I am what people like to call a “high energy guy.”
From waking up early to hit the weight room to bringing the excitement when summer workouts are hitting a lull, many of my teammates and coaches look to me as the guy that always is flying around at 100%.
People often ask me about this, but honestly, it’s just in my DNA. With anything I do in my life, I want to attack it as fast as possible. It’s the only way I know and what I attribute much of my success to.
But even though I’ve been known for this high energy since I played Pop Warner, it hasn’t always been viewed in a positive light.
Growing up, I always had to play three sports. I couldn’t even think of having to wait around for that next season, so I always made sure I had something going on. Competing in football, basketball, and track, I managed to stay just busy enough to satisfy my hunger for constant engagement.
And for the most part, keep me out of trouble!
Now, even though I enjoyed all three, football was always my undisputed favorite. From a young age, I remember being so excited at practice, sometimes being told I was going too hard and needed to slow down. But stepping on that field, you could see a passion shine that didn’t quite show up in anything else I did.
I think it was this passion that originally made Coach Stoops show up for the first time.
Playing in Ohio’s high school state championship game, the biggest game of my career, Coach Stoops had let me know he was coming. Naturally, I wanted to show him my best performance.
I was nervous, but I knew I was prepared, so I was just excited to show him the energy that drives my play.
But as the last seconds ticked off the clock, my Youngstown teammates walking off the field, the game just hadn’t gone as I hoped. Losing in the last seconds, I felt a disappointment that I had let my team down and Coach Stoops had come all this way to see me lose.
I actually learned later that Coach Stoops had a completely different reaction. He was very impressed with what he had seen and was proud of the way I had fought in the game.
And there was one more thing: He was so impressed he wanted to offer me a scholarship to the University of Kentucky.
For a kid that had grown up always wanting to play at the college level, this was a dream that I had worked so hard to make come true. Even as I was mourning the loss of our season, it was still an overwhelming feeling to know that I had a future at the next level.
And with the offseason starting, this was just the beginning.
By the summer before my senior season, I was blessed enough to have offers from universities all over the country. That first offer had opened a door to my future that I was extremely grateful to have, and would never forget who had helped open it.
So even as the scholarship offers continued to pour in, I still couldn’t get one program off my mind: UK.
For me, it was pretty simple. Many people wanted me to look at more established programs, but Coach Stoops had made a very strong commitment. When recruiting me, he said that he wanted ME to be the center of the defense, the player he would look to build around.
This idea to me was something I had always dreamed of. I knew I could go to many other schools and be a great player, but the value Coach Stoops had made me feel and the aspect of being my first offer, I just couldn’t think of committing to anywhere else.
So with this idea in my head, I decided to show my commitment to the program as well. Not only would I spend my next four years in Lexington, I would also graduate high school and enroll early that Spring.
This was difficult, as I missed events like Prom and Graduation, but I had bigger goals. Starting that January, the only thing on my mind was helping the program and proving my worth.
But as I approached that first collegiate season, things weren’t playing out exactly as I hoped. First, I wasn’t completely healthy. I came down with Mono, which anyone who has had the illness knows, makes performing at a high level extremely difficult.
In addition to my sickness, I was having to learn how to adjust my energy levels in practice.
This was the most difficult part for me. I was trying to bring that same energy that had earned my scholarship to the college level, but it just wasn’t working in the same way. At times I would make mistakes and miss assignments because I was trying to move too quickly.
As I was trying to learn how to perform at this new level, I just couldn’t quite figure out how to turn that energy on only when I needed it. With some days, I would be able to perform like a starter, while others I couldn’t quite seem to figure it out.
So as the season moved on, I performed as well as I could in my roles on special teams and some defensive packages, but it left me wanting more.
With that next season, I was determined to completely change my game.
I also knew that I had big shoes to fill, as one of our leaders, Josh Forrest, was moving on to the NFL. So no matter what it took, that next year our coaches would see a different player.
As someone who has always been full of energy and consequentially, impatient with team meetings, I learned when to turn that energy off and truly enjoy studying the game. Watching film with a whole new maturity, I started to scrutinize every mistake I made, promising to myself that I would improve on each one.
This also led to an evaluation of each practice, where I would write down what I felt like went wrong in the practice, so I would physically have something to remind myself before the next practice.
And with all of this, my game raised to a level I had never seen before.
But even as my statistics began to stack up that next season, I didn’t really notice. I was still focused on getting better. In fact, one of my teammates actually had to tell me I was one of the SEC leaders in tackles.
I was just working to stay humble and focusing on helping the team, the exact thing Coach Stoops had brought me here to do.
So as my junior season is beginning and we are working to bring a SEC title to the program, I am trying to stay focused on that same thing.
I have learned to adjust my energy levels up and down, but I still know there are areas of the game I can improve. Whatever statistics or achievements come my way, I will just keep up my same routine, looking for the next skill I can tackle.
Looking back on the progression of my career, I have no regrets. Learning the hard way on how to discipline myself made me the player I am today, and I am grateful for that.
The one thing I would say is this:
Don’t let anyone ever stifle your energy. That is what makes you the player you are. Just figure out the areas to direct it, and you will raise your game to a level you never knew was possible.
Jordan Jones | Contributor