Since graduating from Hylton in 2001, former Bulldogs football player Jason Kaminski has attended Hargrave Military Academy, Bowling Green State University, Northern Virginia Community College and now Marshall University. A bruiser once known for banging into opponents, Kaminski turned his talents to banging out admissions applications.
Along the way, just to keep it interesting, he suffered two broken ankles, watched two head coaches leave, switched positions and was hospitalized for several days last winter with a stomach virus that his mother said caused him to lose 15 pounds in five days.
"It's been a long road," Kaminski said Friday.
No kidding. Despite being out of high school for four years and despite spending time in two Division I programs, Kaminski has never played a down of college football. When Marshall hosts William & Mary on Sept. 1, it will mark the first regulation game Kaminski will have played in since Hylton lost, 42-0, in the rain to Deep Creek in the 2000 Division 6 semifinals in Chesapeake.
That's assuming, of course, that nothing major happens in the next three weeks to the 6-foot-3, 255-pound senior, who played linebacker and fullback in high school but is a front-runner for the starting job at left defensive end at Marshall.
"It still feels like I haven't had a college career yet," Kaminski said. "It's like it just started and I'm going to make the best of it this year and next.
"If something happens to me, then I guess I'm done, but I'm not looking to that point. I'm looking for the good things to happen now."
An All-Extra choice at Hylton who played on teams that went 39-2 with two state titles, Kaminski moved on to Hargrave, where he was named most valuable player and roomed with ex-Hylton teammate Karibi Dede, now at Auburn.
Kaminski spurned offers from Arkansas, Maryland and Purdue, among others, to sign with Bowling Green, where he looked forward to immediately cracking the lineup for then-Falcons coach Urban Meyer.
Instead, Kaminski broke his left ankle twice and never got the chance to play, and after Meyer bolted for Utah -- the coach is now at Florida -- Kaminski came home to rehabilitate his leg, work toward his associate's degree at NVCC and sort out his life.
"He got depressed for a while," said Cheryl Kaminski, his mother. "When you see a boy pull away from something he loves. . . . I think he almost gave up hope, but then I guess we as parents kept encouraging him."
In the summer of 2004, Kaminski transferred to Marshall, a school that previously had recruited him. He redshirted, and late in the season switched from linebacker to defensive end. Then this past spring, Thundering Herd Coach Bob Pruett abruptly retired two days before the start of spring practice.
Once again, the coach whom Kaminski had signed on to play for had departed. Former Ohio State defensive coordinator Mark Snyder has taken over the program.
"It's my last chance to play ball, and I don't want to go anywhere else, so I have to stick to it," said Kaminski, a management information systems major. "The new coach is a good guy, too. . . . I'm here right now and I love it and I'm glad I made the right choice."
Kaminski's fresh start may come as a starter for the Herd, who have no established defensive linemen back and lost eight of its top 10 tacklers from last season. This season will be the team's first in Conference USA, an adjustment for a program that reached bowl games seven times in eight seasons since joining the Division I-A ranks in 1997.
League coaches have picked Marshall to finish fourth out of six East Division teams, trailing Southern Mississippi, Alabama-Birmingham and Memphis.
In the Herd's spring game, Kaminski led the team with 11 tackles, including three sacks, the kind of reckless performance he used to turn in regularly in high school. It's also the kind of performance he expects to have Sept. 1, when he finally gets on the field for real.
"I'll just go wild," Kaminski said. "How I used to. It's never left me."
Mom agrees. Will her son be able to contain himself?
"No," she said with a laugh. "He'll be a monster."