When pro football marketing departments see Jordan “JT Money” Ta’amu take his three-step drop and, with his elongated throwing motion, loft a beautiful 50-yard tight spiral to an Ole Miss wide receiver running in stride for a touchdown, many think: A can’t-miss quarterback.
Football coaches know that Jordan Ta’amu is special. How special? The comparison could be made that he is a shiny, new special collector’s edition of a vintage Cadillac. A rarity.
That’s what makes what happened on Tuesday the highlight of his young professional career. The St. Louis BattleHawks of the XFL love the traits of the Jordan Ta’amu Cadillac brand, one of overcoming long odds and never giving up in battle. That’s why they selected him as the No. 1 quarterback and pick in the team’s first draft.
“This is a blessing all around,” Ta’amu said at his introductory news conference. “Just being at a comfortable spot with my decision and with the coaching staff, it’s been amazing. Being around them yesterday and today, and getting to know them and the St. Louis town, it’s just awesome to be here.”
What the BattleHawks have learned before ever selecting Jordan is he’s had to work harder and beat out other quarterbacks just to get on the field. After leading his high school to back-to-back state championships at Pearl City in Hawaii.
He was named All-State and Division II Offensive Player of the Year as a senior. With such accomplishments, Jordan expected to receive some offers from major colleges to play quarterback. Instead, he received nothing. Jordan was prepared to walk on at Riverside Junior College in California.
Fate and faith have been integral in Jordan’s life. New Mexico Military Institute coaches were recruiting one of his high school teammates, lineman Kordell Va’a. NMMI’s coaches were noticing Jordan in the background as they were watching Va’a on film. NMMI’s coaches contacted Jordan and flew out to Hawaii to see him in person.
After meeting Jordan the coaches offered him a full scholarship.
Things didn’t immediately go well for Jordan, as he had a minor knee injury. He also had to adjust to the military lifestyle of NMMI in his first year. On the field, he was beaten out by Conner Cramer. Instead of sulking and quitting, Jordan was a pro and prepared like he was the starter. He watched Conner and learned how to get better.
In his sophomore year, Jordan had to beat out four guys to start. He had a year that will go down as one of the best in NMMI football. Jordan threw for 3,014 yards and 32 TDs while being named Western Junior Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
“We knew he was going to be good,” NMMI football 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.”
With his stellar play at NMMI, Jordan was offered a scholarship to the University of Mississippi, where he would have to compete with a five-star recruit in Shea Patterson. Patterson was named the starter but was injured and Jordan ended up starting the remaining five games of the season. Jordan played well enough that Patterson ended up transferring to Michigan. In his senior campaign, he threw for 3,918 yards and 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions, with a passer rating of 153.5.
After the outstanding senior season, he earned an invite to the East-West Shrine Game. Because Jordan played so well throughout the season he was invited to the NFL Combine. At the Combine, Jordan had a great workout, running a 4.78 time in the 40-yard dash. He threw with great accuracy and was projected to be a late-round selection.
The draft came and went — nothing. Jordan was eventually signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent. He was disappointed when the Texans released him. He was also in minicamp with the Oakland Raiders and was released.
“I’m not going to lie,” Jordan said. “After the draft, I did get depressed for a couple of weeks. I was really down and didn’t know what to do. My parents told me to keep my head up. My support group, from my family, church group, my old and new coaches, all helped me. …”
Jordan decided to keep working out, and not to rush into anything. The Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants offered him a tryout, but nothing happened. When those opportunities didn’t pan out, he decided to sit back and relax and lean on his family and faith.
Jordan leaned on the teachings of his parents, that he was raised in a good Christian home. He was raised to trust God in the good and the bad. He felt like he had to trust God’s process because his life is God’s story, not his story.
Jordan knows the pattern of his life has been where he has been up and down. No one has given him anything and he has had to earn everything he has in life. Jordan knew that if God could take him from zero offers out of high school to being the first in his family to graduate college debt-free, God finding him a professional football team to play for was nothing.
“I knew it was all in God’s timing,” Jordan said. “This is just the beginning of a long journey. I’m super blessed and honored to be here in St. Louis with these amazing coaches and the awesome team we have now.”
Jordan hopes to use his platform as an athlete to give kids hope back in Hawaii. He wants to let people know that if you believe in yourself and put in the work and believe in God that nothing is impossible, no matter the circumstance and what it looks like.
“I want kids to know,” Jordan said, “that no matter what route they take, they can get to where they want and dream to be in life. It’s not going to be easy but put God first and he will light your path, that’s what he did for me. I want to encourage my NMMI family and anyone who has struggles. Keep working hard and never give up.”
The XFL season starts in February 2020.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.