EDITOR’S NOTE: We here at BLD are unashamedly super excited for this story, as Michael Jasper is a favorite of this site. He did an interview with us during training camp, which you can check out HERE. Congrats Mike!
It sounds almost like something out a Hollywood movie.
One of the best stories coming out of this offseason was the tale of Michael Jasper, a lineman out of tiny NAIA school Bethel University who the Bills made their final selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. Jasper was so under the radar that most draft guides and resources didn’t even list him. There were two good reasons for that: 1) Bethel isn’t exactly a football powerhouse and 2) Jasper was so big (450 or so pounds) that it seemed he would never be agile enough for the NFL.
But as we heard after the draft, the Bills discovered Jasper and made him a promise: get lighter and we’ll draft you. He did, and his tremendous athleticism began to show through. The Bills kept their word, and Jasper was suddenly in the NFL.
Jasper played with the Bills as a nose tackle throughout the preseason, but was cut at the end of camp. It wasn’t a shock – Jasper’s talent was there, but he was one of the rawest players you’ll ever see in an NFL uniform. His college journey had taken him to at least three colleges and he had see-sawed back and forth from offense to defense too much to really develop.
Fortunately, the Bills re-signed Jasper to the practice squad…where it soon leaked that Jasper was now playing offensive line. Frankly, this may have been the plan all along with Jasper – get him through the preseason without him looking too good, cut him, and then develop him on the practice squad.
Well, if that was the plan, it has paid off for the Bills – as Jasper has been signed to the 53-man roster and will likely be active this Sunday in New England. Thanks to Buffalo’s numerous injuries along the line (Kraig Urbik and Demetrius Bell are both out with injuries Sunday) – Jasper may well have to play.
Jasper, understandably, is very excited:
“It’s definitely a blessing,” Jasper told Buffalobills.com. “I hate the circumstances in the way I’ve been called up with one of our comrades going down because we’re a tight-knit group on the offensive line. But it’s my job to be ready and I’ve done what they’ve asked me to do and I’ve prepared each week so finally in Week 17 I’m ready to go.”
Jasper has been working at every position along the line (even center, which would be amusing to watch, given that Jasper is still around 380 pounds), but is probably a guard first and foremost, “(offensive line coach) Joe D’Alessandris has been working on my snaps before practice and turning me into a bit of a center so it’s been kind of fun, but I think I’m a guard first and then a probably tackle second knowing I played there when I was at Tennessee-Martin.”
It’s expected that Jasper will serve if needed at left guard in Sunday’s game. If there’s an injury anywhere else along the line, Andy Levitre will move to that spot and Jasper will move to Levitre’s usual position.
Not many teams would have the patience to give a player an “internship” of sorts like this, but the Bills have done it before (with Demetrius Bell) and are high enough on Jasper’s potential to see how he develops: “It is very much a gradual process and I’m very appreciative to Buddy Nix and coach Gailey and coach Joe D for giving me the opportunity to actually develop,” Jasper said. “There are not many programs in the NFL that would take a guy like me that would take the time to mold me like clay into the player they want. It’s still a process, and I’ll be up here all offseason working on it.”
Kudos to Jasper, who’s busted his tail for this opportunity and deserves the chance to step onto the field for a real NFL game. Let’s hope it’s not the last time we see him in a Bills uniform.