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Jordan Ta’amu turns heads at NFL combine

Mississippi and former NMMI quarterback Jordan Ta’amu runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday. (AP Photo)

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Jordan Ta’amu has made the most of his opportunities in life. Ta’amu was invited as one of the top 17 quarterbacks in the country in college football with his stellar play in the Southeastern Conference this year.

Ta’amu was in the second group of quarterbacks at the NFL combine on Saturday. Nerves might have gotten the best of him as he false-started to start his 40-yard dash. When Ta’amu settled down, he ran consecutive 4.78 in his 40-yard dashes.

Ta’amu was disappointed he hadn’t received any offers out of high school after leading his team, Pearl City High School, to go back-to-back title games in 2013 and ‘14. Ta’amu was named All-State and Division II Offensive Player of the Year as a senior.

In three years, Jordan Ta’amu’s star has continued to soar. He has gone from sitting on the bench and holding a clipboard his freshman year at New Mexico Military Institute to possible late round draft pick in the 2019 NFL draft.

The ‘Throwin Samoan’ turned a one-year start at NMMI into earning Southwest Junior College Football Conference Player of the Year (3,014 passing yards and 32 TDs with seven rushing touchdowns) and a scholarship at Ole Miss.

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Ta’amu battled and eventually beat out Shea Patterson. Patterson was a five-star recruit, the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the state of Florida and the No. 4 player overall coming out of high school.

In the seventh game of Ta’amu’s junior year, an injury to Patterson allowed him to start the rest of the season. Ta’amu threw for 1,682 yards and 11 touchdowns in 11 games. With the quarterback position on lock, Ta’amu’s play forced Patterson to transfer to Michigan University.

In this file photo, former NMMI player of the year Jordan Ta’amu throws a pass during a game against Texas Tech last September. Ta’amu was one of 17 quarterbacks invited to the NFL combine on Saturday. (AP File Photo)

Once entrenched as the trigger man of the potent Rebel passing offense, Ta’amu in his senior season passed for 3,918 yards and threw for 19 TDs with a passer rating of 153.5, which is fourth in the Southeastern Conference.

Ole Miss missed the Bowl games this season with a 5-7 record, but Ta’amu’s play was so productive this season against some of the best defenses in the Southeastern Conference and nation that he earned an invite to the East-West Shrine game.

During practice and games, Ta’amu outshined bigger name quarterbacks; in the game, Ta’amu was 7-of-11 for 98 yards.

“I know I’m not the only one wondering about this,” his agent Kenny Zuckerman of Priority Sports said. “Why aren’t we talking about Jordan Ta’amu more? He clearly throws a beautiful ball with great mechanics, plus tools and very impressive placement. He’s hardly made a mistake all week and has thrown better on the run than any quarterback here.”

Ta’amu was one of three quarterbacks on the East squad with David Bough (Purdue) and Taylor Cornelius (Oklahoma State). His impressive showing in that game has several NFL teams interested in him: Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers and Atlanta Falcons to name a few teams.

“I’m not saying Ta’amu is the best quarterback in the draft,” Zuckerman said, “but there is no question he is a better prospect than a lot of the names being talked up this draft season.”

A couple of things Ta’amu had to answer was, has he never taken a snap from under center consistently, and if he could command a huddle. Efficient at Ole Miss, the Rebels used an up-tempo spread offense.

During the week of practice, Ta’amu seemed to answer those questions about his ability to adjust to the demands of a complicated NFL offense. Ta’amu received coaching from pro coaching staffs of the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos.

One of the main differences for Ta’amu during the East-West game was commanding a huddle and having a coach talk into his helmet for 20 seconds while he calls the play.

“The East-West Shrine game was a wonderful experience,” Ta’amu said. “It was great meeting NFL coaches and getting to know the NFL playbook and see how they run things. I got to take snaps under center — that was a huge thing for me. I got to know great players and coaches during that week. It was a great week, and I’m looking toward the NFL Combine now.”

Ta’amu was invited to participate in the NFL combine and was on TV Saturday throwing to receivers and competing. He was No. 16; one of the top 17 quarterbacks invited to compete in the Combine. While at the Combine, Ta’amu took part in physicals, Wonderlic testing, throwing and X’s and O’s on the blackboard with NFL coaches going over defenses and calling plays. Ole Miss will hold their Pro Day on March 29, at 9 p.m.

“In a league that covets quarterbacks with tools and character,” Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network Jon Ledyard said, “It’s befuddling to me why Ta’amu is receiving zero attention while quarterbacks with all kinds of flaws are being billed as a Round 1 candidate. I’m not suggesting we put Ta’amu in their conversation, I’m suggesting we put them into his conversation— and keep him in that conversation.”

Ta’amu expects the NFL game to be a bit faster than the SEC, only because the players are bigger, stronger, faster and smarter. In his senior year, his numbers were impressive, but his teams couldn’t finish games, which cost them a Bowl game.

“The odds of Ta’amu becoming a franchise quarterback are slim,” Ledyard said. “Like almost every other quarterback in this class, however, if you’re looking for upside, and a lot of the baseline traits needed to be a successful signal caller in the NFL; Ta’amu might be exactly what you need, and you might not need to spend more than a day’s three-pick to get him.”

Ta’amu recalled thinking back to his freshman year at NMMI; he knew the NFL was the furthest thing from reality. Ta’amu wrote down on a piece a paper his goal to get a Division I scholarship at NMMI. He just went about learning as much as he could and performing and trusting God for the rest.

When he got to Ole Miss, Ta’amu set another goal to be the starting quarterback. He wanted to prove himself, and that he could play at the Division I level. With that goal accomplished, he now wants to prove he can make it to the ultimate level and play in the NFL.

Ta’amu is training in Boca Raton, Florida. His day starts at 7:30 a.m. and works out until 10:30 a.m., and then a quarterback coach will come in and work him out until noon. He’ll eat lunch from noon until 1p.m., and then he is back at the facility lifting weights.

“My goal is to get drafted as high as possible,” Ta’amu said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes and work hard. I’m very excited to follow my dreams to do what I love. I think NMMI prepared a lot for what I’m doing now. It taught me discipline, how to keep things in order and throughout the chaos, you have to be organized. It helped me a lot and being away from family, it helped make me a man.”

Ta’amu has wanted to come back to NMMI and visit but hasn’t had the opportunity in his schedule. He has missed the NMMI football program and his coaches who have helped him be successful in his young life.

“I’m just super grateful NMMI gave me the opportunity,” Ta’amu said. “I’m super excited and blessed to be able to take this journey. I wish I could take everyone with me, and I want say thank you to Roswell and to my coaches for giving me the opportunity to let me live my dreams.”

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