Former Tiger thrives as Kaos QB
If not for legendary Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart, Kansas University fans might have had 20 more games to heckle Jason Sutherland.
Sutherland, the fiery former Mizzou point guard who undoubtedly ranks high on KU fans' list of least favorite opponents, actually considered playing football at Missouri before Stewart sacked the idea.
Today, 11 years after playing his last game of roundball for the Black and Gold, Sutherland finds himself playing out his football passion - for a team in Kansas, no less.
"I've never really thought of it like that," said Sutherland, the starting quarterback for the Kansas Kaos, a minor-league football team affiliated with the North American Football League. "I guess it's all right. The older I get, those feelings aren't as strong. It's not like I like KU now, though. I still drive down the road, and when I see a car with a KU sticker, I think, 'Man, that guy can't drive.'"
It's that type of attitude that caused KU fans to loathe Sutherland every time he stepped onto the Allen Fieldhouse floor from 1993 to1997. As a fan of the game and a diehard competitor, Sutherland understands that now. He even appreciates it.
"There were a lot of places that had their own little deals, but (Allen Fieldhouse) was always one of the toughest," Sutherland said. "They let the students in early, and they were always spitting on you, yelling at you, throwing things at you. But that's part of what made the rivalry so great, the entire atmosphere. I'm sure the Antlers (Missouri's infamous jeering section) did the same stuff to the KU players."
The former basketball star's football career popped up by chance. After becoming good friends with former NFL running back Allen Williams, a player and member of the management team for the Kaos, Williams mentioned to Sutherland that he needed a quarterback to complete the roster. Never one to back down from a challenge, the former high school football standout from South Dakota obliged.
Things have moved pretty quickly since then, sometimes literally.
"It's really been a new experience for me because I haven't played football for 14 years," Sutherland said. "Last year, the pace of the game was tough, especially at quarterback, but this year's been better, and things are starting to slow down."
During Sutherland's four-year MU career, in which the team tallied an 82-45 overall record, the Tigers typically played the part of Lex Luthor to KU's Superman. Sutherland helped lead MU to three NCAA Tournament appearances and knocked off KU four times during his career.
For him, though, the tough losses stand out more.
"I have a lot of great memories from my career," Sutherland said. "But unfortunately, every March Madness I'm reminded of one of the worst."
It was Sutherland, a sophomore in March of 1995, who shadowed UCLA's Tyus Edney as the Bruins' point guard went coast-to-coast in the final 4.8 seconds of a second-round NCAA Tournament game to beat Mizzou, 75-74. The improbable bucket remains one of the most exciting buzzer beaters in tournament history and proved to be a catalyst for UCLA's most recent national championship season.
After playing smaller roles during his first two years in Columbia, Mo., Sutherland became a bona fide team leader during his junior and senior seasons. He ranks 22nd on Mizzou's career scoring list (1,194 points) and sits atop the charts for three-pointers made (190) and attempted (469). Not surprisingly, he also ranks in the top 10 in career fouls with 317 in 125 games.
After college, Sutherland forged a hoops career in Italy and Germany that was cut short because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He remained close to his alma mater and coached under former MU coach Quin Snyder for a couple of seasons before taking a shot at running his own program at the high school level. That, too, eventually ended, which prompted Sutherland to go to work in the commercial and residential mortgage industry. That's what pays the bills today. But a couple of times a week he makes the short drive to Bonner Springs to join the Kaos at David Jaynes Stadium.
Many who played against Sutherland during the height of his athletic career are not surprised to hear that his athleticism has taken him to the gridiron.
"When I heard that he was playing football now, my first thought was, 'That fits,'" former KU guard Ryan Robertson said. "He kind of took a football mentality with him onto the basketball floor every time out. I remember him being a fierce competitor, and I remember him being an incredible athlete. You knew whenever you played against him that you were going to have to bring it."
More times than not it was Sutherland who brought it. That, he said, was a product of the win-at-all-costs way he was raised and, later, a result of the philosophies Stewart instilled in him at MU.
"The people in Columbia look at me as a guy who played hard and did whatever it took to win," Sutherland said. "But people in every other town looked at me as a dirty player. But that didn't bother me at all. It actually kind of motivated me, and I enjoyed it."