MADISON — Heading into his first fall football camp, Madison County Coach Jon Rasnick’s first order of business was to change the culture of the program by identifying players with leadership qualities.
Each player entered camp on a level playing field and the philosophy was to have the players take ownership of the program and become leaders in the process.
Jack Bourdon seized that opportunity and ran with it, both in his performance in practice and on Friday nights.
The senior’s talents were on display last Friday as he led Madison County to its first victory of the season in a 42-0 win against Rappahannock County.
Bourdon caught three passes for 53 yards and a touchdown as a slot receiver. Defensively, he was among the team leaders in tackles and had an interception. The senior also excelled on special teams with a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown, as well as converting all six of his extra-point opportunities and executing a pair of onside kicks.
That versatile production helped Bourdon earn Daily Progress Athlete of the Week honors.
“He was a big spark to how we played Friday night and the rest of the team followed,” Rasnick said. “Jack is the type of kid that you wish your program is full of.”
Bourdon has been a fixture on both sides of the ball for the Mountaineers this season because of talent and also sheer necessity. With less than 30 players on the varsity roster, many players don’t leave the field and play offense, defense and special teams.
Bourdon is no different. The senior plays a vital role in all three phases for the Mountaineers. Offensively, Bourdon plays all three receiver positions in Rasnick’s offensive scheme. Defensively, he splits time between safety and cornerback and has even taken a few snaps at outside linebacker. On special teams, he handles all of the kicking duties and returns kicks.
“He does it all for us,” Rasnick said. “He kicks, plays receiver, plays safety and returns kicks. Jack is the type of kid that you wish your program was full of. It is a real joy for all of us coaches to coach the kids we have in the program, especially Jack.”
His production has been impressive.
This season, Bourdon ranks third on the team with 32 receptions for 325 yards and five touchdowns. In addition, the senior has an interception and has returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns.
“I’m always trying to beat the defender at the line of scrimmage,” Bourdon said. “Whether it’s a pass or run play, I’m always hustling to find an open space or blocking my defender to help the running back gain more yards.”
Bourdon understands the importance of high school football in Madison County. He took up the sport in elementary school and was a fixture in the local youth leagues before his family moved to Singapore in 2013.
American football was not an option in Southeast Asia, so Bourdon played rugby instead at Singapore American school.
“I really enjoyed the sport, as it has the same team aspects, physical toughness and camaraderie,” Bourdon said. “It is very team-oriented split up between backs and forwards and you have to play both ways since the clock does not stop, similar to soccer. You have to be physically fit because there are 40-minute halves. Having the background skills in rugby, I am able to place the ball well for punting and I’m very accurate kicking field goals.”
In addition to rugby, Bourdon discovered a love for baseball.
“Baseball is my favorite [sport],” he said. “Living in Singapore, I had the privilege to travel to many countries playing baseball in Japan, Australia, Philippines and many other Southeast Asia countries. The sport is extremely popular.”
Bourdon and his family spent five years in Singapore before they repatriated back to the U.S. in the summer of 2018, just in time for his junior year of high school.
The Madison County product said the time spent overseas helped him grown as a person and culturally.
“My experience was incredible,” Bourdon said. “Singapore is very westernized and their natural language is English, so it was easy to communicate. Singapore was like a melting pot for many ex-pats from around the world. Singaporeans loved their food culture. It was kind of a mix between Chinese, Malaysian, Thai and Indian. It was so good. I enjoyed making new friends and learning new languages, cultures and food. I hope to get back very soon.”
The trip back home helped reunite him with his best friend, Samuel Estes. The two both play football and Bourdon admits they bring the best out in one another.
“He is the only teammate that I know that lives and breathes for the fall sport,” Bourdon said. “Since moving back from Singapore, he has helped me adjust quickly from playing rugby to football. He is one of the guys on the team that has the most grit and is always in every tackle or opening a hole for the run game. He also helps me after practice to get better at my positions and reading offenses and defenses. I look up to him the most because having a friendship with him pushes me to be better as a player and compete alongside him.”
This fall has had its share of ups and downs for Bourdon and his teammates. Success has been hard to come by for Madison, but in recent weeks the message from Rasnick and his coaching staff has started to kick in.
“It has been hard and it is a new experience for some of the senior players,” Bourdon said. “Although we are a small program, it is important to build a future with Madison football. There is a long legacy of football success in the county. We practice harder and the physical training is tough, but the coaches are always pushing each other to thrive as a team. Everyone has respect for each other — coaches, players and support staff.”
Two weeks ago, Madison County scored a season-high 52 points in a shootout loss to Page County in one of the Top 5 highest scoring games in Virginia High School League history. Last week, everything came together as the Mountaineers notched their first win of the season in their final home game.
“Last week, the coaches preached about practicing fundamentals on the field and communicating with each other,” Bourdon said. “During practice, we focused more on the fundamentals like blocking for the receivers and pursing the ball carrier on defense. When I am at school or home, I watch films on competitors.”
Bourdon has also taken on a bigger role on the team as a vocal leader.
“Communication has been one of the team’s top priorities in order to have success,” Bourdon said. “The seniors and I have taken the leadership role by pushing our teammates and informing them of their responsibilities on the field. We help the team build confidence in our ability and a no-quit mentality throughout the season, despite the score.”
Rasnick said Bourdon has come a long way since the start of the season.
“Jack has really turned into a leader over the year through his actions,” Rasnick said. “He shows up every day to practice hard and get better. He has improved each week with what we have asked him to do.”
Bourdon credits Rasnick and the coaching staff for committing to the process.
“Over the past 10 weeks, it has been mentally and physically tough on me,” he said. “Our new coaching staff has been like no other. They push us to always be a better athlete and person as a whole. They have never given up on the team from Day 1, and it showed in their enthusiasm at the start of each practice and every game. Each and every coach knows the game well and inspires the players to perform for each other and have each other’s backs. They are willing to put in the extra hours and help those who want to be better. Despite the fact that it has been a tough season for Madison football, this is only the beginning and it will soon be a well-developed program. I am very thankful for my last season and to be a part of Mountaineer football.”
That same work ethic is evident off the gridiron. In the classroom, Bourdon enjoys science, especially chemistry and biology, as well as English. He also wrestles and plays baseball at the school.
The fun doesn’t stop there for Bourdon, who also keeps busy outside of school.
“Giving that Madison County is in a rural area, I am always outdoors when I’m not in school,” he said. “There is easy access to rivers and lakes in the area, so I’m always fishing. Fishing with my buddies has been my passion. It is a time where I can relax, catch fish and post a few YouTube videos.”
With just one game remaining in the season, Bourdon understands the importance of finishing strong.
“Our team goal is to push through the adversity we have faced throughout the year, including the many roles and new positions we have taken upon ourselves,” Bourdon said. “But more importantly, carry a message to instill a work ethic that thrives to be a better football program, including the offseason, and to inspire the junior varsity and youth programs for the 2020 season.”