Listen to Jason, kids

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

After throwing for more than 5,000 yards last season, Jason Maas hasn't thrown a pass in a real game this season for the Edmonton Eskimos.

With Ricky Ray back in the saddle, Maas is stuck as the backup and is no longer an impact player on the field.

But that hasn't stopped the classy six-year veteran quarterback from playing a major role in the community and making an impact in local schools.

In fact, he takes a back seat to nobody in that area, which explains why Eskimo brass made him the first recipient of the David Boone Community Service Award this week.

"We got an e-mail this year from a mother of a student Jason had talked to in school," remembered Jamie Cartmell, of the Eskimo community relations department.

"She said her daughter had been a singer, but had stopped. However, she came home after hearing Jason speak and knew what she wanted to be in life.

"Jason had inspired her to follow her dream. She wanted to be a singer, again."

ABOUT PERSEVERANCE

Maas has visited almost 35 schools this year with the Stay In School Program, delivering a powerful message of perseverance through the riveting story of his deceased father, who was a police officer in Arizona.

"He was responding to a disturbance at a bus station," recalled Maas.

"Two guys were on their way through Yuma and had been on a killing spree."

The pair had moved through several states before arriving with concealed weapons in Arizona.

"They were drunk and the bus driver called Yuma police," he continued.

"So, my dad responded to the call thinking it was a couple of Marines coming home ... and didn't think much of it.

"Once he got there, he saw one man standing at the telephone and questioned him while his brother shot my dad in the back.

"He shot him a few more times, but my dad ended up killing one of them and the other one that is still alive today is in prison."

It's a story that instantly garners attention in a classroom.

"When that happened to me I could have gone one way or the other," stated Maas, who was 10 years old when his dad died.

"And I chose to go on a pretty good path instead of using (my dad's death) as an excuse to do bad things."

Choosing the right path, Maas has become a proven leader on the field - leading the Esks to the playoffs last year - and off the field.

Cartmell estimates Maas made 65 public appearances last year.

"I'm very honoured (with the award)," said Maas who didn't meet Boone before he died this year.

"I realized when I first got here how important it was to be in the community (by watching Gizmo Williams, among others) and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here doing that."

That's much like Boone did when he was on the Eskimo defensive line during five Grey Cup victories starting in 1978.

LOVIN' THE PARK

Maas has fallen in love with today's community.

"My wife and I have decided to make Sherwood Park our home," said the 29-year-old Wisconsin native.

"Whether I am playing here or somewhere else, this is where I am going to continue to live."

And there's the sticky subject.

He has heard the trade rumours and suggestions he'll be in Hamilton next year.

But Maas refuses to pout about his situation or add fuel to the rumours.

He just wants to focus on this year before assessing all his options in the off-season.

However, it's easy to understand he would love to stay in Edmonton.

"Let's put it this way ... any time I would have to leave this organization - whether I stay here for five or six years and retire, whether I have to move on at the end of the year or what have you - it's not a good day," he said.

In the meantime, Maas will continue to look forward to the playoffs while students look at him as a true role model.


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