Sept. 12, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Jordan Jeffries is a real rarity in Marshall football.
It could be because the starting offensive left tackle is the tallest player among the Herd, at 6 feet 8. It could be because he’s also the heaviest, at 313 pounds.
Or you could say he’s unique because the redshirt junior from Oswego, Ill., is a very rare Herd player from the Land of Lincoln – in fact, the only one to date in this 21st century.
However, I didn’t find those facts about Jeffries’ singularity the most impressive item.
He’s the only MU engineering major on the team.
In fact, he’s the only football player who’s chosen that rigorous academic path since the university brought back the curriculum in 2006-07. (The school had dropped the four-year civil engineering program in 1970, a few months before the football program’s plane crash that took 75 lives.)
So, does it help a lineman who wants to be an engineer, a guy who studies lines and angles, and works with leverage?
“Sometimes out here you do take an engineering approach to things,” Jeffries said following a recent practice. “It does help. The coaches talk about power angles, and it does have sense behind it. I can think of quite a few ways engineering falls into place with blocking.
“They (coaches) think of it as technique … They say things like if your hands are inside, you get a good angle between your elbows and stuff like that. And I’m there thinking this is weird. I’ve seen that in a book before.
“It’s all about the right angles, and I try not to let it get to me too much, trying to dissect what they’re saying as it relates, but sometimes it creeps into the back of my head, ‘Oh, man, this sounds like class.’”
Jeffries is a unique guy. While I’m sure he saw Aaron Dobson’s indescribable catch last season over and over on ESPN, he probably watched it less than his teammates.
“I grew up watching the Discovery Channel and the History Channel,” said Jeffries, the son of a construction/renovation man father (Quincy) and real estate sales mother (Terri). “Modern Marvels, I could sit and watch those shows all day.”
Before Jeffries took his 29 ACT score and committed to former Herd Coach Mark Snyder in January 2009, he considered Purdue (known for its engineering school), and some of the Ivies, including Harvard, Princeton and Penn. He chose Marshall’s College of Information Technology and Engineering, and is more than halfway toward a civil engineering degree.
“It’s incredibly tough,” Jeffries said of the engineering/football commitment. “Being a Division I athlete is hard enough as it is. Football is physically and mentally demanding, but you throw engineering curriculum on top of that … It takes any engineering student five years to graduate as it is.”
Jeffries said his degree of difficulty in some ways is heightened because Marshall doesn’t have many sections of engineering classes, “so, it’s you take this class now, or you don’t have a choice. Right now, I’m at the point where I have to take these classes regardless of what time they are.”
Yes, that means football sometimes needs to call an end around.
“If the classes conflict with practice, I have to get with my professors and find a way to balance it out,” said Jeffries, who is taking 16 credit hours this semester. “I’ve got to be late to practice sometimes. When we travel, I’m going to miss some classes. It’s more pressure on me. I have to go out of the way to talk to my professors and try to organize in a way where I can get things done and not miss too much to where I fall behind.
“On Fridays, when we travel to road games, I have three classes I need and one of them is a hydraulics lab from 2-3:15 (p.m.). So, I have to get with teachers and see what I have to do because we travel in the morning to away games.
“For home games, we’re here throughout the day, then go to our hotel (in Barboursville) for the night, so maybe there’s a way I can get some meetings, watch some film and then go to class before I go to the hotel.”
So, how did Jeffries choose this path?
“I just always wanted to do things where I build, construct things, find out how things work,” said Jeffries, who is in a three-tackle Herd “starting” rotation with juniors Garrett Scott and Gage Niemeyer. “When I came to Marshall they were just building the engineering program and they told me from the beginning it was going to be tough, that no football players had done it.
“It was going to be trial and error, because I’m the first one, no one before, so there’s no template. Mrs. (Tara) Helton (director of the Buck Harless Student-Athlete Program and head football academic counselor) and I have just been piecing our way through it, and I’m blessed to be on track so far.”
Jeffries said he wanted to study aerospace engineering, but Marshall didn’t have that curriculum.
“That’s still my final goal of what I want to do,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to getting a job, and then I’ll probably go back to school and get more education and see where that takes me.”
Thundering Herd offensive line coach Geep Wade said Jeffries prospers as an engineering major in football for multiple reasons.
“I think where it helps Jordan is what he’s in is tough academically and it helps his work ethic,” Wade said. “You’ve got to work to stay in that major and the work you need to do is time-consuming, so you have to focus. He’s a smart guy, always on time, does everything you ask.
“He’s made a conscious effort to really work on his fundamentals in the run game, and especially in pass protection. He’s just got to get the (reputation) among all our guys and our coaches that he’s ‘the guy,’ one you can always count on for every snap. I know he’ll get there.”
That’s because Jeffries is one of the Herd’s building blocks, in more ways than one.
"Jeffries Engineers Unique Career" was one of the featured stories in the Sept. 8 football game program.