When Jalen Cousar started his sophomore season last year, he was largely unknown outside of the Butler football program.Cousar didn’t even start the first game against Mallard Creek last season. He remembers watching most of it from the sideline.But the 6-foot, 275-pound defensive end quickly made it hard for people not to notice him. He cracked the starting lineup in the second game against Olympic and been there since.As a sophomore, he made 87 tackles, had 11.5 sacks and 12 more tackles for a loss on a 15-0 Butler team that won the 4AA state championship and allowed just more than eight points per game.His play earned him All-Southwestern 4A conference honors and he was also a first-team All-Observer pick.“Last year, I came into a great defense with guys like Peter Kalambayi (now playing at Stanford), Sean Wiggins (Ball State) and more, and that made it a lot easier on me to come in and be able to make plays,” Cousar said. “I even surprised myself a little bit with how well I played. But I feel like I can be even better. You always want to be working to get bigger, better, faster, stronger. It’s something you have to have inside, if you want to be a good player.”While Butler coach Brian Hales has watched Cousar emerge, he sees this as just the beginning.“I believe Jalen has just scratched the surface of how good he can be,” Hales said. “Even at his size, he is as good of an athlete as we have on this team. If he needed to, he could probably play nine or 10 different positions for this team.”Cousar attributes his athletic ability to his family. His mom, Rachel, played basketball and softball at Garinger, and his father, Thomas, was an all-state running back at Rock Hill (S.C.) High. Cousar has also played a variety of sports.Cousar has been playing baseball, basketball and football since he could walk and still plays all three for the Bulldogs.Cousar plays at least three spots on the football team. He starts at defensive end, can play nose guard and is regularly at fullback in goal-line situations. While defense is his focus, he enjoys playing offense. He scored a touchdown on a 2-yard dive against Rocky River.This season, Cousar’s main impact has come on the defensive line.Cousar has 67 tackles, including 14 tackles for a loss, two sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one pass breakup, one blocked kick and 16 hustle plays, a statistic important to Hales.Cousar now constantly faces double and even triple teams and is often the focal point of an opponents’ blocking scheme, opening up things for his teammates.Cousar hopes his overall play will also get him attention from college football coaches. He has the most interest from the Charlotte 49ers and Old Dominion, according to Hales. But Cousar knows it’s still early in the recruiting process and he has to keeping working on his game.“This year has been a little tougher with the double teams and more attention coming my way in terms of blockers,” said Cousar, who changed his jersey number from 45 to 99, laughing while admitting that he didn’t fit in 45 anymore. “But I knew it was coming and I’ve learn to deal with it and still try to make plays for my team. Overall, as long as we are winning, I’m happy.”Butler is 7-3 (4-1 SW4A) going into the final game of the season against Independence, but it hasn’t been easy living up to the impossibly high standards set by the Bulldogs teams in the past decade.But Cousar, like his Butler team, is playing his best football now and hopes to carry that into the postseason, where there is only one expectation.“The goal at Butler is always to win a state championship,” Cousar said. “We know we’re a younger team, but that doesn’t change our expectations. We still believe we can win it all.”Hales says the great thing about Butler football is that each successive team and its players want to live up to the Bulldogs’ championship tradition.“All of our kids know about the history of Butler football, the championships, the great players and they’ve even worked with a lot of them when they come back in the offseason and the summers,” Hales said. “I think they really want to prove to those guys, they can be just as good as they were. Jalen is definitely one of those guys who is focused on doing that. He wants to do everything it takes to be a great player.”
Friday, Nov. 01, 2013
Jalen Cousar having a big impact for Butler defense
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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