Growing up in Havre, and spending many days and nights inside Blue Pony Stadium, Jordan Van Voast knew he wanted to play defense for the Lights. In fact, it was all he really wanted to do.
But only little did Van Voast know, just a year removed from a stellar career for the Havre Blue Ponies, that his dream of playing linebacker would happen a lot sooner than he ever thought.
After a career with the Blue Ponies, which started just one year after Havre High’s magical 2004 state championship, and included being both a Central A All-Conference, and Class A All-State player, Van Voast made the choice to stay in Havre and keep playing games at Blue Pony Stadium – trading in the HHS Blue and White for the Northern Maroon and Gold.
“Growing up here, I got to watch those great Northern defenses,” Van Voast said. “I got to watch guys like Dylan Saisbury and coach (Kennedy Anderson), who’s now my linebackers coach, play in Blue Pony Stadium, and right then, that’s really all I wanted to do. It was my dream to play defense for the Lights, and to keep playing football at Blue Pony Stadium. It’s such a great atmosphere, and whether it’s the Ponies or the Lights, Havre fans are so great. They’re always there for us and it’s an amazing experience to play in Blue Pony Stadium.”
Van Voast, now a 6-1, 210-pound senior outside linebacker, chose to stay home and play for the Lights over opportunities to play at Montana State and other schools. In his mind, from what he saw growing up, and what he experienced as a Blue Pony, it was a no-brainer. It was something he knew he wanted to do.
But what Van Voast didn’t know, was that it wasn’t going to be long until he wasn’t just a young member of the Lights learning to play the game,. Instead, he was going to have to help the Lights win football games almost right away.
Following a red-shirt season, Van Voast was thrust into action in the first game of the 2010 campaign, after an injury to Northern starting linebacker (). From there, he wound up playing in all 10 games his first season and totaled 70 tackles, which was third on the team and in the Top 10 in the Frontier. He also registered two sacks, had one interception, a forced fumble and recorded three pass breakups.
It was a whirlwind of a season, one in which he never thought would happen that soon. But once it did, things took off for the former Blue Pony and he never looked back.
“When I got to Northern, I was really nervous, and luckily I red-shirted that first season, because I found out pretty quickly, I wasn’t ready to play at this level,” Van Voast said. “But that next year, when I got called into that game, everything just clicked, and it was because of that red-shirt season, and because of everything I learned that year. I was nervous that first game, but once I made a few tackles, and I realized I understood what was going on, things slowed down for me, and I felt comfortable with it pretty quick.
“I was ready because I got a chance to learn so much my first year,” he added. “Stetson Kauffman took me under his wing that season, and I traveled to the away games with the team. So I was right there all season, and I was really able to absorb a lot.”
But learning as a red-shirt isn’t the same as playing against the likes of Carroll College, Montana Tech or, at the time, offensive juggernauts like Eastern Oregon and Rocky Mountain College. But that’s exactly the type of offenses Van Voast faced in what turned out to be a remarkable first season as linebacker for the Lights.
“I didn’t expect to play that early,” Van Voast said. “This program has always been deep at linebacker. But I made sure, and the coaches made sure I was ready if I had to, and it turned out that I did have to. And from there, I just ran with it. I never looked back. Once I got in the game, I just kept going, kept working hard and I wanted to be the best player I could be.”
Van Voast did indeed run with his chance to shine for the Lights.
After his breakout freshman season, he turned things up a notch in his sophomore campaign. That season, he was fifth in the Frontier in total tackles with 74, to go along with two sacks and two INT’s. He played alongside the great Landry See again that year, a year Northern went 5-5. That season, Van Voast was named Frontier All-Conference for his efforts. As a junior, Van Voast really blossomed into a leader of the Northern defense, where he racked up a career-high 83 tackles to go along with two more sacks.
“I think playing so much so early really helped me,” Van Voast said. “I was able to just keep learning and keep improving. I wasn’t expecting it at all. I thought I probably wouldn’t play until my third year here, which would have been my sophomore year. But when I had to go in in that first game, reality really hit me, and it’s just been a great ride ever since.”
A ride Van Voast takes pride in for many reasons. As a senior, he’s looking forward to ending his career on a high note. He wants to help the Lights’ defense, and the entire team atone for a dismal 2012 season, a season which started with high expectations.
He also takes pride in the career he’s cultivated at Northern, one in which he’s now started 31 straight games and racked up 237 total tackles. It’s a career which has allowed him to put his name on the list of stout and stellar linebackers to have played before him.
“I’ve watched a lot of great linebackers play for Northern growing up, and I’ve gotten the chance to play with many too, guys like Landry See, and last year with James Chandless, and so many guys over my time here. So it feels good to know that I’ve accomplished some good things, and have gotten to learn from so many great players and coaches.
“And this year has started off really well for us as a defense,” he added. “I feel like we had a great spring and it carried right over to fall camp. We didn’t miss a step. And we’re improving every day. We know what we have to do and there is no hesitation with anybody on this defense. We have five seniors on this defense and we want to go out with a great season. We want to make up for what happened to us last year. So that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to all get better every day, and do our jobs and help this football team win.”
And having a veteran linebacker like Van Voast will certainly help catapult the Lights’ defense in 2013. And if Northern plays defense all season like it has in its first two games, there’s no question Van Voast, and the rest of the MSU-N defense will have something to be very proud of come November.
But even before he plays his last game of a storybook career, there’s one more thing Van Voast is reflective and proud of about his Northern career. He’s proud that he’s been able to carry the Havre torch for the Lights the last five seasons. And he’s proud of all that he’s done inside Blue Pony Stadium.
“It’s been great,” Van Voast said. “Playing in Havre, playing at Blue Pony Stadium, it’s a great experience. This community is so supportive, the fans are awesome. The crowds at out games are amazing. They are into it. And then to get to play with all my family right here, it’s just been a great experience. I’m really lucky to have gotten play football in Havre for as long as I have. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
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