This Mother’s Day, we spoke with the family of Louisville football receiver Jordan Watkins to find out how he became the diamond in the rough of the 2020 recruiting class.
Jordan Watkins de-committed from the University of Kentucky in October of 2019 after a visit to the Louisville football program. He committed to play for Coach Scott Satterfield and staff shortly after, becoming one of the most important commitments in the short tenure of the new staff.
Though his journey into a Cardinals jersey has been an uphill battle, it’s clear that Watkins has always been up to the task.
Jordan’s mother, Paula Watkins, speaks fondly about her son’s athletic beginnings, saying that ever since he was little “he didn’t just walk, he ran.”
The speedster recently clocked a 4.38 40-yard dash. “He’s always had the energy. He’s always had the speed. He’s just a natural talent”, Paula explained.
However, coming out of Russell County, KY, which is seemingly the middle of nowhere, getting noticed and putting his name out there was no small feat.
“When he first got to Louisville and was playing junior football, he had a jersey that didn’t even have his last name on it. It had ‘Nowhere’ on it. Nobody knew where he was from, so everybody called him ‘Nowhere’”, his stepfather Austin Baker told us.
Of the many nicknames Jordan Watkins has accrued over his young football career, “Wat”, “J-Wat”, “Jordy” (fitting for a receiver), perhaps “Nowhere” is his proudest sobriquet.
An unusual recruitment
Jordan’s family moved to Louisville when he was in junior high. “His first day of 7th grade in the big city..from Russell, KY. He had no friends. He tripped and fell down the steps in front of everybody. That was pretty embarrassing for him.”
Jordan had originally been overlooked by Bobby Petrino’s staff, even though he attended Desales HS and then Butler HS, which were both about 15 minutes from Louisville’s campus.
When I asked about the relationship with Bobby Petrino and staff, Baker replied: “There wasn’t one.”
Jordan wanted to attend Louisville from the get-go, but Petrino never came knocking.
“We had to pay for (Jordan) to go to camp (at Louisville). He and I travelled the country to different camps trying to get his name out there. He caught everyone’s eye in Nashville when he ran a 4.38 at a Nike camp…never heard from Petrino. Butler’s in Louisville’s backyard, (Jordan) was the #1 receiver in high school, and WE had to put the work in for him to come (on an unofficial) visit”, he added.
Coach Satterfield and staff, on the other hand, reached out to Jordan right away once they got settled in.
“They called immediately. They treat our family real well”, Baker said. “They got a real good family atmosphere there. It’s night and day how much different it is now than it was in the Petrino era…and we visited in both eras.”
“We trust them”, Paula chimed in.
Jordan’s de-commitment from UK and then the commitment to Louisville wasn’t easy for him or his family.
“It was a tough choice for him. He thought about it for weeks. He felt that Coach Brewer gave him the best opportunity to make it to the NFL. The most appealing part other than the coaching staff was the opportunity to rep the city of Louisville. He’s a hometown hero, and life after football is what he was thinking about”, Baker said.
Big Blue Nation was not very kind to Jordan on Twitter after the de-commitment. “I turned into Momzilla in my head”, Paula joked.
She added these words of wisdom: “I read many nasty comments about Jordan, but I didn’t respond to them. People are always going to talk, regardless if you’re doing good or bad. I wouldn’t want him to respond to those negative people…gotta practice what you preach.”
I asked the parents what game Jordan was looking forward to the most.
“Well, you already know the answer. The UK game. He received lots of hate after the de-commit from Kentucky so he’ll be able to play and get his chance to prove everybody wrong“, they replied. “Not just the Kentucky game. He’s looking forward to playing Clemson, playing against national championship contenders and playing against the best of the best. That’s where he thrives.”
Baker grew up a diehard Kentucky fan through and through. I asked him if there was a changing of the guard so-to-speak with his fanhood.
“Obviously I’m a Jordan fan overall. If you really want to know…yes, I will be wearing a Jordan Watkins Louisville football jersey for the next 4-5 years. Sorry to say I won’t be rooting on U of L basketball.”
From nowhere to All-American?
Jordan’s family feels confident that he’s capable of stepping in and contributing right away, even as a freshman receiver.
“Whether he comes in and has an All-American season or he doesn’t, we’re still going to be very proud of him and we will always support him no matter what.”
The two compared Jordan to a mixture between Odell Beckham Jr. and Amari Cooper.
“He has strong hands like Odell and he creates separation…Amari Cooper does that real well. What separates Jordan (from other receivers across the country) is obviously his speed for his size. He can play the slot and he’s physical enough to play the outside receiver position as well. He knows how to cause separation, that’s one of his strong points”, Baker explained.
Jordan’s current fitness routine hasn’t slowed down at all during the coronavirus quarantine.
“He’s consistently working out. We have a home gym in our garage. He hits the weight pile in there. For cardio and agility he’s training with Chris Vaughn with Aspirations Gyms…not in the gym, just in various parks outside”, Baker said.
Jordan’s down time for the most part isn’t at all what you and I consider “down time”.
Baker listed Jordan’s chill time activities. “When he’s not training, he’ll go outside and shoot basketball and stay active. He plays soccer with his little sister. That’s their sport here lately. Oh, and a little PlayStation…a little 2k action. What young man doesn’t do that nowadays?”
As far as what Jordan is doing with the Louisville football team right now, here’s what his parents had to say:
“They have a lot of Zoom meetings, and they consist of academics and fitness meetings. They talk with Academics Supervisors and Training Staff, and that’s it.”
Paula and Austin reminisced on Jordan’s youth some more to close the interview.
“When he was little he used to run from everybody”, Baker said.
Paula laughed about chasing her son through the neighborhood when he was still in diapers. “I could not catch him.”
The scenario plays out in my head like one of those mythical Bo Jackson tales. Jordan has been creating separation and eluding folks chasing him since he was a baby. Eyes emoji.
A receiver that came straight outta Nowhere and burst onto the scene like a meteor, Jordan “Nowhere” Watkins will never forget where he came from, and his parents are here to make sure Louisville fans understand what a gift they’ve been bestowed upon in their boy.
“He’s a runner. Y’all are going to learn that.”