There are two athletes I am constantly in awe of when watching sports. One is Miguel Cabrera. The other is Jason Vander Laan.
Vander Laan is the sophomore starting quarterback of the Ferris football team, and is simply an unreal talent at the NCAA Division II college football level.
He’s built like a linebacker, but can slip through the cracks like the craftiest of runners. He’s listed at 6-4 and 236 pounds, but looks more like 245 pounds.
To compare Cabrera and Vander Laan is to compare apples with asparagus. Their crafts are nowhere near similar, nor are their levels at which they compete.
What the two share is an uncanny knowledge of their art, unfathomable strength, and unshakeable confidence in the face of peril.
Vander Laan has rushed for more yards in the 2013 season than any other quarterback in Division II football history has in a single season.
At the beginning of the Nov. 16 season finale at Top Taggart field, he had 1,396 rushing yards and needed just 88 more to pass the record.
Meanwhile, in the press box, everyone was crunching numbers.
The man running the live statistics feed, as well as all of the other frantic journalists and game officials in the press box, pantomimed the number three on their fingers to Athletics Communications Director Dominic Hennig to signify how many more yards he needed before the play occurred.
It was a classic Vander Laan play that broke the record. A simple rush up the middle went for less than ten yards. The common viewer wouldn’t have known it was even significant.
Vander Laan, per usual, put his head down and walked back to settle into the huddle. But the fans had other plans for the quarterback. The public address announcer indicated the broken record and players congratulated him, though he seemed more content getting back to work. It was a special moment on the field.
Post-game, he was reluctant to take credit for his 1,607 rushing yards. He deflected to his offensive linemen, slightly emotionally.
Head coach Tony Annese looked at the media during the press conference and told us that if Tim Tebow was a better man than Jason Vander Laan, he would be shocked. Vander Laan grinned and looked down at his hands.
Already a big man, Vander Laan looked just a little bigger for his modesty.
After the press conference a boy walked up and gave him the football he broke the record with. His swollen hand engulfed it. He seemed dazed at the prospect of the coming off-season.
The competitiveness that drives a humble superstar can make for something truly majestic in sports.
The Bulldogs will not play in the playoffs, but that may be more of a shame for the rest of the country who won’t get to see a budding legend.