Q: Why do you think you two were so close?
A: I recruited him and I coached him. Jason understood me; he knew where I was coming from. I was hard on him but I loved him. When we see each other, we just hug it up. He's a guy that I think the world of. He has a chance to just develop his game because he came here right before the season. A lot of guys, they're working on their moves and their techniques all spring and summer long. We never had that. I'm thrilled that he went in the first round. It's an honor for South Florida. It's an honor for him. He embodies a lot of things that we look for in a young man. He made a promise to me and his family that he's going to finish his degree. That speaks volumes. He's about to make more money than he'll ever need really, yet he's still going to come back here and finish his degree. Our goals here were for him to get a degree, win a lot of games and get drafted, and we've still got to take care of that first one, and he understands that. He has a promise to me, his family and this program that he's going to get that one done.
Q: How, if at all, do you think the situation with his father going blind when Jason was very young drove him and/or affected him?
A: I think it does. I think the opportunity to be successful does drive him. I think the support he got from his family really drove him to make the most of the situation. A lot of times when I get young guys from junior college I'll go check the classes myself and look through the window. And he'd always be in there studying. He never missed any classes. He never missed any tutoring appointments or academic appointments. He was always on time. You could tell that this guy was on a mission. From the first day he got here, he was studying tape and asking questions of me and the other coaches, and trying to learn. He had his ups and downs – as all players do during the course of the year – but he always pushed through those to be a real good player.
Q: Why were you two so close?
A: How was I close to him? I don't know, I just try to do what I do. I was always honest with him. That was one thing that he always said; that I was real with him. A lot of coaches are like used-car salesmen. I was real with him. I think he respected that. These young people can tell when you're real or not. They'll be able to find out if a coach is full of crap or not. They can feel it. He's pretty good at that. Coming from where he came from and being around the people that he is; he can feel that.
Q: Last thing, Coach, could you share some of your favorite memories of Jason while he was with you with the Bulls?
A: Really the first game, it was against an option team, a 1-AA team (Wofford), he literally hurdled a 6-2 offensive lineman that was slightly bent over; he just spread his legs and jumped over him. It was very impressive. I saw him throw an offensive lineman the first couple plays he was here. He grabbed him and darn near threw him on his ear. It was just really impressive. I saw him grab 300-pound offensive linemen in the Northern Illinois game, the Rutgers game, and just basically outmaneuver them.
One of the best examples of what kind of attitude he had came in the Rutgers game. Anthony Davis (first-round pick from Rutgers) was going against George Selvie, but Jason said ‘Coach, put me at right end, I want a piece of that guy.' Those guys were going at it to where both guys were jawing at each other coming off the field. Of course Jason wanted to go right back in there against Davis. He just wanted it.
Against Florida State, it was the same thing. I rolled my defensive linemen a lot and I took him out. He was sitting on the sidelines asking to come back in. I put him back in and he gets a sack the next play. When the lights are on this kid is ready to go. He's always smiling and he's always ready to go. He's only going to get better. With more and more technique work, I think it's only going to propel him to yet another level.
He banged his shoulder after hitting the running back in the Cincinnati game. He came off and the trainers ripped his pads off. They threw some tape on him. I'm thinking this kid is going to be out for a series or two. Instead he's in my ear telling me ‘Coach put me in. Let's go. Let's go. Let's go.' And he was back on the field like a gazelle ready to go. When he's hot, he's like that. All players go through hot and cold times. But you could always tell when Jason was going well; he'd be smiling and he'd be talking to nobody in particular. He'll just start talking to anybody.
One day in practice, he went against all four of our offensive linemen down the line in a row and he whipped them all. I didn't let him go against the center, but he went against the tackle, whipped him, he went to the guard, whipped him, he went to the other guard, whipped him, and then he went to the other tackle and whipped him. Then he turned around and told them all ‘hey, we have to pick up our game, because this really shouldn't be this damn easy.' He can be a very impressive young man. We're all very proud of him at USF; he's one of our guys.
USF Coach: You Could Tell JPP Was on Mission
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