Jessop gears up to lead Rams squad
Connor Jessop has an accurate arm. At 6-foot-4, he can see any receiver that gets open. In his opportunities at Shepherd, he’s given the Rams copious passing yardage, a ton of touchdowns and a well-orchestrated win over Grand Valley State in the NCAA national semifinals in December 2015.
Jessop is now Shepherd’s quarterback for the 2017 season.
His journey to reach that spot has been long and circuitous after he graduated from Broad Run High in Ashburn, Virginia in 2012.
Even before leaving high school, Jessop had his times when he was injured and couldn’t play.
After the Spartans rode through an undefeated season in Jessop’s sophomore year, he suffered a broken collarbone in just his second game as a junior. He made it back to the field for the last few games of that season.
Following his senior year, Jessop went to Blacksburg as a walk-on at Virginia Tech. Both his parents had attended the school.
And after doing his sideline time learning the ways of the Hokies and sitting behind scholarships quarterbacks, he transferred to Shepherd.
There was more sitting. And more learning a new system.
Jessop’s glimpse of notoriety came deep into the 2015 season when the unbeaten Rams had waded through 13 teams and were still scarless through the NCAA national quarterfinals.
Against experienced Grand Valley State (Michigan), a team with several national championships in its trophy case, Jessop took control of Shepherd’s offense when starting quarterback Jeff Ziemba lasted only four plays before being idled by an arm/shoulder injury.
Jessop would throw two scoring passes to Billy Brown, complete 15 of his 20 throws with no interceptions, and the Rams would hold strong to a double-digit lead to reach the national championship game with a 34-32 win over the Lakers.
Ziemba started in the title game the next week in Kansas City, and the Rams were beaten by Northwest Missouri State.
Last year, Shepherd was in the midst of another unbeaten regular season when Jessop was tagged to start against West Virginia State in a conference road game.
All the then-junior did was throw for a school-record five touchdowns and amass 480 yards – another single game Shepherd record. Shepherd scored 64 points that afternoon in Institute.
As tall as he is, Jessop doesn’t present a picture of a run first/throw next quarterback. And many see him as a runner only when everybody is covered and his time to deliver has gone away. However, he ran five times for 69 yards last season – mostly against West Virginia State.
Unlike Ziemba, Jessop won’t have the consummate luxury of throwing to Brown or 1,100-yard receiver C.J. Davis, who has expended his eligibility as well as Brown, now in the training camp of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Jessop’s receivers are a mostly new group, except for the 5-foot-10 Ryan Feiss, who had more than 50 receptions in 2016.
If Shepherd opponents make the mistake of believing Jessop can’t run or can’t elude their pass rush, they will be beaten by his legs as often as they are by his passing accuracy.
Jessop is Shepherd’s tall-in-the-saddle quarterback. And his wait-wait-wait time is about to end when the Rams open their season on Sept. 2 against highly-regarded Notre Dame.