HARRISIONBURG — Jonathan Kloosterman wasn’t going to let an injury keep him from playing in his final game at Bridgeforth Stadium.
The James Madison University senior tight end and 2014 Strasburg graduate suffered a knee injury in the Dukes’ Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal win over Weber State on Dec. 8. Kloosterman said he was only able to practice once last week in preparation for JMU’s FCS semifinal with South Dakota State University.
“I woke up Saturday like I gotta play, this is my last home game. I’m just going to suck it up,” Kloosterman said after last weekend’s 51-16 win over South Dakota State.
Kloosterman said that he worked a lot throughout the week with JMU associate athletic trainer Jeronimo Boche and the knee felt better as the week went on.
Kloosterman started for the Dukes and had some key blocks throughout the game as JMU advanced to the FCS National Championship game for the second straight year.
The top-seeded and reigning national champion Dukes will play No. 2 seed North Dakota State in the FCS final on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas.
Kloosterman wore a knee brace throughout the game. He said playing with the knee brace was an adjustment, but it was worth it.
“I’m not a very fast person in general, so wearing this makes me a little slower,” Kloosterman said. “But I make it work. You do what you got to do.”
While the team has been piling up wins, the season hasn’t gone quite the way Kloosterman would have liked, individually.
Kloosterman was suspended for the first two games of the season due to a violation of team rules. The 6-foot-3 245-pound Kloosterman was back for several games before an illness sidelined him for a few more games.
He once again came back for several games, before suffering the knee injury in the playoffs. For the season, Kloosterman has played in 10 of JMU’s 14 games and started eight of them. Kloosterman, who had a strong junior season, has 7 catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns.
“It definitely hasn’t been my best year that’s for sure,” Kloosterman said. “But I have great teammates and great coaches and they are there every day for me. And it’s a team effort. And as long as I’m making an impact on the game, it might not be scoring tpouchdowns, it may be just blocking. Just as long as I’m making a positive impact, I’m happy to be here.”
Kloosterman’s ability to block has been a big factor over the last few seasons for the Dukes’ success on offense.
JMU’s running game has been clicking the last few weeks. The Dukes ran for 257 yards in the win over South Dakota State.
The Dukes have won 26 straight games, and Kloosterman said the team doesn’t really think about the winning streak at all.
“It’s like an unreal feeling,” Kloosterman said. “You see on ESPN like JMU has 26 wins in a row and you’re like it’s been 26 games? It doesn’t even feel like it. We just take it one game at a time and they just rack up.”
Kloosterman said having the experience of last year should help the team out in the FCS title game. He said outside of winning a national championship, he’s most looking forward to enjoying some Texas barbecue and spending more time with his teammates.
“We get to do some team bonding there, actually get closer,” Kloosterman said. “And then get ready for that big game.”
Kloosterman said he hopes to see a lot of local fans at the game, much like he did last year. Kloosterman said before the season even started he had fans telling him they had already bought their tickets for the FCS title game in anticipation of the Dukes being there.
No matter what happens in the final game of his college career, Kloosterman said he was very happy that he was able to play in his final game at Bridgeforth Stadium last weekend.
“It’s amazing to go out like that,” Kloosterman said “I’ve had a great four years here. And to go out my last home game like that is a moment you’re always going to remember — just having those memories. And that’s one of the biggest memories I’m ever going to have when I’m looking back on my college football career.”