Jake Sharp: Native Son

Sept. 9, 2009

LAWRENCE, KAN –

Running back Jake Sharp certainly marked his spot in Kansas high school football history when he shattered the state record for total touchdowns in a season with 63. Not to mention his 6,524 career rushing yards at Salina Central, which was the second-highest total in KSHSAA history.

The Kansas native also has visions of leaving several marks in the KU football history books. Heading into his senior season, Sharp has already planted a few stats in the record books including a feat that no other running back in school history had accomplished. In last year’s game at Iowa State, Sharp became the first running back to record 100 yards receiving when he had three receptions for 107 yards.

Sharp also broke into the Top 10 in both season and career touchdowns last season and sits at no. 13 on the KU career rushing list with 1,810 yards.

One stat that may not be found in the record books or on a stat sheet, but is without doubt on Sharp’s mind, is the current win streak that KU has against its in-state rival Kansas State.

From 1997-2003, Kansas State won 11 games each year and was easily the top Division I football program in the state of Kansas. Fortunately for Jayhawks fans, the past three years the title of top Division I program in the state went to KU.

“Just like the stats tell, K-State was doing some damage and we weren’t the dominant power in the state,” Sharp said. “The past few years though, we have been the top Division I program in the state and we don’t want to have a let down this year.”

During Sharp’s freshman season, KU steadily beat Kansas State 39-20, although his only action came on special teams, as Jon Cornish and Brandon McAnderson led the rushing attack.

His sophomore year rolled around and Sharp had a larger role when it came to the Sunflower Showdown. Sharp shared carries with McAnderson this time around, contributing 82 yards rushing and one touchdown to help Kansas survive a thriller in Manhattan, 30-24.

Last year’s thumping of the Wildcats in Lawrence proved to be Sharp’s best game of his career. With a career-high 181 yards on the ground and 76 yards receiving, Sharp tied a school record of four touchdowns in one game as KU went on to win 52-21.

The win, paired with his outstanding game, satisfied Sharp to say the least. He remembered those people growing up in Kansas that said he could never accomplish such a feat.

“It was a great feeling, thinking about all the people that may have kicked me down in my childhood,” Sharp said. “I wanted to break out the saying, ‘How do you like me now.'”

With any rivalry game, there is a certain intensity that comes along with it, but Sharp said he felt there was a little more added intensity to the KU-K-State matchups.

“I feel it’s my responsibility to play on the highest level possible to help showcase KU as the top school in the state,” Sharp said.

That is exactly what Sharp and his fellow teammates from Kansas have done in their time at KU.

Sharp jumped on board at the right time. In high school, at the state track meet, Sharp met current safety Darrell Stuckey who was throwing in his plug for the University and wanted to get Sharp onto campus.

“It’s funny, Darrell asked me if I was going to KU because it was an up and coming school,” Sharp said. “He said I better get on board, and now Darrell and I are playing big roles on the team and the team has really turned the corner.”

Some of the other notable Kansans that contributed to KU’s surge as the best program in Kansas are seniors Caleb Blakesley and Kerry Meier, and junior Jamal Greene.

In addition to all of Sharp’s duties on the field, he has also taken a hands-on-approach with keeping the Kansas roots alive and well on the field.

“I’ll take them under my wings. If I have some advice, I’m definitely there to help them,” Sharp said. “I’ll be gone next year, but the next group of Kansas guys will take over soon like Huldon Tharp.”

With any top Division I program, getting the in-state talent is a must. In the past few recruiting cycles, KU picked up a solid crop of Kansas athletes who have already earned specific roles on the team: Duane Zlatnik at defensive tackle, Kale Pick as a back-up for starting quarterback Todd Reesing, Tanner Hawkinson at left tackle, and Darius Parish on defense last year.

“When you look at Kansas football, you see Kansas kids playing,” Sharp said. “That right there builds a solid fan base when there are in-state guys playing large roles for the team.”

Sharp will continue adding to the record books, but also has one clear goal and expectation for this year before he graduates.

“I want to be a part of the best KU team in history,” Sharp said. “That’s definitely what I want to be a part of.”

This year’s Sunflower Showdown will be played Nov. 7 in Manhattan, where the Jayhawks will have the chance to claim four consecutive victories over the Wildcats with a win. A victory in Manhattan will also add to Sharp and the Jayhawks current dominance in the state of Kansas.