TIMES OF THEIR LIVES
It ideally will pay off a few Fridays from now.
The worst team in the PAC-6 last season was putting in work at Jordan High School on Thursday. It wasn’t the hardest practice Jordan coach LaDwaun Harrison ever conducted. In fact, it wasn’t even really a practice.
Duke Sports Performance director Greg McElveen had shown up with a couple of other guys from the Duke Sports Medicine Center and all of their toys, various gadgets that would give the Falcons an idea about where they stood in terms of team speed and strength.
Jordan’s football players got on benches and pushed weight off their chests for as long as they could stand it, jumped as high as possible and sprinted as fast as they could.
“That’s 352 pounds running a 7.51,” Jordan senior Stuart Miller said after hauling it in a 40-yard dash.
Miller said he moved from Virginia to Durham just a couple of weeks ago and didn’t know much about Jordan football.
“I see flashes of good,” Miller said about his new team, mentioning the successful football squads he played on in Virginia.
Jordan didn’t win a game a year ago in the PAC-6, finishing 0-5 in the league, 2-9 overall. Harrison was leading the team for the first time, and he said he was reluctant to change too much too soon.
The Falcons were young last season, and they still are, but this group is a more cohesive unit, and that’s going to make a difference, Harrison said.
No doubt, there’s a lot to be said about a well-jelled ballclub. But at some point in the game of football, it’s about which guys can run the fastest and jump the highest, and that’s what Harrison was looking at during the combine.
Jordan’s Isaiah Southerland is a freshman, and young guys generally have to make their way through a pecking order to gain respect. But that kid made big strides in that regard, burning up the grass with a sizzling 4.39 in the 40, the fastest time on the team.
It’s a wonder Jordan junior quarterback Matt Gampe didn’t start drawing up plays in the dirt for that guy.
“That was just really fast. I’ve never seen that before,” Gampe said. “When you put that into route running and learning the offense, he could develop into a real threat.”
All of this wasn’t just for show, McElveen said. Harrison and his coaches will be able to use the data to help put guys in positions on the field where they can succeed, McElveen said.
The 40-yard dashes were laser timed and included a 10-yard split to measure acceleration. Players also performed 20-yard shuttle runs, which show how well they can change direction.
A fast 40 and a tight 20 might mean a kid has the goods to be a wide receiver who can explode off the line of scrimmage and get downfield and separate from a cornerback — a corner who can recover and just might be hanging in the air to intercept the quarterback’s pass.
“They’re going to be able to use this data to make Jordan a better football team,” McElveen said.
Each player will get a copy of his results that’ll come in handy if college scouts start showing interest.
“These are not data collected by his friend with a cellphone stopwatch or something. They’re collected by people that do this for a living,” McElveen said.
These combine drills were new to many of the Falcons. During the shuttle runs, players routinely eased up at the end of the drill instead of finishing strong.
Jordan sophomore Chase Cleveland pulled up in the middle of running a 40. Wrong move. He thought someone told him to stop. Wrong assumption.
“Let that be a lesson!” Harrison thundered. “In football, we don’t stop! We finish!
“When in doubt, finish!”
But that’s also what these drills were for, an opportunity to learn.
“I tell the guys, I’m a teacher, I’m an educator, first,” Harrison said. “All coaching is is teaching.”