MORGANTOWN,W.Va. - West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen has announced that redshirt-senior safety Jarrod Harper is the recipient of the 2016 Curtis Jones, Jr., Achievement Award, named in honor of the late Curtis Jones Jr., an associate athletic director for academic support at WVU who died suddenly in September 2013.
“Curtis Jones placed high expectations on our student-athletes and made sure they knew that they were held accountable in every area of their lives,” Holgorsen said. “This award is a tribute to him for his many contributions to the Mountaineer football program and is a way to make sure people are aware of what he did for the University and the football program and how important he was to it.”
The Curtis Jones Jr., Achievement Award is presented annually to the Mountaineer football player who demonstrates excellence in all facets of his collegiate career, including academics, athletics and community service.
“Jarrod Harper is a consistent example of what a Mountaineer should be in every area of his life,” Holgorsen said. “He faced many challenges during his career and always did things the right way, whether on or off the field. He finished his career as a two-year starter and was one of our team leaders.”
Harper is the fourth recipient of the Curtis Jones Jr. Award. Wes Tonkery claimed the inaugural award in 2013, Jared Barber was honored in 2014 and Terrell Chestnut earned the distinction in 2015.
Harper remembers Jones and the example he set for the football program, as he was a member of the football team under the direction of Jones, the director of academics for the football program.
“I’ve won a lot of awards during my life, but this one really means a lot to me,” Harper said. “Because of the way that Curtis carried himself with his positive attitude and his outgoing personality, he was more than a role model for the football team. Being recognized for this award by my coaches really means a lot to me.”
Harper, a Frostburg, Maryland resident, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminology in May 2016 and is currently pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies.
“Jarrod Harper is more than deserving of this honor as he has excelled both athletically and academically throughout his tenure as a Mountaineer,” Brittney O’Dell, WVU’s associate director of student-athlete development and who also is responsible for overseeing football’s academic program. “Jarrod has overcome adversity, shown a commitment to his education, served as a leader to his teammates and never settled for mediocrity – all things the Curtis Jones Jr. Award embodies. I could not be more proud of what Jarrod has accomplished during his time at WVU and I am excited to see what his future holds.”
Harper appeared in 51 career games and started 22 of those over the past two years. He finished with 130 total tackles, including 98 solo stops, one sack, seven tackles for loss, five pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He produced a career-high eight tackles against BYU and Kansas State as a senior in 2016.
Besides being seen on the football field, in the weight room and going to class, Harper also was visible in the community. He, along with his teammates, gave numerous hours to others to help them in different ways.
Harper was part of a group, headed by defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who visited WVU Medicine Children’s on a regular basis. He, and his teammates, went to a local park and helped clean it up and refurbish the equipment on the playground to give children a place to play. He went to homeless shelter and helped deliver food and offer encouragement to the people who were there.
One of Harper’s favorite activities was the time he spent with his teammates on and off the field, as he tried always to be a good teammate and a source of leadership. He never was much of a loud and boisterous leader as some liked to be, but always tried to lead by example.
“Someone doesn’t always have to be loud and outspoken to be a good leader,” Harper said. “I believe that if you come to work every day, always give your best and make a difference in people’s lives and do everything to the best of your ability, then you will be an effective leader. A leader doesn’t have to be older than you. It can be someone who is younger. I look at my brother and he says he has always looked up to me, and he is six years older.”
When looking back on his time at WVU, Harper points to former All-American safety and current All-NFL Rookie sensation and Oakland Raider Karl Joseph as a source of leadership and one that he viewed as a role model.
“Even though we are the same age, I always looked up to Karl and how he carried himself,” Harper said. “The way he carried himself in the classroom, on the football field, in the weight room and around the University, he was someone I always wanted to follow.”
From a young age, Harper decided West Virginia was the place for him to play football and get his education. Now with his degree in hand and his time on the college gridiron over, he said many times that he has really enjoyed his time as a Mountaineer and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“I came to West Virginia, because it was my dream school. I couldn’t picture myself going anywhere else,” Harper said. “My time at West Virginia, I came here five years ago as a boy and grew into a man. I matured a lot during my five years here. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
“I definitely had a lot of highs as well as a lot of lows. I battled back from two shoulder surgeries. it was tough from a mental aspect, trying to keep my head on straight, trust the process and trust in the plan that God had for me.
“My experience here is something I will always remember. I’ve met a lot of good people, coaches, friends, professors, academic counselors as well as others involved in the football program. West Virginia University will always be home to me, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I had a tremendous time here, academically, on the football field and in the community. I am proud to be a Mountaineer.”