Opinion: No matter what, we have our Jarvis memories

Thomas Gallick

“But at least we have Jarvis.”

That was the entire Kent State community’s collective retort when someone disparaged the Flashes’ chances of winning a football game.

We students, faculty and fans knew the history of the Kent State football program, the culture of losing and the lack of postseason victories or even appearances. But at least we had senior running back Eugene Jarvis.

Kent State had a difference maker, unfairly overlooked by top programs at least in part because of his short stature, who kept us in games, never shied away from contact and dazzled even against premiere talent.

I remember making the trip to Columbus in 2007 to watch the Flashes play Ohio State as one of the few Kent State fans with the fortitude to proudly display my school hoodie. The team may have let us down with a 48-3 loss, but Jarvis made us proud.

He was simply untouchable against the vaunted Buckeye defense, averaging 5.25 yards per carry before being pulled at halftime as the game got away from the Flashes.

My friends and I even tried to start a weak “K-E-N-T” cheer after one of Jarvis’ better efforts, but it didn’t quite match the ferocity of the “O-H-I-O” chants.

And I thought about Jarvis again that night as I walked past a frat house full of drunks who did not care for my Kent State attire. I didn’t care that we had fallen to Ohio State because Jarvis would surely tear up the rest of the conference schedule and get us back to our first bowl since 1972.

It didn’t happen. In fact, the Flashes finished the season 3-9, but Jarvis burned opponents for 1,669 yards that season, garnering national attention. He was, maybe, the most beloved figure in Kent State sports, a player who literally gave his team a chance to win up until the last game he played.

Now he’s gone for a year, and maybe his career, after suffering a kidney injury against Boston College on Saturday.

And I, like many who follow Kent State football, am almost speechless.

Kent State no longer has that home-run threat, that player running through the record books that keeps the team in every game. No. 6 may have bounced off his last tackler with ruthless determination, hit his last hole with reckless abandon and deflected his last bit of praise at a press conference.

As a journalism student, I can’t help but think of the ways this injury can negatively affect the team as it struggles to right itself after so many seasons of futility.

As a Kent State fan, and more importantly a human being, I can’t help but feel devastated by seeing such a brilliant competitor torn away from what they love to do prematurely.

Kent State coach Doug Martin seems certain that Jarvis will be back for another season at Kent State.

I wish I could share his optimism.

But even if Jarvis has played his last down in a Kent State uniform, fans will remember how much the young running back meant to this university. And, in a way, we still will have Jarvis.

Contact sports editor Thomas Gallick at [email protected].