As printed in the Post-Journal on 12/4/17
by Scott Kindberg
Note: This is Alex’s cousin!
Jasen Carlson has been connected to sports in some way, shape or form his entire life. Twenty years ago as a preschooler he could always be found at Southwestern Central School, watching his older brother, Dusty, play for the Trojans.
Well, maybe not really watching.
“I remember going to all his basketball games,” Jasen said by cell phone Sunday night, “and me and (my friend) Coleman Sleggs … played under the bleachers.”
By the time he reached middle school, however, Jasen began to take athletics seriously, particularly football. And by the time he was a freshman, it was clear that the lineman had a bright future on the gridiron. In fact, upon his graduation in 2010, Jasen had two state championships and a slew of all-state honors under his belt, which led to a scholarship at the University at Buffalo.
Before he graduated from UB, Jasen earned Mid-American Conference honors, was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Chicago Bears and spent time in their rookie minicamp in the spring of 2014 before being cut. While his NFL dream was short-lived, Jasen’s chance to stay around the game was just getting started as Zach Duval, the former director of sports performance at UB, took a similar job at the University of Wyoming and asked Jasen to join him as a graduate assistant in the fall of 2015.
“I didn’t have to think twice,” Jasen said, “but I was skeptical … because I didn’t know anything about that place. Moving out there was actually a blessing. … It was interesting. I spent a lot of time in the weight room, learning and experiencing stuff. Out there, I could either be at the football facility or at home, and I chose the football facility. I learned a lot in that time.”
It appears that “education” has paid dividends.
By the spring of 2016, Duval took a job at Central Florida and Carlson joined him again. The Knights were 6-7 in head coach Scott Frost’s first year.
“The talent was there, but the team was still learning how to win,” Carlson said. “This year, they refuse to lose.”
And, well, they haven’t.
With Frost at the helm, Central Florida, which was 0-12 in 2015, is the lone unbeaten team in the FBS this season and is ranked 12th in the country after capturing the American Athletic Conference title Saturday with a 62-55 double-overtime victory over No. 16 Memphis. The win earned the Knights a berth in the Peach Bowl against Auburn on New Year’s Day, Frost’s final game. He was introduced as Nebraska’s new head coach on Sunday.
“(The Peach Bowl) is going to be a tough one,” Jasen said, “but we have some athletes on the team and they are going to match up better than a lot of people think.”
In preparation for that game, Jasen, under the watchful eye of Duval and assistant Andrew Strop, will do what he’s been doing since arriving in Orlando a year and a half ago.
“In strength and conditioning, I kind of have a hand in everything that isn’t the Xs and Os of football,” he said. ” … I actually work with all the players on their techniques in the lifts and how heavy they’re supposed to go. I also make sure they’re getting after it and not slacking off.”
After Central Florida’s bowl game, Frost, a former quarterback at Nebraska when it shared the 1997 national championship, will head to Lincoln and begin the process of returning the Cornhuskers to the top of the collegiate football world.
When that happens, it’s likely some UCF staff will join him, Carlson said.
“All signs point to me going to the University of Nebraska, my first full-time job,” Carlson said, “but nothing is set in stone.”