Injured or healthy, Lents is a steady presence

Herald file photo
Jasper's Ethan Lents celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the Wildcats' football season opener at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium in August. Lents sustained an ankle injury against Heritage Hills on Sept. 13 that's pushed him to the sidelines. Whether on the field or on the sidelines, coaches say the senior finds ways to contribute.


JASPER — Jasper senior free safety Ethan Lents remembers his freshman year of football, but he mostly remembers it for being hurt. Lents tore his meniscus playing basketball in eighth grade, so most of his contributions to the team came in the form of supporting his buddies from the sideline. He also picked up another hobby in doing so: coaching from the sideline.

“I always paid attention and tried to learn all the offensive and defensive stuff,” he said. “Then I would try to let them know to do something when something else happens. I tried to help out verbally.”

Flash forward to two weeks ago on Sept. 13, and Lents found himself back in a similar situation during Jasper’s game against Heritage Hills. He sustained an ankle injury near the end of the first quarter that put him on the shelf, and all he could do is shout from the side to help the defense know where the attack was coming from.

“He’ll do whatever is best for the team. That’s what makes him such a good team player,” Wildcats coach Tony Lewis said.

Lents’ ankle also kept him out of last week’s game against Vincennes Lincoln. But that’s OK, all he did was work closely with senior Nathan Rillo so he could step in against the Alices. It seems that whatever Lents told Rillo worked — he finished the game with a pick-six, one of three Jasper interceptions.

"Last week, I was just trying to teach him what to do, because he never played the position before,” Lents said. “I was focusing on trying to get him comfortable with that position.”

But now Lents is working his way back to full strength and looking to get back to being an on-field contributor again. He loves analyzing opposing offenses from his crow’s nest in the defensive backfield and working out where the ball is going based on his keys. He reads linemen, watches where the receivers are lined up, and is always hungry to get his hands on the ball when the quarterback puts it up for grabs. Lewis says having Lents on the field is akin to have another coach in the secondary.

“His biggest asset is his football IQ,” Lewis said. “Once the ball is snapped, he has a good idea of what’s going on based on formations and motion. He can direct people because of that. We need more kids to do that.”

Lents is a student as much as a professor when it comes to football. He pores over tape every week with the guys when they have a spare moment to hang out. Anything he can do to get an edge on the opposing offenses, he’s all about it.

“We all put in a lot of work with film,” he said. “Every Wednesday night we go over to somebody’s house and watch film together.”

Teaching and preaching is just a way of life for Lents on the football field. He says he doesn’t even think about it most of the time, he just goes where there’s a need and does his best to address it. When he sees something, he says something.

“Over the years, becoming older, I came naturally to it,” Lents said about growing as a leader in the Jasper football program. “Whenever I was younger, I wouldn’t do it, because obviously you got your juniors and seniors doing it. Becoming older, you come to it.”

Lewis can’t and the team can’t wait to get Lents back into the fold as they prepare for Friday’s game against the Princeton Tigers. Beyond just the physical elements of the game, Lents is that link between the team and the coaches that brings a comfort level to his teammates and alleviates some of the pressure from the coaches. Lewis missed having that in his lineup.

“It eases a coach’s mind when he knows that a player has confidence in what is going on and knows how to communicate,” he said. “People don’t understand the importance of communication in football. You've got 11 guys doing their own job, but that job can’t get done if they’re not communicating what’s going on with the other side of the ball. That, in itself, makes him a very valuable asset to our defense.”

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