Aug. 7—Walking off the practice field on Thursday morning, Colorado defensive lineman Janaz Jordan flashed a smile as beads of sweat poured off of his 6-foot-4, 318-pound frame.
"It's hot, but it's camp," the senior said. "It's not my first camp, so I already know what to expect."
By now, Jordan is a seasoned veteran of college football, but also a proud owner of a college degree that once seemed like a long shot to him.
Jordan is beginning his sixth and final season of college football while doing something he never dreamed about: working on a master's degree.
"I never imagined even going to college from my high school, being where I'm from," he said. "So, it was just amazing for me to even make it this far."
A 2017 graduate of Bethel High School in Hampton, Va., Jordan was college material, but there's no question he's taken a long journey to where he is today.
At Bethel, Jordan drew attention from college scouts as a defensive tackle, but he was also a larger-than-usual running back and tight end. He ran for 500 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior, while also catching a touchdown pass.
Jordan signed with Old Dominion, located just 20 miles from Bethel, but never played for the Monarchs.
"I was trying to make the ACT scores and I came up short by a point," he said. "My second option was to go to a JUCO."
Through the help of his high school coach, Jordan landed at Hinds Community College in Raymond, Miss.
"Since then, I've been hungry to get away from everything to be better," he said.
Jordan has been a model of how to maximize the junior college route.
Following an injury-riddled redshirt year in 2017, Jordan was named all-conference in 2018 at Hinds. He turned that experience into a scholarship from CU.
Jordan now enters his fourth season at CU as a key part of the defensive line rotation.
"The rotation is like an NFL defensive line rotation, so you're gonna play; the best players are going to play," he said. "The support of your D-line and the defense, it helps everybody grow and play better together. The rotation and everything is great."
On the field, Jordan has appeared in 27 games at CU, with six starts. He's been on the field for 542 snaps, recording 21 tackles while clogging the middle of the defense.
A regular starter in 2020, Jordan was in a backup role last year. He said he has worked to become better this year.
"I had to improve my conditioning," said Jordan, who played last year between 330-340 pounds. "I think that's what set me back a little bit, my conditioning and my weight. So this spring, I got my weight down and got my conditioning back.
"It was just me being undisciplined about my weight and the food I'm putting in my body. But, me getting with my nutritionist, my strength coach and my coaches, they got me into the right direction of what food I need to put in my body and how to condition it into strength and everything."
With preseason camp now underway, Jordan continues working to get himself ready for the season.
"He's progressing," defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. "I think Janaz would tell you he's not where it needs to be. ... He's got some steps to make and he's taking those steps. Our job is to help him get there. He's doing good."
With the help of Wilson and first-year defensive line coach Gerald Chatman, Jordan said he feels more prepared to dominate this year.
"I feel much better," he said. "I don't feel like it's too much on my shoulders. I feel comfortable. I feel my D-line coach is amazing, my defensive coordinator is amazing. All the coaches are amazing. It makes me comfortable to play, especially at Colorado."
In the classroom, Jordan couldn't be happier.
Although he has dreams of playing in the NFL, Jordan knows the importance of his degree. He would like to get into cybersecurity when he's done playing football.
"I always have a backup plan to provide for my family," he said. "Just weighing my options, letting God put me in the right direction."
Five years ago, Jordan didn't travel in the direction in which he planned, but he's proud of what he's accomplished.
"Academically, I feel like it's amazing to have your degree," he said. "I came a long way — a long way."