It’s difficult to quantify greatness in an individual, but 5,218 rushing yards at the quarterback position is a good way to start.
Senior Ferris quarterback Jason Vander Laan, who is gracing the front page of our newspaper this week, currently stands at 5,218 rushing yards. The last time another athlete at any level of collegiate football competition came near that mark was 26 years ago when Shawn Graves from Wofford College set the previous record with 5,128 yards.
Yes, you read that correctly, Vander Laan has more right now with at least four games to play, meaning that he is the new record holder for most rushing yards for a quarterback ever.
Because Graves’ record stood for 26 years, it indicates that Vander Laan is—for most of us quite literally given our age—a once-in-a-lifetime talent. He is certainly the most talented player to strap on shoulder pads for the Bulldogs.
Still, sometimes contemporary talent isn’t recognized and appreciated fully in its time. Edgar Allan Poe died nearly penniless, and Vincent Van Gogh wasn’t much better off when his genius was largely appreciated only years after his passing.
It can be easy to not fully appreciate Vander Laan’s incredible accomplishments, since Ferris football has only found success in recent years, and Big Rapids is certainly no Tuscaloosa, AL. At the end of the day, it is Div. II football and doesn’t receive the same level of glitz, glamour and media attention that the big dogs in Div. I athletics do.
Still, Vander Laan is officially the best rushing quarterback in college football history, regardless of level of competition. Reread that previous sentence a few times until it sets in that a student-athlete on Ferris State’s campus—one of our peers—is the best of all time in that category.
It’s an exciting time to be a Bulldogs fan, and Vander Laan is a big reason why.