In a football program where records seemingly fall on a weekly basis, Slippery Rock University has recently crowned a new leader in career scoring: senior kicker Jake Chapla.
A record that stood for 19 years, Chapla broke the record on a 37-yard field goal attempt through the uprights against Mercyhurst on Oct. 5 to topple former running back Stan Kennedy’s record of 318 points.
Four years of hard work, dedication and consistency at Slippery Rock went into achieving a milestone that will be remembered forever.
So, what finally started him on the path to become the decorated kicker that he is today?
“I played soccer my whole life and just growing up I always had a pretty big leg,” Chapla said. “So, people always told my parents to make sure he knows how to kick a football.”
When he was younger, Chapla said that his parents would take him to the local high school’s football field. With his only football, he said he would practice kicking the ball through the field goal over and over until it was time to go home. Nobody knew at the time, but it was those kinds of days that retrospectively laid the foundation for Chapla’s illustrious career as a kicker.
With hundreds of different statistics recorded in the game of football, breaking an all-time scoring record is generally considered one of, if not the most impressive feat to accomplish. What makes this accomplishment even more remarkable is that Chapla did not play organized football until his friends recruited him to play in high school.
In his freshman year of high school, Chapla said that a bunch of his friends kept telling him that the football team needed someone to kick for them and that he should try out. He took his friends up on the offer and played for Plum High School that season before being named the starting kicker the following year. After that, it was history.
In the last three years of his high school career, Chapla was about as consistent as a kicker can be. After his first season as the starting kicker concluded, he was a First Team All-Conference AAAA Foothills kicker selection and prior to his junior season, Chapla was named a First Team All-State preseason kicker. At the conclusion of his junior season, the emerging star received an All-State honorable mention. Chapla would then play in the PSFCA East/West All-Star Game before committing to play at Slippery Rock.
In his freshman season at Slippery Rock, Chapla would be named the starter and had a relatively productive season, converting on 11 of 17 field goals while making 39 extra point attempts. After just one season at SRU, Chapla was already threatening the record books as he tied for fifth in Rock single-season history for field goals made and eighth for extra points made.
In his sophomore campaign, Chapla was not only The Rock’s kicker, but he assumed punting duties as well. Chapla converted on 11 more field goals and a whopping 53 extra point attempts. Chapla would go on to earn second-team all Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West honors as both a kicker and punter, putting the cherry on top of a wonderful season.
Accumulating 158 points in his first two seasons, Chapla was directly on pace to break Kennedy’s longstanding scoring record at SRU.
“I realized I was about halfway for the scoring record for the season,” Chapla said. “And I was kinda in my head like ‘OK, maybe this can be a goal I can put down for myself.’”
The veteran kicker went on to say that he thought to himself that breaking the career record for scoring could happen if the offense kept putting up as many points as it did in his first two seasons and, well, it certainly has.
In 2016 (Chapla’s freshman season), The Rock averaged 35.5 points per game and in the following year, Slippery Rock averaged 40.2 points per game. Chapla converted on 17 field goals and 66 of 67 extra point attempts in 2018, as The Rock averaged 37.2 points per game, pushing his career point total to 275, just 43 points short of Kennedy’s record with another year to play.
Fast forward to this season, Chapla finds himself on one of the most elite teams in the country, as No. 9 Slippery Rock boasts a 7-0 record and the third best scoring offense in all of Division II, averaging 50.1 points per game. With no shortage of opportunity in his senior season, Chapla entered the fifth game of his senior season poised to break Slippery Rock’s career scoring record.
Chapla would only need the first quarter to break the record, making all the hours and kick after kick a bit more worth it. The new Slippery Rock all-time career scoring leader describes his record as a validation of all the hard work he has put in over the years.
“The community is amazing here,” Chapla said. “The support we get, the highest attendance in the PSAC every single year, it’s incredible.”
Chapla went on to say that he appreciates all the faith and support that his coaches and teammates have in him.
Even after all the happiness and the legacy that comes with breaking the scoring record, Chapla also said that reaching this goal is a big weight off his chest.
“Honestly, I’m kind of glad that the chase for [the record] is over,” Chapla said. “I’m glad that it’s over, I feel like that I have that relief and I can just focus on kicking the football now.”
Now with 338 career points, it is entirely possible that Chapla can break yet another record, this one for most points by a kicker in PSAC history. The current record holder, Dan Fisher, set the record in 2013 as he finished his career in Bloomsburg with 361 points.
However, Chapla displays a team-first mindset as he is completely content with holding the record for Slippery Rock and wants to put his sole focus on helping his team each week.
“I’m glad the Slippery Rock [record] is over with so I’m not too worried about the PSAC scoring record for a kicker, I’m just worried about helping this team win,” Chapla said.
To add to his impressive list of accolades, Chapla is fourth among all active players across any Division in terms of scoring, behind the likes of Chase Vinatieri, whose uncle happens to be legendary National Football League (NFL) kicker Adam Vinatieri, and Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship.
With his career goal achieved, Chapla recognizes that it is an honor to be in the same conversation as two NFL prospects, but insists on one last ambition to achieve in his last season as Slippery Rock’s kicker.
“A national championship, without a doubt,” Chapla said. “I’ll do whatever I can do to help this team win it each and every week.”
With his team remaining undefeated through seven games and the runaway favorite to win the PSAC-West divisional title, Slippery Rock is making a strong case for a second consecutive appearance in the Division II national playoffs.
But what happens when the Green and White play their last snap of the season?
No matter which way we all look it, Chapla will be done putting on a Slippery Rock football uniform for good. Although, that does not necessarily spell the end of his career as a kicker, as the veteran has received looks from NFL scouts this season.
In Chapla’s eyes, whatever happens after the season is meant to happen.
“It’s definitely in God’s hands,” Chapla said. “Whatever happens, happens. I’m getting a great degree in accounting from this school, so if [the NFL] doesn’t pan out for me, I have that great degree to fall back on.”
It has been a wildly successful four years at Slippery Rock for Jake Chapla and though the twilight has set upon his Slippery Rock career, it is not over yet. The Rock still has four regular season games to go and an impending postseason as well.
From being a recruit in high school to being etched into the history of Slippery Rock football, Chapla’s time at SRU will forever be looked back on as a mark of consistency and excellence.