With such a long delay between Jordan Anderson’s sophomore and junior seasons at Joliet Catholic, the question of how much improvement could be reasonably expected crossed his head coach’s mind from time to time.
“We expected Jordan to take another step,” Joliet Catholic coach Jake Jaworski said. “Just from a maturation standpoint, his body has been changing so much with what his body has gone through. But the strength that he has added both upper body and lower body, we knew he would be a load to tackle.”
That, of course, was if the Spring 2021 Herald-News Football Player of the Year actually could be caught.
Teams didn’t succeed very often in either catching or tackling Anderson during a splendid junior season that saw him rush for 1,074 yards on only 94 carries. He also scored 16 touchdowns, many of which came from long distance. His interest from the next level also escalated, culminating in Anderson making a commitment to the University of Illinois shortly after the conclusion of the spring season.
Anderson’s recruiting process with Illinois was relatively swift from the school making the offer to his acceptance, but the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder didn’t see the benefit of elongating the process.
“Helping turning around a program is something that I wanted to do,” Anderson said. “And with wanting to be a part of something like that, when the offer came, I didn’t want to wait too long to be a part of what they were trying to do.”
Anderson’s junior season had a series of long touchdown runs and short nights as the Hilltoppers breezed to many of their wins during the undefeated pandemic-shortened season. But don’t expect Anderson to rest on the laurels he achieved. If anything, his thirst for success barely got quenched.
“I’m happy and kind of relieved [that the recruiting process ended], but you have to have that mindset to never be satisfied,” Anderson said. “That’s just me.”
Anderson also was more than welcoming to diversifying his portfolio. Although he was recruited to Illinois as a running back, other schools expressed an interest in seeing what Anderson could do on defense. And knowing that he can’t predict what the future holds, Anderson was able to coax the coaching staff into letting him take a series on defense in a game against Carmel.
So on Anderson’s lengthy scroll of statistical accomplishments, he couldn’t resist including one last stat on the bottom of the list.
“I was only in there for four plays, and I got a sack,” Anderson said with a laugh. “Yeah, it felt good. I’m not going to lie.”
And although it isn’t initially in the plan for Anderson to play on the defense, Anderson is completely open to whatever gets him on the field when the time comes.
“I don’t mind playing offense or defense, I’ll play any position on the field as long as I help out the team,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s recruiting obviously escalated quickly because of the productivity on the field in this shortened season, and he did quite a bit to dispel any reservations about whether he’d be a fit for programs.
“I was fielding calls from Power Five schools from the Big Ten, SEC schools, schools just staying in touch,” Jaworski said. “I think Jordan was one of those guys that they all knew that the talent was there.
“Obviously, his size was playing into it as well. Obviously, he’s a very big running back. The systems at the college level, some schools aren’t looking for a 6-3, 230-pound back. You don’t see a lot of Derrick Henry’s running around. Guys wanted to see him run, and he had another gear this year that maybe he didn’t have as a sophomore.”
But what all programs are looking for, incredible work ethic, is something Anderson has met and exceeded every expectation for.
“He’s very driven. He wants to play at the highest level. He’s very talented, but he’s driven, and you don’t see kids at this level with the drive and the self-motivation that he has,” Jaworski said. “It’s not just like a Friday night thing, its an every day of the week thing. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a kid work as hard as him. At practice, he doesn’t ask to come out. He uses every rep as a chance for conditioning. That’s unique.”
Anderson has one more year at Joliet Catholic, and it’s a season that likely will only further demonstrate the ascension of his game. It isn’t often players have the year that Anderson did and still has another year of play at the high school level ahead of them.
It’s a fact that isn’t lost on his coach.
“Yeah, it should be something to see,” Jaworski said. “Kids like him don’t come along often, and we’re fortunate to have him now and have him again next year.”