Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
From the Ole Miss’ 45-yard line of the Rebels former New Mexico Military Institute grad, Jordan Ta’amu catches the snap from the shotgun and takes a three-step drop, looks to his right and with a flick of the wrist, Ta’amu hoists a perfect spiral to wide receiver DeMarkus Lodge.
Lodge was running step for step with Texas Tech defensive back Douglas Coleman III. The ball is on time and placed so well that Lodge nor Coleman doesn’t see the ball coming out of the stadium lights until the last instant when Lodge extends his arms and makes the catch with his arms outstretched forcing him to go out of bounds before getting his right foot just inside the12-yard line of the Raiders, just before being shoved out-of-bounds by Coleman.
It was that kind of day for Ole Miss as they defeated Texas Tech by a score of 47-27 in Houston on Saturday in both teams’ season opener. In the first start of his senior campaign, Rebels’ quarterback Jordan Ta’amu was 22-of-36 for 336 yards and two touchdowns as he shredded the Red Raiders’ defense all afternoon at will. Pressure or no pressure, he just played pitch and catch with his receivers all afternoon long.
“I thought he did a good job,” Ole Miss football coach Matt Luke said in his press conference after the game on Saturday. “I thought there were a few RPOs he may have held on to a little too long early in the game but he was trying to make a big play down the field, but he protected the ball and I was very, very proud of that.”
That Ta’amu was money on the big stage is nothing new to him or the fans of NMMI football. Just two years removed from a season that put him on the national map for all of the Power 5 conference schools looking for a quarterback to lead their program to a National Championship — many stopped at NMMI to look at him in 2016.
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How he got to NMMI
One of the former NMMI coaches went over to Hawaii to recruit offensive linemen Kordell Va’a from his school, Pearl City in Hawaii. The coaches were filming the practice where they noticed Ta’amu throwing in the background on film. The NMMI coaches contacted him and came out to see him throw in person. NMMI’s coaches went back to their offices to discuss him and called, offering him a full scholarship.
“I was about to walk-on to a junior college (Riverside) in California,” Ta’amu said. “I wanted to go there because they were the top junior college in California. I knew I wanted a full-ride somewhere. Just talking to coach Drew Thatcher, they told me they could pay for everything and my parents wouldn’t have to pay a thing; and I didn’t want them to, so, I took that route.”
Once he got here, it took him a while to get accustomed to the military lifestyle of school and football. During practice his freshman year, he suffered a minor knee injury in training camp where he competed with Conner Cramer.
Ta’amu studied Cramer and watched him see if he could learn anything about him and how to get better. He took notes and it opened his eyes by watching and it helped him learn the game of football by watching during his freshman year.
In his sophomore year, he had to compete for the job. In the spring, he had to beat out one guy, and in the fall, he had to beat out four guys to win the starting job.
“Because I was hurt the first-year,” Ta’amu said, “and I still wasn’t 100 percent, I still had to fight through the pain. When it was my opportunity to play again, I was excited for my team, because I knew we had a good team on offense and defense. When I got on the field, I started doing what I do best. I knew my team had confidence in me.”
“We knew he was going to be good,” NMMI coach Joe Forchtner said. “We didn’t know how good he was going to be until he was under the lights his first game when he threw for eight TDs and 465-yards and was named National Player of the Week.”
What impressed Forchtner was Ta’amu’s ability to work hard. Ta’amu worked hard in the weight room to add muscle to his lean frame. Forchtner was impressed by Ta’amu’s ability to handle success in being the guy. Until his eight TDs’ game, no one knew how he would handle success. Along the way, Ta’amu was the Western Junior College Athletic Conference offensive player of the league.
“Jordan (Ta’amu) is a pro,” Forchtner said. “I can’t say enough about how professional he is and his approach to the game. That first year he didn’t play much, he never complained, he just learned. He learned how to watch film and how to watch the game. He studied the guy ahead of him. He looked at how he might do things differently. He’s a sharp guy.”
Prepared because of NMMI
Ta’amu felt like NMMI prepared him for big-time football because of the way they practiced at full speed and the way they workout and the intensity of the practices in the Division I. When he graduated from NMMI, he received five scholarship offers.
“I learned at NMMI that everything matters,” Ta’amu said. “It starts with academics, they had study hall all the time. I learned a lot about time management to be able to focus on football, school and the military, it was a tough job. Being able to maintain my room and grades and my starting job and learning my playbook really helped me a lot here (Ole Miss), it just really helped me a lot.”
A lot of fans might know him as the “Throwin Samoan” but when he was here, his offensive coordinator Thatcher called him “J.T. Money” every time he made a good play. He wanted to transfer in the spring so he could compete for a starting job with Shea Patterson.
When Patterson got hurt against Louisiana State, Ta’amu comes in and plays well. He felt like his breakout game was in his first start against Arkansas, where he felt like he could play at the Division I level. “I felt like after that game,” Ta’amu said, “that I can play at this level. The Kentucky game was the first game where I really applied those lessons to the next game. That’s when I got better because we won that game with five seconds on the clock.”
Ta’amu’s goals this season is to throw for over, 4,000 yards, rush for over 500 yards and to have 30 or more TDs. He is hoping this season is good enough to springboard him to his ultimate dream of playing in the NFL. To get ready for the upcoming season he worked on timing routes with his receivers, going over his reads and protecting the ball more.
“That’s my main goal,” Ta’amu said. “That’s why I came to a Southeastern Conference school above the other schools. That’s why I chose Ole Miss was to reach my goal to make it to the NFL — no matter what round. I’m shooting for a top five round selection.”
Ta’amu achieved his goal this spring of not throwing any interceptions, and he wants less than five this season. He also wants to make better decisions and have better accuracy. He praises former head coach Hugh Freeze for recruiting him and coach Luke is a player’s coach.
Ta’amu is a criminal justice major and when he is done playing football, he wants to become an FBI agent and spend his career in law enforcement.
“I think about where would I be if I hadn’t gone to NMMI all the time,” Ta’amu said. “I wonder if I had gone to a DII school instead. I’m grateful that I trusted in myself and I prayed every day and trusted in God to lead my path and that’s exactly what he’s been doing.”
Ta’amu’s message to the players at NMMI football is to stay strong and committed. He feels like the NMMI coaches know what they’re doing and know how to get players to the DI and DII level, and to just keep working hard and never give up and believe your time will come and to always compete and trust God.