Total team player

Thomas Gallick

Jarvis willing to sacrifice stats for MAC championship

After rushing for 1,669 yards in his sophomore season, Eugene Jarvis is now sixth on the all-time Kent State rushing list. Daniel R. Doherty | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Sports – scratch that, the world in general – seems geared toward the needs of the individual, making it refreshing when anyone, let alone a star player, puts a team’s goals ahead of his or her own.

Junior running back Eugene Jarvis accepts that responsibility without a second thought.

Jarvis said he has no particular individual goals for this season, but will consider anything less than a Mid-American Conference championship a disappointment. He even said he would trade the statistics he had last year – 1,669 yards, which ranked seventh in the nation- for a winning season.

“We’re all in it for the same goal,” Jarvis said. “We all want to win a championship, and I watched teams like the Patriots and the Colts that were more family-oriented teams, and it helped them down the stretch.”

Jarvis is understandably hungry after the Flashes put together a 3-9 record last season after a promising 6-6 season in 2006. He said he wanted at least a couple of MAC championships when he accepted an offer to play football at Kent State.

The Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School product said he decided to play at Kent State because he agreed with Kent State coach Doug Martin’s philosophy and style.

“I believed in what coach Martin said when he came to my house and talked to my mom,” Jarvis said. “The trust issue was really a factor, and he sold that. When it all came down to it, (Kent State) was the right place for me.”

Obviously, anyone could fake a rah-rah, team spirit mentality in public, but running backs coach Jerry McManus said Jarvis’ desire to see his team succeed is heartfelt and not an act.

“I think he’d really like to see us, as a team, win the MAC and go to a bowl game,” McManus said. “I think that’s the way he is. He’s a team-oriented person, (and) that’s why he’s such a pleasure to coach.”

McManus said Jarvis is not a selfish player, or one who puts his stats and individual goals above the success of the team.

“That (his unselfishness) is why he’s such a pleasure to coach,” McManus said. “He’s not a conceited guy worried about his stats. I think he’s more worried about us winning football games than how many yards he gets rushing.”

Jarvis certainly could worry about living up to being the leading returning rusher in the nation and being on the Maxwell Award watch list (given to the best player in the nation), but he said the preseason hype means little to him. He said he will not change his style of play even if opposing defenses are focused on stopping him.

“I don’t pay that any attention,” Jarvis said. “Each game when I come in, I’m going to play my best regardless, and I’ve got different teammates around me that are going to take the pressure off me.”

Martin said other players on offense need to make an impact in order to free up Jarvis, who kept the team competitive in the MAC last season despite numerous injuries at the quarterback position.

“Last year, Eugene was all we had the last six games of the year,” Martin said. “To his credit, everybody knew that, and he was still racking up big yards. That’s a testimony to what a great player he is.”

The coaching staff has been playing Jarvis very infrequently in recent scrimmages in an effort to keep the star back healthy, a move that might make a rookie anxious but one that he takes in stride.

“I’m looking long run, you know,” Jarvis said. “I don’t want to play in the scrimmage and then have something happen to me, and I get hurt and I’m not healthy going to (play) Boston College. That’s the key: going in healthy.”

Sophomore Andre Flowers and freshman Jacquise Terry back up Jarvis at the running back spot,and learn from the elder back. Jarvis said despite the need to compete for the starting spot, he feels like more of a mentor than a rival to the younger players.

“I think Gene really knows- he’s been in the battles, so to speak,” McManus said. “He’s kind of taken those guys under his wing and really shown leadership with the running backs.”

Just what kind of season the Flashes will have this year is still up for debate, but the character of their star running back is not.

“He’s probably a better person than he is a football player,” McManus said. “He is really conscientious, he’s very professional, he takes care of his business on the field and off the field and he is a real pleasure to coach.”

Though Jarvis likes to keep the focus squarely on the success of his team, there is one area where he said he wants to be shown more respect: the virtual world. He said the character based on him for the video game “NCAA Football 09,” rated 86 on a scale of one to 100, is a weak imitation of the real player.

“I don’t like my (video game character’s) rating,” Jarvis said. “I think they did me wrong, so I’m not going to purchase that game.”

If Jarvis leads the Flashes to their first MAC championship in 36 years, maybe even the virtual world designers at EA Sports will have to give him and the team the credit they deserve.

Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallick at [email protected].