Jaskowiak combines both brains, brawn

Navy: On the field, senior offensive tackle Derek Jaskowiak is one of the Mids' strongest players. Off the field, he has a 3.74 grade-point average.

College Football

October 11, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Someday, Derek Jaskowiak plans to spend his afternoons tinkering with nuclear reactors.

But for now, he's content to spend his afternoons throwing pancake blocks.

Jaskowiak is a senior offensive tackle on Navy's football team. He's one of the Mids' strongest, most dedicated players, and his down and dirty grunt work is a big reason Navy is third in the country in rushing at 282.8 yards a game.

But, it just so happens that he's also a systems engineering major with a 3.74 grade-point average who has been known to do calculus in his spare time ... you know, just for the fun of it.

"He's a little bit smarter than everyone else," said Mids defensive lineman Pete Beuttenmuller, a close friend of Jaskowiak's. "Some of the stuff he wants to talk about, or tries to explain, is on a little higher level than most of us are used to."

Jaskowiak rolls his eyes when he hears Beuttenmuller's comments, and he's quick to point out that fellow offensive lineman Grant Moody has a higher GPA than he does. But he admits there was that little incident with the math problems during his freshman year.

"We used to get these math problems sent to us over the e-mail," Beuttenmuller said. "They're really hard stuff, but they're voluntary, so I'm sure no football player in the history of this place had ever done one. But I remember Derek talking about how he figured one out and won like a cookie or something. He was so proud. We were just shaking our heads."

Essentially, that has always been Jaskowiak, the guy willing to do a little extra to get ahead. Athletics have always been in his blood: His grandfather, Charlie Share, played in the NBA for the St. Louis Hawks, and his father, Dennis Jaskowiak, was an offensive lineman at Missouri from 1969 to '73.

But Jaskowiak was only 5 feet 7 and 130 pounds as a high school freshman, and though he eventually shot up 6 inches and won a starting spot his senior year, he wasn't highly recruited out of Parkway West High School in Chesterfield, Mo.

Undaunted, Jaskowiak put together a videotape and sent it off to the Navy coaching staff, telling them he had already been accepted into the academy. They told him to give it a go.

"When I got here, I was a 200-pound defensive lineman," Jaskowiak said. "I was pretty bottom of the barrel in the scheme of things. If someone would have said [senior center] Matt Nye and I were going to be starters one day, they'd have said, `Send this guy to the crazy house.' "

Slowly but steadily, Jaskowiak began to change that perception. Many of the guys in Jaskowiak's recruiting class had spent a year together at the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, R.I., and were fast friends, but Beuttenmuller, Nye and Jaskowiak came directly to the academy in Annapolis and were outsiders. A bond soon formed among the three, and before long they were lifting weights together daily.

"We had this thing where the strongest guy always went last," Jaskowiak said. "It was a big deal to us when one guy would pass another. You'd have bragging rights for as long as you could hold them. We really pushed ourselves. The three of us were dead last string, getting whupped on scout team every day, but slowly we started to pass people up that weren't working as hard."

Jaskowiak worked just as hard in the classroom, chose about the toughest major he could find, and as he worked his way into the starting lineup, he also earned the reputation as one of Navy's top 100 students. He has made the dean's list four times, and is a member of the engineering and history honors societies.

"Because I'm a systems engineering major, most of my classes are math-based, engineering-based stuff," Jaskowiak said. "It's not stuff people most would consider a lot of fun. But I like it. It's more certain. It's not like a philosophy paper where you might have to go over it 15 times before going to bed. You know if you've figured it out."

When he graduates, Jaskowiak plans to attend the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and from there, become a surface nuclear warfare officer working on aircraft carriers. But until then, he'll work on helping Navy improve on its 1-4 mark.

"Derek is able to transfer his classroom intelligence to the football field," offensive line coach Todd Spencer said. "He's focused in whatever he's doing. It wouldn't surprise me the least to see him become a CEO of some corporation someday."

Next for Navy

Opponent:Rice (1-4)

Site:Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

When:Tomorrow, noon

Radio:WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

Line:Rice by 7 1/2

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