21-year-old posed as high school senior in Michigan in elaborate prep football identity scam

21-year-old James Nash, top, posed as a high school senior to compete in football — The Morning Sun
21-year-old James Nash, top, posed as a high school senior to compete in football — The Morning Sun

Each year there are a handful of troubling transfer stories, with players who parachute into a new school for athletic benefit rather than academic enhancement. Some are stopped by state authorities for technical reasons while others are technically legitimate and can even change the dynamic of a region's competition. Still, none of those transfers, not even the most troubling, can compare with the story of Javier Jones of Mount Pleasant (Mich.) High, for a simple reason: Javier Jones never even existed.

That's not to say that there wasn't a person wearing a football jersey and competing as a human being named Javier Jones. It's simply that the aforementioned player was actually a 21-year-old named James Nash, masquerading as a high school senior to try and tap back into one last rush of glory.

As first reported artfully by The Morning Sun, and followed upon by the Associated Press, Jones' true identity was reported by Mount Pleasant officials on Thursday after they discovered that the college-aged man had falsified documents to earn eligibility at Mount Pleasant; in Michigan, no athlete older than 19 is allowed to compete at the secondary school level. Nash claimed he was a 17-year-old senior who was seeking a transfer from a school in Lansing.

It appears that Nash might have been able to get away with the entire scheme if it wasn't from an anonymous guilty parent, too. The Morning Sun claims that Mount Pleasant athletic director Jim Conway was tipped off about Nash's true identity by an anonymous parent. The school immediately reported the alleged violation to the Michigan High School Athletic Association, which has told the school it will likely have to forfeit any games in which Nash competed. The faux senior competed in the season's final four contests, with forfeits in the two wins that Mount Pleasant earned potentially dropping the team's record from 4-5 to 2-7.

"Earlier this week we dug up his file, the police became involved (and) all the school officials, and found documents had been altered and forged," Conway told The Morning Sun. "There was a couple days of investigation, looking into that and what we have found is this individual is not the individual that was on the transcript. What we found is he exceeds [the age requirement]. You can't be 19 prior to September 1 to be eligible. He was older than 19 on September 1. The student has been removed from Mt. Pleasant Public Schools."

The forfeits and sordid incident will not affect the state playoffs because Mount Pleasant failed to qualify for the postseason.

"At this point it's just communication," Conway told The Morning Sun. "But the MHSAA did indicate that it is unprecedented that a young person has changed their age from older to younger to be able to play. They had not run into this."

Of course, Nash's age falsification isn't entirely unforeseen. Most famously, Odessa (Texas) Permian High featured a Haitian imposter named Guerdwich Montimere, who posed as a high school junior named Jerry Joseph and led Permian to the 2010 state basketball tournament despite being 22 at the time. He has since been sentenced to three years in prison for charges related to his false identity.

It's far too early to know if Nash might face similar consequences in Michigan. In the meantime, no one can understand why a 21-year-old would be so desperate to get a second run at high school football that he would completely change his identity.

"It's an unfortunate situation," Mount Pleasant football coach Jason McIntyre told the AP. "Did he look older than he was? He looked like any other athletic senior. I don't think he had any interceptions. He was not a dominant player."

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