A hard road to the record books
The local football phenom known as Jason Jubinville has rewritten the Lions’ record book this season, but it wasn’t too long ago that he was caught in a downward spiral of borderline alcoholism and drug use and none of it seemed possible.
Jason and his mother, Lorraine, recently opened up to the Journal about his transformation from troubled teen to record-breaking running back.
Weekends haven’t always meant cheering on Jason’s play for Lorraine Jubinville. In fact, only a few years ago, she spent her weekends routinely worrying about her son’s whereabouts.
On Jason’s 14th birthday, Lorraine came face to face with her son’s issues with alcohol. After losing a playoff game as a member of the Bengals, Jason drank himself to the point of alcohol poisoning. It wasn’t until early the next morning that Lorraine discovered him in his bed and knew something was wrong, necessitating a trip to the hospital.
“He almost died that night,” Lorraine said. “It was pretty scary.”
That incident started a trend that Lorraine feared would ruin, and even end, Jason’s life. “At that point, I didn’t want to have anything to do with him either. I didn’t give up, but it was very hard for us, especially when he was at his worst.”
In Grades 9 and 10, Jason was drinking at least every weekend and smoking pot every day. He stopped caring about his future, his grades began to plummet, and in 2010, he quit playing football for the Lions.
“I was just lazy,” said Jason, who is now in Grade 12 at St. Paul Regional High School. “I would rather get drunk and smoke dope and just kind of sit on my ass and do nothing than go play football in the cold.”
Lions coach Todd Tanasichuk recalled trying to reach out to Jason, telling him he was bordering on becoming an alcoholic and needed to change things.
“I said, ‘Listen Jason, you can feed me whatever you want,’” Tanasichuk recalled of his Facebook message to the young player. “The issue is that you’ve got to start doing what’s best for you and if you don’t, I don’t know what your future is going to hold.
“After that exchange of Facebook messages, I was sure that I was never going see him again or hear from him again.”
Tanasichuk’s words did not have an immediate effect on Jason. He continued to let his grades plummet and focus on his vices, and was kicked out of his house on numerous occasions. Finally, his close friend Aaron Kriaski opened up about his fears for him.
“He just told me, “You’ve got to smarten up. You can’t do this or you’re going to end up dead or in jail or just living on the streets.” He told me, “You’re a good athlete, probably one of the best in St. Paul,” Jason recalled, adding Kriaski’s words made him think.
“I guess you could say God kind of gave me a message to go back and change my life.”
A week after hearing Kriaski’s words, Jubinville stood up and looked his demons right in the eye. He gathered his family and told them everything, and that he wanted to change.
“I was tired of letting my parents down, always saying, ‘Oh yeah I’ll change my life,’ and then two days later, I’ll be right back into it. I thought, in joining football, I could kind of show them that I could do that by working to pursue something.”
Lorraine admits that she did not believe him, even though she really wanted to feel as though he could change. But she was soon amazed by the change that came over her son.
“I’ll tell you what - through a lot of prayer, it’s really worked.” Lorraine said, adding that she greatly appreciates the efforts made by Kriaski and his family during their time of need.
“Really it’s true when people say it takes a community to raise a child . . . If (the Kriaskis) hadn’t been there for us, we don’t know where Jason would be.”
Jason soon approached Tanasichuk and asked if he could return to the Lions. Tanasichuk wasn’t immediately sold on Jason’s words of promise either.
“As a coach, when somebody quits on you, they have to win back your trust,” he said. But when Jason said he was tired of letting people down, it struck a chord with Tanasichuk. It wasn’t long before Jason was showing his determination and gaining back the trust of his coach and teammates.
Jason said that while it was stressful having his coach know about his issues, knowing that Tanasichuk believed in him helped him maintain his focus.
“I was really glad that he let me come back after letting the team down, letting him down, and I think he really did believe that I could actually change. I really thank him for that, and all the other coaches - big thanks to them, they played a huge part.”
Since Jason got back into football, he has gone from an under-achieving and troubled kid with little hope for a promising future, to a successful student and football player who has rustled up interest from junior football teams and even universities across Canada.
If you were to ask Jason how he was able to score 22 touchdowns this season, the names of quarterback Brenden McKay, offensive tackle Zac Smith and offensive guard Brady Coutts would surely come up. If you were to ask him how he was able to give up his old habits and focus on a better future for himself, those same three names, among others, would arise.
Jason says that without the support of Coutts, Smith and McKay, he does not know where he would be. “It just makes me want to play harder and be a better person because of those people, because I want to keep on showing them. They respect me - I’d never gotten that before when I was doing drugs and partying.”
Coutts remembers Jason’s struggles, and says he is very proud of what his friend has done for himself. He notes Jason has a lot of potential, not just as a football player, but as an overall athlete. “He definitely has a future in football and I’m glad he didn’t throw that away with partying.”
Lorraine credits the St. Paul Lions football program for most of the change in Jason’s life, and gives special thanks to coaches Tanasichuk and John Lumby, as well as former coach Mark Tichkowsky.
Tanasichuk insists that the only thing that made Jason’s transformation possible is the fact that he decided to put himself first. “As a football coach when I see it, it just reinforces to me that what we’re doing is important.”
Jason now spends most of his time hanging out with his friends, working out or playing sports, and thanks everyone in the community that helped him turn things around.
“It just feels like from where I was at to now where I am - it’s kind of hard to catch your breath. It’s crazy, I never thought I would be like this a couple of years ago,” he said, adding that he plans on carrying his football career into post-secondary, with the goal of obtaining a degree in business.
“You just have to find yourself. You’ve got to really put your mind on something that you know will help you change. Football was my thing that I put my mind on, and I was so busy that I couldn’t go back.”
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