NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Folded deep inside her purse, Gwendolyn Rasco kept a piece of paper as proof of her son’s age.
At the age of 8, Jermauria Rasco weighed 125 pounds and stood 5-foot-6 — the size of a normal 14- or 15-year-old boy.
During peewee football games, Rasco towered over others. Players spit on him for it, Gwendolyn said, and she’d have to flash his birth certificate to shoot down accusations from their parents that Jermauria wasn’t the same age as their boys.
He wasn’t. He was younger.
“All through my peewee days,” Rasco said, “I played a year or two above.”
Nowadays, Rasco is not even the most intimidating figure on LSU’s defensive line — that’s his counterpart, Danielle Hunter. He’s no longer the biggest, tallest and fastest player on the field, but he might be the best.
Rasco will play his final game as a Tiger when No. 22 LSU (8-4) meets Notre Dame (7-5) on Tuesday in the Music City Bowl. He finished the regular season first on the team in sacks (four) and quarterback hurries (eight), third in tackles for loss (6.5) and fifth in tackles (63).
“You look at him, and you’re like, ‘He’s a regular D-end,’ ” LSU right tackle Jerald Hawkins said. “He’s far from it.”
According to CBSSports.com, Rasco, a Shreveport native, is the 24th-best defensive end in the 2015 draft and is projected for selection in the sixth or seventh round — at best. That would check off another goal on the list Rasco and his mother made years ago.
-- Graduate from Evangel Christian
--Earn a Division I scholarship
--Graduate from college
--Play in the NFL for eight years
Rasco accomplished the third of those four goals last week when he graduated from LSU.
“We’re just doing a checklist,” Gwendolyn said.
Gwendolyn raised four boys by herself and, at one point, worked three jobs. She’d begin work at Job 1 at 6 a.m., move to the second at 3 p.m. and get home around 11 p.m. Her third job came on the weekends — noon to 8 a.m.
Much of it was geared to put Jermauria through private school at Evangel Christian. Send me to Evangel, he promised her, and I’ll get my college paid for.
The final goal on his list might be the toughest. Rasco has had surgery on both shoulders over the past two years. He continues to suffer from shoulder ailments and pain.
He joked to a reporter recently that he’s an “old man.”
“Been around four long years,” he said. “Constantly bang, bang. It’s just something that’s going to come with football. Only thing I can do is continue to do my part, rehab it and keep it going.”
Rasco hasn’t heard from any NFL teams, but he projects, he said, as a standup linebacker in a 3-4 system. It’s something he’s used to.
He played that role at times this season for LSU, hovering off the line of scrimmage in a position that’s known on the Tigers defense as “Bronco.”
It’s a “new wrinkle,” Rasco said, that defensive line coach Brick Haley and defensive coordinator John Chavis added this season to “help out” Hunter and Rasco for the next level, he said.
Rasco has had his sights on the next level since he was a 6-year-old who looked more like he was 12.
“I have pictures,” Gwendolyn said. “When Jermauria was 4 years old, he was the size of 7- and 8-year-olds.”
It’s odd, too. Rasco was born a month premature and measured 7 pounds, 2 ounces — not far from the weight of a normal newborn.
“When he came out 7 pounds, I said someone calculated some numbers wrong here,” Gwendolyn said laughing.
A center when first starting in football, Rasco played on the 6-year-old team at age 4 and the 8-year-old team at 5.
“They wanted him to play with the 9-year-olds, and I said, ‘No,’ ” Gwendolyn said.
Even with a bump in age groups, Gwendolyn had to keep that birth certificate handy. His peewee coach always had the birth certificate as well.
Parents of other children accused Rasco of driving to peewee games, when, in fact, it was his older brother doing the driving.
“I used to get cussed out from their parents, because I was too big,” Rasco said.
He stood 6-3 at age 13, this mother said. That’s his same height now. The physical growth spurt stopped, but not the production.
“I call him the boss man,” linebacker Kendell Beckwith said. “He’s over everybody.
“He’s the type you’d want to be like if you were to become a senior here.”