Given the assignment to create in his basement the perfect football brain, Dr. Frankenstein would have made a man who speaks exclusively in clichés, does not question authority and does the same things with his free time as coaches have him doing at practice.
He would have created a brain indistinguishable from that of Kansas University’s Jake Laptad, 6-foot-5, 258-pound defensive end from Tulsa Jenks High, a perennial Oklahoma power.
Laptad chewed up the quarterback during a 49-3, season-opening victory Saturday against Northern Colorado and spit out clichés afterward. A coach’s dream.
Crash Davis, the catcher in the film “Bull Durham,” taught young pitcher Nuke LaLoosh how to speak in clichés, but he couldn’t teach Laptad to say anything he can’t say better. If everyone talked like Laptad, bulletin-board manufacturers would all go out of business.
“It was a lot of fun getting out there and finally getting to hit someone else for a change,” Laptad said, delivering the line delivered by at least one player in every locker room in America in Week 1 of every football season.
And then Laptad topped himself.
“We’ve got to take it one game at a time to be able to get better and practice every day,” he said.
Yes sir, the Jayhawks will take it one game at a time. There are no doubleheaders in football.
Some players bring stress to their coaches. Laptad brings peace by constantly becoming a more violent football player.
“He’s a serious student of the game,” KU coach Mark Mangino said. “He puts a lot into it. He does. He’s big in the weight room. He works hard on his fundamental drills on his own time, as well as what we do together. He’s really getting better, and he’s a lot of fun to coach because he’s into it. It’s really important to him.”
Laptad was named to the Sporting News All-Big 12 freshman team and as a sophomore earned All-Big 12 honorable-mention status and was named KU’s Most Improved Defensive Player. He gets a little bigger, a little better every year. His weight was listed at 223 pounds his freshman season, 249 as a sophomore.
“You couldn’t have enough Jake Laptads,” defensive coordinator Clint Bowen said. “He’s one of those kids who just works hard, has some toughness about him. Every single play he plays the way you want all your players to play, 100 mph, and he does everything you ask of him. He’s one of a kind. If you know Laptad, you know he doesn’t say very much, but he’s one of those ones who would be carrying a big stick. When he does open his mouth, you can see the other guys on defense listening to him. He’s an intense person, and that does have some carryover.”
Reserve defensive end Quinton Woods, making the adjustment from junior-college ball, could benefit from Laptad’s rugged intensity rubbing off on him.
“Quinton’s athletic and can move,” Bowen said. “It’s a big jump from where he was a year ago. He needs to continue to get bigger and stronger, but as far as pass-rush ability, he has some very natural ability.”
Laptad needs a defensive end on his opposite side to emerge and more penetration from tackles to have a big season. He can’t do it alone.