Bounding into head coach Matt Campbell’s office, Jarrett Koumas entered with his shirt sleeves rolled up while his hair and body were still wet from the day’s first practice which concluded a few minutes earlier with the second morning session rapidly approaching.
The Lugoff-Elgin senior right tackle also sported a smile. And, to be honest, who wouldn’t when inside an air conditioned building following being out in the 90-plus degree heat for two hours before having to go outside, again, as the thermometer continued to climb.
This was not, however, the same look Koumas sported a year ago. His 6-foot-3 frame had filled out to 270 pounds after weighing in at 220 at the end of a 2018 campaign in which he entered camp tipping the scales at 260 pounds.
“I started the season at 260. I ended the season at 220,” Koumas said with a grin. “I lost a lot of weight because of the heat and I was struggling to put the weight back on. Coach (Mike) Armstrong is pretty good at getting me to put weight on.”
Armstrong, the Demons’ strength and conditioning guru, helped Koumas reshape his body. By the start of preseason practice last Friday, all the effort in and outside the weight room had paid off as Koumas provided a perfect bookend at tackle to go along with 6-foot-6, 275-pound Division I prospect Parker Clements across the field.
Koumas said his re-evaluated everything he did following his junior campaign in order to make his final high school season a memorable one coming on the heels of a forgettable 0-10 fall a year ago.
“I think coming off of our season,” Koumas said, “I broke it down to self-evaluation and seeing what I needed to do, listen to my coaching and do what they’ve been telling me to do in the offseason. I think it has really paid off. I’ve made some big jumps in the weight room. I’m feeling more confident on the field and I’m excited to see what the season holds.”
Koumas worked his way into the starting lineup for the Demons as a junior. A versatile performer, he was switched from guard to tackle.
L-E head coach Matt Campbell said the latter has become a better and, now, permanent fit.
“Jarrett’s a longer-framed kid who moves his feet well. He helps us on the edge against the pass rush and is also a good run-blocker. I think he’s solid in both areas,” said the former NFL offensive lineman.
“I don’t think he’s even comparable to last year. He’s a much, much better player than he was last year. Jarrett also has that great offensive lineman’s mentality. I really believe that he will have to opportunity to play at the next level.”
“I’m pretty comfortable with both,” Koumas said of his preferred position. “I think I can go out there and do my best at each one, but I like tackle a little better.”
College ball will have to wait. For now, Koumas and his teammates have some debts to be paid to their opponents, to the Demon coaches and, he said, to the West Wateree community. Echoing the sentiments of his head coach, Koumas said there would be nothing better than getting an early season win to get things going in the right direction.
“You try to flush it and try to move on,” Koumas said with a sigh when asked about last season. “I think the worst part was seeing how coach (Armstrong) would react because he wanted us to win … he wanted it so bad for us. Coach Armstrong said that he is a horrible loser and a lot of us are, too; just seeing that disappointment was the fire and drive to get this season going.
“We also can’t let the community down any more than we already have. A win early in the season would get things going for this team and this community.”
Campbell said that, since he and Armstrong arrived at L-E some five years ago, the offensive line has been a group which has stood out above the rest when it comes to being on time, being where they are supposed to be and showing up in the weight room for offseason workouts. The 2019 edition of the offensive line is no different, Campbell said.
Koumas said being leaders comes along with the territory.
“Most people really don’t think about it, but O line is where it happens. We’re the trench guys. We get the plays moving and block for guys,” he said. “We try and do our best. It’s a big responsibility, but I think we’re stepping up to meet that responsibility.”
In this, his senior season, Koumas has taken his role as one of the team leaders to a new level. He, along with Clements, talked about leaving a legacy at L-E and want to make sure they go out on a positive note. The two starting offensive tackles have laid out what needs to be done to their teammates with Koumas being the more vocal of the pair.
“It’s a big deal,” Koumas said of being a team leader and setting an example for others to follow. “I’ll get a little more vocal than I probably should. I like to get in there a good bit.
“Parker and I came together and said that we had to change the atmosphere around this team and try to get things going in the right direction. In the offseason and now that we’re back into the season, we’re really trying to get the teams together, make sure everyone is being accountable and making sure that if you’re late, you are doing that (the coaches) are telling you, punishment-wise. I think we’re doing a pretty good job.”
Campbell said leadership starts when away from the stadium when the lights are off. Koumas, he said, has done the right things to prove that he should be a team leader.
“Jarrett is athletic. Obviously, when you look at bloodlines and you look at Forrest and, even his younger brother is very athletic. I think it’s starting to show up more with Jarrett,” he said. “He really worked hard in the weight room and changed his body. He’s gotten a lot faster and he’s matured.
“He’s become a great leader for us. With him and Parker on the offensive line, they’ve done a great job of holding those guys accountable.”
If you have followed Kershaw County sports for any amount of time, the Koumas name is synonymous with athletic excellence. The Koumas family has racked up football honors at both Camden and North Central high schools starting from the late 1950s at the former.
More recently, Jarrett Koumas’ older brother, Forrest, helped lead the Demons to the 2010 AAA state baseball championship before pitching at the University of South Carolina and winning a national title with the Gamecocks as a freshman in 2011, starting game one of the championship series with Florida. Forrest Koumas was also the starting quarterback for the Demons as a junior and senior.
Jarrett Koumas said he still gets asked if he is related to Forrest even though, he said, such questions have died down over the passing of years. Since Jarrett has made his mark on the gridiron, he has separated himself from his older brother who would give little brother pitching advice when he was still playing baseball.
Asked if he ever played or, thought about pursing baseball at L-E, Jarrett Koumas’ all but broke out in a laugh as he gave his answer before heading outside again to work on special teams.
“I played baseball for a while until high school. I had a knee injury which kind of shut me down,” he said.
“I do miss it, a little. I was OK. I could get it done, a little bit. I could pitch a good bit. I got some lessons from Forrest.”
These days, however, Jarrett Koumas is doing what he needs to do on the football field on his own.