Finishing a Hilltopper

Jared Nash stood waiting in the tunnel of Houchens-Smith stadium with a bundle of flowers in his hand. Watching the rain come down, Nash and his fellow senior teammates on the WKU football team were about to be honored on senior day for their last game at the stadium. It would be the closing of Nash’s five year journey across the country fighting injuries and taking chances.

WKU long snapper Jared Nash gets in the zone before playing the Southern Miss Golden Eagles on November 23, 2019. Nash is in his final year of eligibility and has played for teams all across the country.

Nash, a Ft. Myers, Florida native started playing football at age four. Raised by a single mother and with three brothers, Nash found his way into the long snapper role, a special teams position that snaps the ball to kickers and punters. With a football scholarship lined up with Wagner University in New York, Nash tore his meniscus three weeks before he was scheduled to leave. Wagner pulled his scholarship, offering him a preferred walk-on opportunity instead. Nash decided to head out west to Saddleback Junior College in California to play long snapper there. With three weeks left in the season, Nash tore his meniscus again.

Nash visits the trainers room every morning to work out his right knee that has required surgery multiple times throughout his career.

After an opportunity with Florida International fell out with a departing coaching staff, Nash used his connections and found himself at WKU in 2016. He redshirted that year and was apart of an 11-3 squad that won the Boca Raton bowl and conference championship. Coach Brohm’s success had led him to a job with the Purdue football team, and Nash once again found himself in a transfer situation. Nash battled for a starting position and scholarship after serving as backup for a year, but WKU’s new coaching administration opted for another snapper. Nash said he doesn’t stay bitter about the times he’s been denied or doubted by teams and staffs. “Someone doubting me and not really thinking I can do what I know I can do, the past four years playing I knew I was very good.” In 2019, he was voted to the Conference USA all-conference second team special teams for the long snapper position by all 14 of the league’s coaches.

Nash takes a hit while defending his kicker during an extra point attempt. The brutality of the position has caused Nash to tear his meniscus more than once and miss previous seasons because of it.

Nash returned home to Florida to take online classes and evaluate where he could play the rest of his football career. He lined up a workout with UT-Chattanooga and earned the starting job and finally an athletic scholarship, something he had been chasing for years. “[my mom] raised me and my three brothers by herself, put all of us through college by herself, so it was my goal to get some financial burden off of her. She showed me how not to quit and how to keep going,” Nash said. Five games in, Nash faced yet another season ending knee injury. Nash was nearing the end of his playing career and began thinking about a master’s degree. He entered the transfer portal once again, looking for a school that could meet his football and academic needs.

Jared Nash on not quitting.

Nash has Thanksgiving dinner with his teammates in Downing Student Union. Nash's previous stint with the Hilltoppers led him to acclimate quickly to the team after he was brought in, as some players still remain from the 2016 squad.

WKU had a masters program in Sports Administration, and Nash still had friends from the 2016 squad there. He tried out for the squad once again, but all roster spots were filled. Opting to return to WKU as a student only, Nash patiently waited that summer to see if there would be any roster moves. “It’s always been that sense of family and I knew there was always somewhere to go. That’s where I knew if I just came back to school and got my masters I knew I’d be happy without football,” Nash said. He took an internship with WKU media relations and filmed interviews with players at practice, yearning to become a part of the team. On August 16, two weeks from the first game of the season, Nash got a call. WKU needed a senior leader at the long snapper position, the two freshmen weren’t quite ready yet. Nash finally put on the Western uniform for the second time on August 31 and has been the starting long snapper ever since.

Nash prepares to snap the ball during pregame workouts at Southern Miss.

Nash credits his faith to keeping him strong though this process. He has had the same pregame routine since junior college to pray before each game. Nash is often the only member of the team to run to an end zone and say a prayer for the safety of his teammates and the other team. He said he then finds the team chaplain or a teammate to say a pray for himself and his safety. “Faith is something in my life that I don’t think I would be where I am if I didn’t have that,” Nash said.

Jared Nash on faith.

Nash says a prayer in the end zone before kickoff against Southern Miss. He later has teammate and fellow long snapper Mitchell Harrison (left) say a prayer for him.

Jared Nash on playing final game.

Nash walked onto the field with the flowers in his hand to greet his mom and three brothers, along with other family members that made the trip for his last game. It was the first time in a while that Nash could remember everyone being together since his brothers live on either side of the country. The Hilltoppers beat the MTSU Blue Raiders 31-26 on November 30, and Nash’s playing career at Smith Stadium came to an end. He’ll have one more chance to suit up during a bowl game in Dallas on December 30.

Nash greets his mother during the senior ceremony before WKU's game against Middle Tennessee. "Something I try to handle throughout life is not quitting. Finding a way, keep working, something will break. That’s something I learned from my mom," Nash said.

“To be able to wear that red towel is a tremendous honor and I’ll be able to carry that for the rest of my life,” Nash said.

Nash walks off the field after defeating MTSU 31-26 in his last game in Houchens-Smith Stadium on November 30.

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