Ed Jasper loves talking about his hometown. "I came from Troup,
Texas, population 1,659," he says. "The biggest restaurant we
have there is the Dairy Queen. You have to drive 20 miles to the
movies. Then again, I couldn't date anyone there because we're
all kinfolk." Indeed, Jasper, who is entering his third season
as Texas A&M's starting noseguard, is so identified with the
place that he is identified by it--Troup has become his
nickname. "A lot of the freshmen don't even know my real name,"
he says. "I like it all right. Every time I hear it, it reminds
me where I came from."
Of course, no one in College Station would dare call Jasper a
name he didn't like. A burly 6'4", 302 pounds, Jasper is the
anchor of one of the nation's most fearsome defensive front
sevens, and he has very specific notions about how to assert his
dominance, whether it be over an opposing lineman or an
unwitting teammate. "He's a big bully," says senior inside
linebacker Larry Walker. "When I was a freshman, I used to walk
into his room, and he'd just hit me as hard as he could. I hated
him for a while."
Walker got over it, but opposing linemen haven't been so lucky.
Last season Jasper set a single-season school record with 14
tackles for a loss. And though he finished the year with only 53
tackles, the double and triple teams he attracted created
opportunities for pass rushers like linebacker Keith Mitchell,
whose 13 sacks were fifth-best in the nation.
Outside linebacker Reggie Brown, selected 17th overall by the
Detroit Lions, was the only starter to depart from last season's
front seven. Considering that A&M had the nation's third-ranked
defense last year, that bodes well for '96.
The offense will be hurt by the loss of tailback Leeland McElroy
but will recover much faster if new quarterback Branndon Stewart
(page 82), the highly touted transfer from Tennessee, lives up
to expectations. In addition, the team will need to erase
memories of last year's 9-3 season, which, until the 22-20 Alamo
Bowl victory over Michigan, never fulfilled the high hopes with
which it began.
That's where Jasper's leadership will be needed most. "It got to
the point last year where we were all blaming each other," he
says. "We weren't laughing, we weren't having fun, we weren't
close enough. That's going to change this year."