Tailback/slot receiver Jason Colson is, it reads here, the ultimate team player. The senior has done absolutely everything asked of him, from switching to and from and learning multiple positions to handling starting and reserve roles. He has overtaken players like former Mountaineer superback Pernell Williams and lost position battles to true freshmen. He’s been yanked under the tutelage of receivers coach Butch Jones, then slid back into the backfield, offensive coordinator/running backs coach Calvin Magee’s domain. He’s complied with every tug and pull, and tried simply to do what he could to help WVU.
When he played well, like in a 108-yard, 21-carry, one-score performance against Central Florida, he spoke with media. He did the same when he fumbled multiple times in the opener last year versus Syracuse – a team against which he has always held a grudge for not recruiting him as a tailback – choosing not to pull a Kevin Pittsnogle media-dodge even after a disastrous outing. They shy kid from Rochester, N.Y. had a bad game close to home, and he bucked up and, with class, answered every question afterward.
Colson has shared his knowledge of two offensive positions with younger players who had more talent, and so were better able to play ahead of him. If one looks at the Sugar Bowl tape, it will notice Colson celebrating alongside Slaton, despite not being the player who set a bowl rushing record that day. He has time for a smile, a word, a handshake. If that sounds a bit hokey, perhaps it is. But who more emulates exactly what the West Virginia program is, if not for Colson? He didn’t transfer, quit going to class, get booted from the squad or any other such acts. This summer, he graduated with a degree in agricultural business after having made the athletic director’s honor roll (3.0 or better GPA).
As head coach Rich Rodriguez says, the greatest thing a college player can do is just stick with it, put five solid seasons into the program, do everything possible, and graduate with a degree. Checks across the board for the 6-1, 225-pounder. Colson finished near the middle-to-bottom of nearly every offensive category for which he was eligible – scoring, with one TD, receiving with eight catches, and rushing with 120 net yards, or 15 per game – except total offense (8th on WVU, with 27.1 yards per game). Both were a product of him being very good at many things, yet great at nothing. Football is a game of specialists, and Colson was an all-around player, a program guy who is very much valued as such, but one that was too good in a lot of areas to simply slog along behind the tailback parade.
“He’s a good football player for us,” Rodriguez said. “He can do a number of things, and that makes him valuable. He hasn’t taken any reps at slot receiver in camp, but he will begin to do so soon.”
Another flip back. But Colson hasn’t complained, just performed. He’ll be announced, along with approximately 17 other seniors, prior to the season finale against Rutgers this year. Center Dan Mozes and linebacker Kevin McLee, both all-Big East first-team performers, will likely get the loudest cheers. Other notables will be guard Jeremy Sheffey, linebacker Jay Henry and wideout Brandon Myles. Colson will be somewhere in the next group.
But before we reward the prime performers more than the contributors, I’d hope we would recognize just what some athletes, like Colson and Myles, who came in as a Prop 48 player and has earned his degree to give him the 2006 season during which to play, have done in representing West Virginia football, West Virginia the state, and West Virginia, the flagship University. These aren’t merely good football tales, they are good life ones as well.
To Jason: Many thanks for all your work, and your embodiment of what a West Virginia athlete and student should be. Your leadership, ability and teamwork will be missed, and whenever I see the No. 24, be it next year or any time thereafter, I’ll remember it as yours. Cheers to a career well-played, and the best in a senior season.