds of muscle, bulking up his previously unfilled frame. He was in the best shape of his life. The hundreds of hours that he and his father sweated, lifted and bled together were about to come to a conclusion. In January, Jett left Kaua‘i for Honolulu to prove himself.
RICHARD JASPER’s office in the basement of his restaurant, JJ’s Broiler, is cramped and crowded. It’s not because of the square footage. It’s not a tiny office by any means. It just feels small. It’s packed to the brim with mementos and pictures of Jett. Dozens of pictures of Jett in high school compete with clippings from newspapers, including one chronicling the Warriors’ new additions with Jett’s name circled. A large framed picture of Jett posing in the Louisiana Super Dome following the Warriors’ appearance in the Sugar Bowl hangs by Richard’s desk.
Richard remembers every day he and Jett worked out together. He remembers how hard his son pushed himself and how he never let go of his dream. So when Jett called at the conclusion of spring practice several months after he left for Honolulu to tell his dad he made the team, it was the only ending that could have sufficed.
“It was just,” Richard paused, the eyes of a proud man and father beginning to moisten. “It was just perfect,” he said, while putting both thumbs up in the air.
ENTERING HIS senior season, Jett hasn’t forgotten what got him to where he is. He still works out everyday during the offseason, opting to stay in Honolulu for the summers to workout at team facilities — keeping familiar with the playbook and coaching staff. Jett feels that the summers away from home, although hard, have been pivotal to his increased role on the team.
“It was just a good way to get in rhythm,” Jett said. “I get more exposure with the coaches. They could see how hard I worked.”
It also gave Jett time to focus on school.
The football season is a grind, leaving time for little else. By staying near campus during the summers, he was able to graduate in four years with a degree in speech and is now working towards a Master’s degree in Communicology.
He’s also been the president of the UH Student-Athletic Advisory Council for the last three years.
As president of the SAAC, Jett takes on projects ranging from helping athletes who feel like they’re being treated wrong by a coach or staff, to helping with the installation of park benches and bike pump stations around campus.
“I’ve always been comfortable speaking, and with my degree and the SAAC I’ve decided to use that to my advantage,” Jett said.
SINCE HE FIRST made the Warriors roster, Jett has had to walk on each season. He has to earn everything he gets. Nothing is given. Through the years, he hasn’t seen a lot of time on the field. He’s played in a game here and a game there for the last three seasons. His stats don’t jump off the page. For the most part, he’s been relegated to the special teams. In high school, Jasper was the one scoring game-winning touchdowns. On the Warriors, Jett pushes himself to the limit just to get onto the field to block. It hasn’t been the most glamorous job. He hasn’t earned athletic accolades or been mentioned in the same breath as the Brennans of the world. But Jasper is a Warrior, and he’s still fighting.
Tyson Alger, sports writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or by emailing talger@ thegardenisland.com. Follow him on twitter.com/tysonalger.