St. Al’s Brister takes Division I offer from Louisiana Tech

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Two years ago, Jake Brister college sports dream involved playing baseball and not football. In fact, he didn’t even play football for St. Aloysius until his junior year.

Plans change, though, and Brister was smart enough to go with the flow. On Wednesday, he formally accepted an offer to join Louisiana Tech’s team as a punter and become a Division I football player.

“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Brister said. “I’ve always wanted to play college baseball, so I never saw myself playing college football. I’ve always loved watching it, but I never played it until last year. Everything kind of worked out.”

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Brister will be a preferred walk-on at Louisiana Tech, meaning he won’t have a scholarship but will have a guaranteed roster spot and a chance to earn one.

He didn’t care about the semantics, just the opportunity at the end of a crazy two-year journey.

Brister was recruited to play football by head coach Bubba Nettles, who envisioned Brister catching passes with his big 6-foot-4 frame.

“Jake was just walking the hallways my first year here. I knew he could help us in some way,” Nettles said. “He trusted in me to help him with what I promised him I could do — which was, with his athletic ability, to get him to the next level. Of course, I wasn’t talking about punting or kicking.”

Brister quickly showed, of course, that his greatest football skill was punting. He had a strong leg and, during the offseason in 2022, took private lessons from former Mississippi State kicker and Vicksburg native Devon Bell to learn the finer points of punting.

“Whenever I hit a good ball I knew that was college level and knew I had to get more consistent with it,” he said. “The more I worked at it, the more consistent I got. And here I am now.”

By the time the 2022 season started, he had skill to match his strength and was turning into a legend. He averaged 49.9 yards per punt, had 13 punts downed inside the 20-yard line and six inside the 10.

“He was an absolute weapon this year, and everywhere we went he was a legend that all the visiting teams knew about. Whether it was at home or away, our fans and their fans would crowd around the fence to watch Jake punt,” Nettles said. “It was unbelievable. You don’t really realize what you have until you see other people appreciating it as much as you do.”

Brister was selected to play in the MAIS All-Star Game and, not long after, a few college offers trickled in.
The one from Louisiana Tech came out of the blue.

“I was sitting at home one night and saw that one of their coaches had followed me on Twitter. About five minutes later they called me,” Brister said.

Tech’s coaches soon visited Brister at his house, and he went to tour the campus. It didn’t take long to decide he wanted to make Ruston his home for the next few years.

“Whenever I got there I felt at home, and I committed that day. Whenever we got there, the whole coaching staff was there to greet my family and I, and something in my heart told me that’s where I’d be happy to go,” Brister said. “I believe (special teams coordinator Dan Sharp) will develop me into a good player.”

As he reflected on his journey from football obscurity to Division I talent, Brister said he was blown away by how quickly it happened.

“Going to a small school, you don’t see this a lot,” he said, before rattling off a list of thank yous to his supporters. “All my friends and the school have supported me. It’s been a fun year. I’m proud to come from St. Al. I love the school. I plan to send my kids here. I feel really good about going to play Division I, especially coming from St. Al.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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