Jason Gardepe '13 has played in nearly every game of his four-year Hamilton College football career on the offensive line. Jason is one of 11 seniors appearing in their final home game at Steuben Field on Saturday, Nov. 3, against Middlebury College in the 33rd playing of the Old Rocking Chair Classic. The computer science major will make the 2012 NESCAC Fall All-Academic Team, and he represents Hamilton in the Instructional Technology Apprentice Program (ITAP) through the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium.
Q: Tell us a little bit about where you grew up.
A: I grew up in a pretty rural part of northeast Pennsylvania, about 30 miles east of Scranton. If you enjoy the outdoors the area is beautiful, and there are lakes and forests everywhere. It was a pretty popular vacation spot during the summer. The peace and quiet of country living was nice, but not having a store or shop within 10 minutes of my house was rough.
Q: Did you play any other sports before you came to Hamilton?
A: I was actually a wrestler for six years. I did track & field for one year in high school, but that wasn't for me.
Q: How did you get interested in football?
A: I didn't join the team until high school, and only then mostly because one of my friends did. From then on it was just part of my life, really. For me, it has always been more about the bonds that I developed with the other guys on the team than the sport itself.
Q: What attracted you to Hamilton College and the football program?
A: If there wasn't a Hamilton football program I probably wouldn't have ever known a Hamilton College existed. It's incredibly rare for people from my area to go to NESCAC schools, and few people know about them, so it was through the football program that I learned of this place. After my visit here I knew that the school was incredible, and it was in an entirely different league from other schools I was looking at. When it came down to decision time, Hamilton gave me the greatest opportunity to succeed, so I took it.
Q: This Saturday is your senior game. How does it feel going into this weekend knowing it'll be your last game on Steuben Field?
A: I don't think it's really hit me yet. Football has been such a major part of my life here at Hamilton that it's strange to think how little time is left. I'm sure that once it's gone I will miss the time I've spent as a part of this football program with all of the other players. But I try to always look forward and I'm not really thinking about it now. To be honest, I'm excited for the opportunity in front of me and the entire team. I get to play my last senior game for the rocking chair with a chance to beat one of the best teams in the NESCAC right now. I can't think of a better way to go out, and I'm just looking forward to giving it my best on Saturday and see what happens.
Q: Additionally, this Saturday is the Old Rocking Chair Classic. Hamilton hasn't had the chair in its possession since Middlebury won in 1996 and kept it ever since. What does the Classic mean to you?
A: I don't really think about what it means to me personally. I think about what it means to and what it has meant to all of the people involved with the football program over the years. Just knowing what this game meant to Mac Bristol, who did so much for our program and this college, is enough to make me realize how important the Classic is. Not to mention all of the alumni who have played and the wonderful people who have managed the football tailgate for all of these years, as well as our family members and all of the students and faculty who support us. All of those people want to see Hamilton football be successful. So I want to win this weekend not only for the team, but for everyone involved with the football program so they can hold their heads high this next week knowing that we finally took back the chair from Middlebury.
Q: What has been your favorite Hamilton football highlight from all of your seasons?
A: My freshman year we went into our final game against Bates at home with a 1-6 record. This was yet another year where we had to deal with a lot of adversity, and it's hard to stay positive in situations like that. But the team never quit, and in the second half there was a play that I don't think I will ever forget. We passed the ball to our wide receiver Ryan Cray who was stopped just inches short of the goal line by two Bates players. For whatever reason the refs never called the play dead, so eventually the entire team ran behind Ryan and pushed to try and get him in the end zone. Finally, everyone from both teams was pushing from opposite sides as the refs watched. The play ended with Ryan falling into the end zone, giving us the lead and momentum in a game we went on to win. That was a defining moment for that year, and it will always stick with me.
Q: Can you tell us about the Instructional Technology Apprentice Program (ITAP) you are taking part in through the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium? (ITAP is a year-long apprentice program for students at member institutions who are interested in combining their liberal arts degrees with paraprofessional experiences in instructional technology)
A: I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to participate in ITAP and it has been a wonderful experience so far. I communicate and collaborate with four students from four other small liberal arts colleges in New York. We complete workshops provided by the schools and work closely with professional staff at our home institutions to learn about instructional technology and how to apply it. I love learning about all the ways to use technology to help people learn, and the program is a great opportunity for learning and sharing information and ideas with people in the field.
Q: You have played in and started nearly every game at Hamilton since your freshman year and will make the NESCAC all-academic team this fall. Do you have any advice about how to excel both on the field and in the classroom?
A: Be prepared to work hard and don't shy away from the opportunities in front of you. Be the person who always does the little extra at practice, and be the person who always comes prepared and asks questions in class. Doing the little things right in sports and in school make a world of difference. I'm a firm believer that hard work yields rewards, and I guarantee you will get more out of a class, sport, or any activity if you put in the effort.
Q: What will Jason Gardepe be doing five years from now?
A: I see myself happily working at a college somewhere as an Instructional Technologist while also continuing my own education. I enjoy learning and want to continue it throughout my life. I also enjoy learning about fitness and nutrition, and could see myself staying involved in that field through research and writing articles or maybe even books. I hope that I will be contributing something to society, and I plan on staying involved with the wave of new educational opportunities that have developed recently, like massive open online courses (MOOCs).