Jordan Leslie played high school football in Houston, Texas, where he was named a First-team Texas All State Receiver. That's a pretty high honor anywhere, but especially in a place like Texas. Tom Landry once said, "Football is to Texas what religion is to a priest." And so it is.
After high school Leslie committed to UTEP, where he has played at wide receiver for the past three years. During his time as a Miner Leslie led his team in receptions, yards per catch, yards per game, and overall receiving yards. He also picked up a number of athletic and academic awards along the way.
On November 19, 2012, UTEP Head Coach Mike Price announced his retirement from football. Sean Kugler, offensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers was named as his replacement.
Two things happened next that would change the path of Jordan Leslie's collegiate football career. One was Kugler's increased focus on the running game, resulting in a loss of production for Leslie. The other was the decision of UTEP receiving coach Guy Holliday to accept a job offer from Bronco Mendenhall.
It didn't take long for Leslie to decide to transfer to another school. He wanted to play for a school with tradition, a proven history of success, and somewhere that his contribution would be more meaningful.
Transferring schools can be tricky with the NCAA transfer rules being complicated at best. The NCAA publication "Transfer 101-Basic information you need to know about transferring to an NCAA college" is 31 pages long. I didn't read it all, but I've attached the link if any of you feel so inclined.
What I do know is that under typical circumstances NCAA transfer rules require transferring student-athletes to miss a season of play. In this instance, however, because he has already earned his bachelor's degree Leslie was allowed to transfer and become immediately eligible to play for the Cougars.
It can be a difficult task for a player to join a new team for his senior season. Likewise, it can be equally difficult for the team to accept him as one of their own. Neither seems to be an issue in this case. Mitch Matthews told Jeff Call of the Deseret News, "I've seen Jordan Leslie come in and be more part of this team more than I've ever expected any guy coming in for one year to do."
Leslie also has another distinct advantage that most transfer students don't, that being his pre-established relationship with Coach Holliday who had not only been Leslie's receiving coach for two years at UTEP, but was also the Miner's recruiting coordinator. So, Coach Holliday did what any good receiving coach/recruiting coordinator would do when settling in to a new school-he recruited his best receiver to join him.
If Leslie's play at UTEP is any indication of what he is capable of, he should make an excellent addition to the Cougar offense. The 6-foot-3, 210 pound wide receiver finished last season with 44 receptions, 612 receiving yards, and 7 TD catches. His longest catch of the year was for 75 yards and he averaged 13.9.
UTEP, however, is no BYU. The Miners finished 2-10 last season, their only victories coming against equally poor teams-Florida International (1-11) and New Mexico State (2-10). The Miners' only contest with a nationally ranked team was against Texas A&M and it ended in a 57-7 beating.
It seems fair to pose the question then, has Leslie really been tested?
He has shown his ability to be a big fish in a little pond. Now that he's in a bigger pond can he still perform at the same level? Coach Holliday seems confident that he can, as do Leslie's teammates. His only chance to prove himself so far has been in fall camp, where he looked very ready.
There is every reason to believe that Leslie will indeed be a great addition to the Cougars receiving corps. He's fast, he's smart, and he's hungry for the ball - a ball that Taysom Hill will gladly throw his way.
We'll get our chance to see for ourselves when Leslie takes the field Friday night in the first game of his senior season, and his first as a Cougar. The game starts at 5:00 pm MDT. Catch the preview here and make sure you leave work early - I have a feeling that this is going to be one you don't want to miss.