Gorman: Even hurt, don't sell Jarvis short
Eugene Jarvis got up from the hit awkwardly, felt pain after a few quick breaths and knew something was wrong. That didn't stop him from playing. Nothing would until halftime, when Kent State coach Doug Martin saw blood flushing down the urinal that Jarvis just used.
The pain got worse, and Jarvis was taken to the hospital upon returning from the 34-7 loss Sept. 12 at Boston College. That's when the fifth-year senior running back from Central Catholic learned he had a lacerated kidney.
"It was devastating when those words came out of the doctor's mouth," Jarvis said. "Words can't explain how I felt. It was like the walls caved in on me. Honestly, I didn't know if I was done for college, if I was done for good. I didn't want my college career to end on that note.
"I didn't see anything like that coming. Nobody did."
The news would only get worse.
A CT scan revealed he was born with only one kidney.
"That was another shock," said Jarvis, of East Liberty. "I never knew I only had one kidney."
Jarvis is slowly regaining his health. He serves as a captain for the opening coin toss, although it absolutely kills him to stand on the sidelines on game days. Nothing he can do, except to counteract a negative with a positive.
Only 5-foot-5, 170 pounds, Jarvis has had a lifetime of hearing he was too small to play football, despite his breathtaking ability to make defenders miss. His determination distinguishes him from players twice his size.
Being short didn't stop him from rushing for 2,196 yards and 38 touchdowns as a senior on Central's PIAA Class AAAA champions. It didn't stop him from running for a Kent State-record 1,669 yards as a sophomore in 2007. Or from rushing for 3,426 career yards, just 563 shy of the school record.
Jarvis has unfinished business. He wants to play again.
"As people know Eugene, he's such a competitor and fighter," Kent State running backs coach Jerry McManus said. "This was only a temporary setback."
In announcing Jarvis' season-ending injury, Martin was adamant that the school would appeal to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. Already angered by a redshirt forced upon Jarvis as a freshman, when a high school course wasn't cleared by the NCAA until midway through the season, Martin calls the case a "slam dunk."
"I don't want to hear any excuses," Martin said of Jarvis, who is on track to graduate in December with a degree in sports and recreation management. "If this kid doesn't get a sixth year, everybody at Kent should storm the NCAA and burn the place down."
Jarvis would settle for a chance to play football again. He considers the injury a blessing in disguise. Without it, how would he have ever known he only had one kidney• Jarvis figures he could have ended up on dialysis - or worse - but now plans to play while wearing a custom-made rib protector.
"Instead, I'm getting better," Jarvis said, "and I'm going to be able to play the game I love."
If not at Kent State, maybe the next level.
Where Jarvis once used undersized San Diego Chargers running back Darren Sproles for inspiration, he now hopes to join Arizona Cardinals cornerback Dominique Cromartie and Baltimore Ravens defensive end Paul Kruger as NFL players with only one kidney.
"I don't know if there's any GM in the NFL that would ever put a stamp (of approval) on Eugene Jarvis," McManus said, "but if he gets an opportunity, the only thing I can say is, he'll make the best of it. One kidney, 5-foot-5 ... if somebody gives him a chance, I can guarantee they won't make a mistake."
The mistake would be underestimating Jarvis in the first place.