by Larry Ham
The Reedley College Football team’s post-season banquet was held on November 23rd. I wasn’t much looking forward to it, to be honest. I mean, what was there really to celebrate about a team with a 3-7 record, including a season-ending four-game losing streak? Shows you what I know. The banquet was one of the most uplifting and inspiring experiences of my 54 years on this earth, all because of one person: Jesse Lownsbury.
If you follow local sports in the Valley, you might have heard the name Jesse Lownsbury. He was a star quarterback at Yosemite High School in Oakhurst, before coming to Reedley College for the 2009 football season. As the season was about to start, Lownsbury found himself third on the quarterback depth chart, meaning if he was going to play at all, it wasn’t going to be much. A lot of high school sports stars have found themselves in that position — playing a lot and finding lots of success in high school, and then disappearing at the college level and having to explain it to their friends back home. Jesse Lownsbury didn’t fret — he just showed up every day and played hard.
As it turned out, the Tigers started the 2009 with two losses, and found themselves facing the prospects of a poor season under first-year head coach Randy Whited. Coach Whited decided to make a change at quarterback, and Jesse Lownsbury got his chance (the second string quarterback had quit the team). Jesse stepped into the starter’s role and promptly led the Tigers to six wins in their last eight games, and a berth in the Nor Cal championship game, narrowly losing to College of San Mateo.
A great story of overcoming obstacles, right? That’s just the first part of this remarkable young man’s story. You would figure Jesse Lownsbury would be a shoe-in to be the starter in 2010, considering his outstanding 2009 season, but the Tigers were able to recruit two outstanding freshman quarterbacks in Jeff Kidd and Taylor Genuser. Once again this season, Jesse found himself third on the depth chart.
Can you imagine what that must have felt like? You lead your team to a great season, and your reward is zero playing time the next season? I would have quit, that’s for sure. You probably would have too, right? Want to know what Jesse Lownsbury did? He showed up for every practice. He participated in every drill. He took the freshman quarterbacks under his six-foot-tall wings and helped them in any way he could.
He provided invaluable help preparing for the Tiger’s opponents by running plays as the scout team quarterback, imitating the opposing quarterback for the Tiger defense. He stood on the sideline during every single game holding a clipboard and rooting for his teammates. He didn’t take a single snap in a game the entire season.
We all know the time eventually comes when we’ll have to face the fact that we’re not number one on the depth chart anymore. How will we handle it?
I’m not big on role models. Sports stars and other celebrities generally are overpaid, self -absorbed and boring. But I’ll tell you this — if my kids grow up to be like Jesse Lownsbury, I will be extremely proud. Not only did he accomplish everything you just read, but he took a combined 39 units at Reedley College over his two years on the football team, and had a perfect 4.0 GPA. He is a role model for everyone, no matter what your age or occupation.