Kloosterman still enjoying JMU’s national championship experience

Jonathan Kloosterman

It’s been several days since James Madison University’s football team won the school’s second Football Championship Subdivision national championship. But starting JMU junior tight end and 2014 Strasburg graduate Jonathan Kloosterman said the accomplishment still hasn’t hit him.

“It’s still a surreal experience,” Kloosterman said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. “There’s only one champion every year at every level and to be able to be blessed enough to be the champion of the FCS it’s just a great feeling. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

The Dukes knocked off Youngstown State University, 28-14, on Saturday in the championship game in Frisco, Texas.

The 6-foot-3 245-pound Kloosterman said as the final seconds ticked off the clock he was in shock. He finished the game with one reception for 14 yards, but it was a big catch.

He caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from JMU junior quarterback Bryan Schor with 12:10 left in the first quarter, and gave the Dukes a 7-0 lead.

“That play we had for about six weeks and we kept saying we were going to call it and we never called it,” Kloosterman said. “And finally the coaches said let’s just go with it, and it worked because the linebackers bit up on the run so much. So I just got to sneak out the back, just how its been working out all postseason, and Bryan gave me a good ball and it was just a surreal experience.”

It was the fifth touchdown of the playoffs for Kloosterman, who said he felt like teams overlooked him because of all the talent JMU has on offense. The Dukes, who were seeded fourth in the playoffs, averaged 525.6 yards of offense per game this season.

Kloosterman said the entire trip to Frisco was amazing. He said the people in the city were amazing, and the food was also great.

He said his favorite food there was barbecue at an event held for the team and steaks that were served at the hotel.

“It was some of the best food I’ve ever had,” Kloosterman said. “Texas is no joke.”

JMU finished the season 14-1 and with a 12-game winning streak. The win streak is the longest among all Division 1 teams (FCS or Football Bowl Subdivision).

Kloosterman said that the trip to Frisco and winning the national championship was a culmination of all the hard work the team had put in, and their belief in first-year head coach Mike Houston.

“We worked really hard from when coach Houston first got here,” Kloosterman said. “We trusted everything he said. He said if we followed his approach we’d have a chance to do big things. We all just bought in, and it all paid off and the championship game was just an awesome feeling.”

He said it was also really amazing to have so much local support. He said there were a lot of people there from Strasburg and it meant a lot to him.

“My hometown Strasburg has a lot of great people,” Kloosterman said. “They’re a very supportive group of fans and people, and it was just awesome to have them come all the way and watch us play in the national championship game, all the way to Texas. That just shows you how amazing these fans are and then even the JMU fans. It was definitely a purple crowd there. So just to have all of our fans come and support us across America was just awesome.”

Kloosterman said that he’s been flooded with congratulatory texts and phone calls from people since winning the title Saturday.

The City of Harrisonburg and JMU announced Tuesday it will host a champions parade for the team 1 p.m. Saturday. The football team, the coaching staff, the Marching Royal Dukes and JMU cheerleaders will walk on Main Street, starting at Walter Street and ending at the courthouse steps in Court Square, according to a press release from JMU.

For the season, Kloosterman finished with 24 receptions for 322 yards and seven touchdowns.

He started 13 games, but missed two games due to injury. In his first game back from injury, he had one of his biggest catches of the season. He caught the game-winning touchdown pass in a 47-43 victory over the University of Richmond on Oct. 29 in the final minute of the game. He had a career-high five catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns in the contest.

“When I look back on that it brings back good memories,” Kloosterman said of the game.

It was Kloosterman’s first season as the team’s starting tight end, and he said he learned a lot. He said he still has a lot to work on and he wants to become a better vocal leader next season.

One other big highlight for Kloosterman and the Dukes was going on the road and knocking off five-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State in the FCS semifinals on Dec. 16. JMU won the game, 27-17. The Dukes snapped North Dakota State’s 22-game playoff win streak. It was also the first FCS loss the Bison suffered at home in the playoffs in program history.

Kloosterman said it was a memorable experience for the team.

“To be able to go into the Fargo Dome and knock off the five-time defending champs — now I understand why it’s so hard to win there,” Kloosterman said. “The fans that North Dakota State has, they make it loud and hard to hear. It was a tough game, a very physical game. It was probably one of our toughest opponents of the year, especially in that atmosphere. To be able to go in there and knock them off, we had a good feeling going into the championship game that we could get past Youngstown State.”

The Dukes have only 13 seniors on this year’s team, and should return most of their starters on both sides of the ball. Kloosterman said he hasn’t thought about next season, and is just enjoying the win for now.

He said that the team really started to think they had a chance to win the national championship after defeating Villanova University, 20-7, on Nov. 12. Schor suffered an injury on the first play of the second quarter, and true freshman Cole Johnson took his place and helped lead the team to a big road victory.

“(Johnson) coming in and he just took control of the game,” Kloosterman said. “He had a rough start, and then he finished the game strong. To be able to go into that atmosphere, with that great of a defense of Villanova, and to just conquer all that adversity was just an amazing experience. And that’s when we knew we had an opportunity to go far with this team.”

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