Jordon Brown’s path to the Kansas State football team might rank as the most unexpected journey on the entire roster.
Unlike most of his teammates, the senior running back knows nothing about the Wildcats and their history on the gridiron. He can’t recall watching a single K-State football game. And he didn’t step foot in the Sunflower State until he showed up in Manhattan on a recruiting visiting earlier this year.
“I never thought I would be here,” Brown said Friday at K-State’s annual media day. “But I am glad that I am here. I am really looking forward to this year.”
Brown might not be of much use on a K-State trivia team, but he could be a game-changer for the Wildcats on the football field. Since arriving on campus earlier this summer as a graduate transfer from North Carolina, he has quietly excelled and made head-turning plays at a position of need.
“You could tell at the very first practice he has some explosion,” K-State receiver Dalton Schoen said. “Just watching him finish out his runs and stuff like that showed you he is definitely a guy who can help us and who can play.”
K-State is more or less starting over at running back in coach Chris Klieman’s first season. Alex Barnes, Justin Silmon, Dalvin Warmack and Mike McCoy are no longer playing, which means carries are up for grabs.
The Wildcats need to find a starter, a backup, a change-of-pace runner and a key reserve or two. You name it, K-State coaches are looking for it in the backfield.
Brown could fill any one of those roles, and maybe even a few of them.
“I am a speed guy with great hands who can catch the ball out of the backfield and in the slot as well,” Brown said. “So I am a versatile guy.”
Brown, a 5-foot-11 and 200-pounder, did a little bit of everything at North Carolina. He rushed for 1,005 yards and eight touchdowns during his three seasons with the Tar Heels, while also catching 46 passes for 342 yards.
He showed off his versatility the most as a sophomore when he rushed for 613 yards and ranked second on the team with 29 catches.
K-State offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham is eager to put his talents to use.
“His ball skills are phenomenal, yet he’s not a small back at 200 pounds,” Messingham said. “He plays with good pad level and he is a guy who can do everything we ask him to do, even if it’s playing out in the slot. That is something that has been great for us.”
Still, some were surprised when Klieman added Brown to the roster.
K-State had already spent much of its offseason recruiting running backs and seemed set with a handful of incoming freshmen and Ball State graduate transfer James Gilbert in place. But Klieman thought Brown brought something new and valuable to the position.
“He has played the game before at a high level, so his learning curve wasn’t as big as a freshman’s,” Klieman said, “as far as just understanding formations and protections and those sort of things. Also understanding long play calls in the huddle. You can tell he has been there before. He jumped right in. Even though he jumped right in, he has caught on quickly because he has played a lot of college ball.”
Brown hoped to finish out his career with North Carolina. As a former four-star recruit from nearby Durham, he stayed home when he chose the Tar Heels.
But his upward trajectory hit a snag last season, and he only rushed for 347 yards while sharing carries with other running backs. Then Mack Brown was hired as coach and Jordon Brown began looking for a new home.
He had several suitors throughout the transfer process, but chose K-State because there was an opening for him to step right in and help at running back.
That is exactly what he has done so far during preseason camp. Messingham says he feels comfortable playing four running backs at the moment, and Brown is one of them.
Brown couldn’t tell you much of anything about K-State at this time last year. But he’s ready to say something about the Wildcats now.
“I feel like you can expect a lot of plays being made from our running back room,” Brown said. “It’s an offense that is going to give the running back the ball and we are going to show off this year.”