Players like Kyle Havens, John Griffin, Jonathan Hernandez, Tyler Holmes, Victor Cruz and Julian Talley have all been called upon to carry the Minutemen on both offense and defense in the past years. But in 2011, UMass has relied upon the performance of another player to carry it to victory, senior wide receiver and kick returner, Jesse Julmiste.
Julmiste came to UMass as a transfer student in his sophomore year from Dodge City Junior College in Dodge City, Kan. In his first year as a Minuteman, Julmiste played in three games but didn’t touch the ball until the final game of the season, when he returned three kicks for a total of 36 yards against Hofstra.
From that point on, Julmiste has been a mainstay on the special teams squad, and in particular, the kickoff return team. Two years later, he is still returning kicks, but is also getting a lot more chances to touch the ball.
Julmiste is fourth on the team in total catches, hauling in 12 balls for over 140 yards through UMass’ five games. He has also caught two touchdowns, which is second on the team behind only Julian Talley, who has three.
But, the kick return game is where Julmiste has really shined.
After last weekend, Julmiste has returned 16 kicks for 526 yards and two touchdowns. His longest return came against Boston College when he took a kick back 100 yards for the score. That return was one of seven on the day, and represented the only time the Minutemen found the endzone throughout the game. Julmiste ended the game with over 250 return yards and one reception for 14 yards.
While the game against BC was the first real breakout performance he had been waiting for at UMass, last week against Central Connecticut State showed that his efforts were not a fluke.
Against CCSU, Julmiste did not catch a single ball, but instead rushed twice for 24 yards, and returned four kicks for 148 yards. But the biggest play of the day was a 90-yard return for a touchdown.
“[Scoring] is going through my mind all the time. Just get in the endzone,” said Julmiste.
In the Colonial Athletic Association, Julmiste is first in kick return average with 32.9 yards-per-game. He is also the only player in the CAA to return a kickoff for a touchdown.
Julmiste’s stats stand out in the NCAA as well. His 526 return yards place him third in the country in the Football Championship Series. He is also the only player in the top 10 to have returned two kicks for scores.
The Minutemen have had a carousel at quarterback all season long, and some would say that should affect the performance of the receiving corps. However, Julmiste has been a red zone threat all season regardless of who is throwing him the ball. Be it Brandon Hill or Kellen Pagel, Julmiste has still managed to find the endzone and help his team win.
Julmiste says that he is happy to contribute to the team in any way he can, and that outside of the team’s overall performance and record at the end of the season, his statistics and records don’t mean anything.
“We want to win every week we go out there,” Julmiste said. “We think of [every game] like just another game that we have to win.”
The Minutemen are 2-2 in games where Julmiste records a touchdown and 1-1 where he returns a kickoff for a score. Although the team doesn’t have a winning record, it is safe to say that without Julmiste’s four touchdowns and 706 all-purpose yards, it might be a completely different season altogether.
Michael Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.