By Justin Harper
In doing the reporting for my story on Bridge Creek standout Mike Aska, which is in Tuesday’s section, I had an interesting visit with Mike’s uncle, Joe Aska. And I fully expected it to be interesting, because Joe is one of the most underrated athletes to come through Oklahoma in decades.
Joe played football and ran track at Putnam City High School. He went through school at the same time I did, so it’s easy for me to recall his unreal athleticism. A lot of people, though, have forgotten or never heard enough about him to store him in the memory bank. He got a late start in sports because he grew up in the Virgin Islands. He also had the hindrance of playing with vision in only one eye (a result of a car wreck when he was a child). Regardless, he started playing football as a junior and was one of the best running backs EVER at PC, which is saying a ton because PC has been a running back factory. In track he won state titles in the sprints (100 and 200 meters) establishing himself as the fastest prep athlete in the state. But this guy didn’t look like your typical track speedster, he looked like a college linebacker. By the time he reached UCO in 1994, he was the most impressive physical specimen in the state, and that includes anyone at OU or OSU. He ran a 4.27 forty and he weighed 240 pounds. That’s insane.
Back in 1994, while working at the Norman paper, I wrote a column comparing Aska to the top running backs in the state at the time — OU’s Jerald Moore and James Allen; OSU’s David Thompson. Aska was superior statistically. I covered OU, so I asked OU coach Gary Gibbs if he thought he missed the boat on not recruiting Aska. Gibbs said no and didn’t elaborate.
I always thought it was because of the impaired vision. But Aska cleared things up. Earlier this week he told me that he had several scholarship offers, but he decided to quit sports when he found out his girlfriend was pregnant. And that’s what he did. However, a year later, a former coach of Aska’s talked him into returning to sports, telling him that he had a better chance of providing for his child through athletics than manual labor.
Aska spent one season at a Kansas juco, then went to UCO and promptly ran for 1,629 yads and 15 touchdowns and was a finalists for the Harlan Hill Trophy (small-college version of the Heisman). While at UCO he also won a national championship in track (55 meters).
I wish I could post a photo in this blog, because you had to see Aska to understand his physical stature. He weighed well over two bills and there wasn’t an ounce of fat on the guy. He was ripped, weighed more than anyone outside of the defensive line trying to tackle him and was maybe the fastest player in the nation at any level. That’s sick.
Anyway, Aska was drafted in the third round of the 1995 NFL draft. He played three years with the Raiders and one with the Colts.
The baby he left sports for back in 1991 is now a sophomore running back at Edmond North. His name is also Joe Aska, but he goes by Ken. Mike Aska is Joe’s nephew. He has another nephew who is a 6-9 basketball player in Florida and one of the nation’s top 10 prospects according to Joe.
Joe has no complaints about his career. Of course, he’s one of those very upbeat, positive-outlook guys who won’t complain about anything. He had great success, but if things had gone a little different, he might have achieved things on a bigger scale. Either way, the likes of him come around — well, hardly ever.
By Justin Harper