JMU’s Kloosterman ready to take on starting role

James Madison University junior tight end Jonathan Kloosterman runs after making a catch against Colgate last season. The Strasburg graduate is excited for the opportunity to be the starting tight end this season for the Dukes. Courtesy photo/JMU Athletics Communications

HARRISONBURG – Jonathan Kloosterman has played a role in James Madison University’s football team during his first two years at the school, but this season his role will be getting bigger.

The junior tight end played behind 2016 JMU graduate Deane Cheatham the last two years, and now will be the starter for the Dukes. It’s a role Kloosterman said he’s looking forward to, and he said he’s been helped by JMU tight end coach Bryan Stinespring, a former assistant coach at Virginia Tech.

“There’s definitely pressure (being a starter) but coach Stinespring, he does a great job of getting me ready and getting me sound of what I’m supposed to do,” Kloosterman said at JMU’s media day earlier this week. “I learned a lot from Deane. I learned a lot of good stuff and how to do it right. So, I’m definitely ready to take on that challenge.”

Kloosterman, a 2014 Strasburg High School graduate, was given a preferred walk-on spot to play at JMU as a freshman.

In his freshman season Kloosterman played in 11 games, caught six passes for 91 yards and also played on special teams.

Before last season started Kloosterman was given a full-scholarship and capped it off with a solid season. Kloosterman played in all 12 games, playing at tight end and on special teams. He finished the season with eight receptions for 77 yards.

Kloosterman said he learned a lot about the game, and it was a big adjustment from high school.

“College football is definitely another level. Back in the high school days we had two-a-days but they weren’t even close to as intense as this,” Kloosterman said. “It was a big learning process. College football is way faster than high school. So I got a lot stronger, a lot faster those two years before I could really contribute like I wanted to.”

The 6-foot-3 245-pound Kloosterman said that playing with Cheatham also helped him out a lot.

“Deane was a great player,” Kloosterman said. “I learned a lot from him. The way the game should be played, and you don’t have to be the most talented or the most skilled. As long as you just put your head down and work then things will come.”

The highlight of last season for Kloosterman came on Oct. 17 in a 51-0 road victory over Elon. Kloosterman caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Vad Lee in the second quarter, for the first touchdown of his college career.

He said the moment was even more special because of who was in attendance.

“My grandparents on my dad’s side of the family – that’s the only game they came to because they’re not able to travel too much. So they were able to go to that game because it’s close to where they live,” Kloosterman said. “For me to be able to score my first touchdown ever in front of my grandparents that don’t ever get to see me play – that was just an awesome experience.”

There’s a good chance that there will be more touchdowns coming Kloosterman’s way this season in JMU’s high-powered offense. The Dukes return most of their wide receivers from last year, as well as their top two running backs.

Kloosterman said he’s learning more and more about the playbook, not just at his position but other offensive positions as well. JMU offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick said that Kloosterman’s versatility makes him a great asset to the offense.

“He can play as a receiver. He can play as a tight end. He can play as a running back,” Kirkpatrick said. “Defensively, I don’t know what they’re going to do, how they’re going to line up with him.”

Kirkpatrick is in his first year as offensive coordinator, after spending the last 11 years at East Carolina University. He said that he’s enjoyed being around Kloosterman and loves how serious he takes the game.

“He’s very unselfish. He loves to catch the ball and score touchdowns like everybody else in the world, but is just as willing to put his body in there and block and do whatever you ask him to do,” Kirkpatrick said. “He’s very intelligent, quick learner, doesn’t have to get a lot of reps to get it down.”

JMU opens the season at home at 6 p.m. Sept. 3 against Morehead State. It will be the first game under new head coach Mike Houston. The Dukes were 9-3 last year, losing in the second round of the playoffs to Colgate University.

Kirkpatrick said that they have high hopes for Kloosterman and what he can do to help them win this season.

“I know he played behind Deane Cheatham, who had a tremendous season, and now it’s his time to shine – and I see two big years out of him,” Kirkpatrick said.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com