“I guess that might have been when I saw myself having a future in soccer,” he says with casual confidence, not even close to off-putting. It’s just that…he saw it. Saw it in sixth and seventh grade – then really saw it when he got to Pacific Grove High, situated in a small beach town near Monterey about two hours south of San Francisco.
It’s right about the time Steve Simmons saw it too. The Beavers’ head soccer coach was deep into the construction of a Pac-12 program that had already guided three players into the first round of the MLS Draft. It’s a team structure, for certain, but it’s built in a way that allows (and encourages) individual excellence – especially if you’re a fast and talented forward who can run all day. As Simmons describes it, “We’re creating a niche for incoming attacking players. Know how Penn State is Linebacker U? We want to be Striker U.”
Which is precisely the type of player he saw when Jordan showed up at one of the Beavers’ high school soccer camps. Simmons remembers the first time huddling with his staff after watching Jones play, telling them, “This kid’s unbelievable. His ability to move...there’s something there, something different.”
The other thing different was that Oregon State had now become the kind of destination choice Simmons envisioned when he came to Corvallis. Jones says of his coach, “He’s got such a high IQ for the game. That’s why I decided to come here. That, and the past success of the forwards.”
For Jordan, the future couldn’t come quickly enough. Graduating from Pacific Grove High in just three whip-smart years, he got a head start on his career at “Striker U” in early 2014. And his start wasn’t a shaky one. Not even close – as he scored eight goals in sixteen starts, including the game-winning goal in the Beavers’ NCAA Tournament win over the University of Denver. All of that would merely serve as the table-setter for his team-leading nine goals during his sophomore year. Coach Simmons smiles and says there’s a simple reason for Jordan’s success: If there’s a ball in the open field, and it’s up for grabs, odds are good he’ll get there first. He always gets there first.
But there was one more thing Simmons was noticing with his young forward, something he’d seen with most of his players – and that was Jordan’s growing affinity for all things Oregon State. You see, Jordan’s parents didn’t go to school in Corvallis, in fact they didn’t even play sports, which probably explains their perfect level of parental/fan support over the years. The closest connection he had to Oregon State was his older brother, who was majoring in music at, of all places, the University of Oregon. “He and I are total opposites,” Jordan says of the friendly sibling rivalry. “He doesn’t care much about sports, so he doesn’t have a problem coming up to watch me play.”
Jordan, though, does care about sports - a lot, and not just soccer. Simmons recalls one January night in particular when he asked Jordan to host a group of visiting high school recruits. Wayne Tinkle was in his first year as men’s basketball coach and his squad had been seriously over-achieving since game one. With Jordan, his guests, and a few thousand other fans watching at historic Gill Coliseum, the Beavers stunned then seventh-ranked Arizona 58-56.
In the thick of the on-court celebration afterwards, Simmons found Jordan cheering and high-fiving, eyes aglow – not a soccer player in that moment, but exactly the same as everyone else at Gill: a fan. The young soccer forward cut through the crowd toward the man who helped bring him to Corvallis and said, “Coach? I just love Oregon State.”
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