There is only one place Jason Vansell calls home and that is Versailles.

There is only one place Jason Vansell calls home and that is Versailles.

Vansell, a 1993 graduate of Versailles High School where he played football and basketball for the Tigers, had the opportunity to start coaching and teach history at his alma matter in 2003 and has been doing so ever since where he currently serves as the Defensive Line coach and Assistant Offensive Line coach. He knew it was where he always wanted to be and he pounced on the opportunity when it came his way.

“I wanted to work under a history teacher here named David Merrit,” Vansell recalled. “He was my mentor. I loved him in high school as a teacher and he is the best teacher I have still ever seen. I wanted to work under him as a student teacher, wanted to be part of football and it all worked out. I got hired and I’ve been here ever since.”

Vansell has coached football at all levels serving time as the head of Morgan County Athletic Club (MCAC) where he worked with youth football, spent five years at the middle school level as an assistant and head coach and has spent about 10 years coaching the offensive and defensive lines at the varsity level.

“If it has football in this town I am in it somewhere,” Vansell said with a smile.

Through it all, the mission has always been the same- to help establish a successful tradition at the place he loves and see the current group of Tigers on the gridiron enjoy the same triumph teams before them had the privilege to enjoy.

“It is my home. I am vested here and my family is vested here,” Vansell said of the town. “I know what it is like to be a Versailles Tiger and have success here. I want all these kids and coaches here to get that same feeling and be a part of that same tradition.

“Things here lately have been a little bit down, but this is my home. I’ve been there when it has been good, I’ve been there when it has been bad and I’ll be there no matter what. That is what I want to try to instill here is that you keep fighting, keep going, keep plugging, keep working and things will get better,’ he added.

Vansell began teaching and coaching at Versailles a year after the 2002 Tigers completed a perfect 10-0 regular season and he still remembers the night where Versailles traveled to No. 5 state-ranked Mountain Grove in 2008 and knocked off the host school in a playoff game.

“Mountain Grove had not lost at home in five years and we went down there and beat them. That was the coolest memory ever and I want to get back to it,” Vansell stated.

Through his experience, the coach noted that success at Versailles can come in waves, but he is excited about the current group and especially excited for what the future may have in store.

“We have a good group of kids and I think you are going to start to see a change on some things with attitude, play, the whole nine yards,” Vansell said. “We are starting to see another wave of those second and third generation Versailles names… We are starting to see some kids whose parents and grandparents have played here. They know what it is like and they are going to make sure of this and that.

“There is some of this coming and it is kind of exciting to me. My kids will be a part of it. We are Tigers, our kids are coming and we need that. We need that buy-in,” he added.

It also helps if there is a good coaching staff to work with and Vansell feels that is precisely the case with the current group of coaches that lead the Tigers. Vansell has worked under five different head coaches and noted that his “old school” approach combined with some new perspectives from the current staff is a good mixture.

“That is one of the reasons why I wanted to be here. I think there are things I can offer to them and I think there are also things they can offer to me,” Vansell pointed out. “It is just weird that I was the youngest guy for years and now all of a sudden everybody is 10 years younger than me. I’m still kind of dealing with that, but we can learn from each other. That is the great thing about it- football is still football and at the end of the day you have to push somebody off the ball.”

Vansell is rejoining the varsity staff this season after spending those years at the middle school level to have a little more time with his family. Vansell’s wife also had a brain tumor last year, but is currently doing well so he found his way back to the gridiron.

“My wife is doing good right now so as long as she is doing good, me staying busy like this takes my mind off a lot of things,” the coach noted. “I tried to get more involved and that is kind of what led me back to the varsity level. They had an opening and I wanted it.”

Looking ahead towards the future, it is unsurprisingly hard for Vansell to imagine being anywhere else other than Versailles where his roots have always been planted.

“I’m happy with where I’m at. It would have to be something you could not turn down for me to ever leave,” he said. “I will not take a sidestep or a backstep so it would have to be something that these guys (coaching staff) would say, ‘Man you have to go. You have to do it.’ Otherwise, I am not going… I do not want to work anywhere else and I am here good or bad.”

Indeed, the mission to help current and future Tigers find success goes on and Vansell will do his part moving forward to help make that a reality.