Danville's Claude ready to play

September 01, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

Three years, one knee injury and one position change later, Jason Claude is finally getting his turn.

Claude has put in countless hours to get the opportunity that is finally his this season, even after seeing his dream deferred a year ago. Now he has taken his place on Danville's offensive and defensive lines, and he's doing his best to make sure all that hard work pays off both for himself and the Admirals.

It has been a slow progression for the senior guard known as "Turtle," but he's finding so far this season that it was worth the wait.

Friday he'll get another opportunity he has long waited for: the chance to line up against Boyle County, the school he left behind five years ago.


"I've been waiting for an opportunity to go in there, and I'm hoping I can get in there and do what I do to the best of my ability," he said.

Claude said he has been preparing to play a larger role for the Admirals not for weeks, but for months.

"It all starts in the weight room, lifting all winter and doing conditioning with coach (Sam) Harp and hoping that carries over into the summer," he said.

It's the same thing Claude did before his junior year, when he entered preseason practice in competition with then-senior Peter Thomas at center.

A knee injury Claude suffered before the season changed all that. It wasn't a serious injury, but it would keep him on the sideline long enough for Thomas to get the starting spot. Claude didn't return until the second week of the season, and he played mostly in mop-up time throughout the year.

"We were neck and neck, but (Thomas) had the whole summer to work at it, and that kind of put me down," he said.

Still, Claude kept plugging away in practice.

"Turtle's a kid who put his time in," assistant coach Marty Jaggers said. "A lot of kids wouldn't do that. They would've hung it up a long time ago."

"There's not too many schools in the state where you can win three state championships in four years," Claude said. "I hope I can work this year to get three for me."

He switched from center to guard

Claude even adjusted to a position change before this season. He moved from center, where he had played for three years, to guard because the Danville coaches felt the offensive line was stronger with him at that position and junior Ben Bright at center.

"Turtle's a strong kid, and we felt like he was a little bigger than Ben," Jaggers said.

The 5-8 1/2 Claude said he weighs about 255 pounds, some 15 more than a year ago, and he said he thinks the transition from center to guard was made easier because of his injury last season.

"Last year, I got the chance to just sit back and watch more, and I got to learn all the positions," he said.

Claude said he enjoys the chance to level offensive players from his nose guard position, but he said he likes the offensive side of the ball even more.

"Me being so short, it's easy for me to get inside on a defender," he said.

Claude didn't play at all in last year's Danville-Boyle County game, and he said he's eager to get his one shot at Boyle on Friday.

"I'm looking forward to just getting out in front of all those people I used to play with and play for and showing them what we've got at Danville," he said.

Claude attended Boyle County schools from the fourth through seventh grades, then left before his eighth-grade year to transfer to Danville's system. He said his nickname stuck with him in the eighth grade, though he isn't sure why.

He still lives in Boyle's district, and he still counts some Boyle players among his friends, including lineman Brandon Record. He said he's sure there will be a fair amount of trash-talking with his acquaintances at Boyle this week, though he said it won't be mean-spirited.

"I like to talk, and I bet they do, too," Claude said. "But what happens on the field stays there."

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