Brandon Jordan

Senior receiver Brandon Jordan had five catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns last week for No. 1 UMHB, which hosts East Texas Baptist tonight.

BELTON — Brandon Jordan had a pair of epiphanies in recent years, both of which made the Mary Hardin-Baylor senior receiver the player he is today.

The first was after finishing his final season in the junior college ranks at Ventura College in his home state of California.

“I had academic issues in high school and junior college. I had some Division I schools calling for me. But when the transcript got sent out, I had some trouble,” he said. “(UMHB receivers coach Steven Thrash) also messaged me. I looked at it and didn’t pay it any mind. I thought, ‘I’m not going to Division III.’ Then a year went by and I still wasn’t on the field anywhere. I decided I’d better call him back.

“I’m just thankful that these guys came and saved me. They gave me a second chance, and I’m happy to be here and play for this powerhouse.”

Jordan arrived in Belton in time for the 2020 fall season, which was canceled because of the pandemic, but his transition to the Crusaders didn’t go smoothly.

A heavier workload caused by the high expectations of playing for a perennial national title contender was new to him, as was the weather that is vastly different from his beachside hometown of Santa Barbara, Calif.

“It’s completely different here. The heat is different, and I’d never heard those cicada bugs before,” he said. “I remember walking outside and hearing them and wondering, ‘Is there something wrong with the electricity around here? What’s going on?’

“Also, my mindset hadn’t changed yet. When you see you have some Division I offers, you start to think you’re better than everyone else. They humbled me here extremely quickly, so extremely quickly.”

It all added up to a quiet five-game season last spring in which Jordan had only four receptions for 48 yards. It was a far cry from the production he expected, and he went back to California over the summer with some soul-searching to do.

“Over the summer, I mentally matured,” he said. “Now I understand the opportunity that I have. It’s a once in a lifetime thing. You only have a short amount of time to leave your mark, and I want to take advantage of this opportunity.

“Now I have the same mindset as everybody else here. Everybody here is a workhorse. They’re always ready to go and are never satisfied.”

Armed with his new outlook — not to mention a 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame — Jordan made an immediate impact this season with five catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s opener.

It was a performance that didn’t go unnoticed by Crusaders head coach Pete Fredenburg.

“He has matured incredibly,” Fredenburg said. “When he came in last year, I don’t know if he thought he was going to go dominate in everything or what. When he didn’t get the touches he wanted or the accolades he wanted, he really went to work.

“He’s done a great job of coming back and getting involved with the football team. Instead of seeing what the team can do for him, he’s seeing what he can do for the team now.”

With a bigger role and a newfound comfort level, Jordan’s view of Central Texas is changing quickly — despite the weather.

“I like how everything is bigger and cheaper here. I have to watch out or I’ll put on a little weight,” he said. “I like that steak and shrimp special they have at Texas Roadhouse. I have to be careful with that.”

Jordan’s next chance to flash his skills comes tonight when No. 1 UMHB (1-0) hosts East Texas Baptist (1-0) in the teams’ American Southwest Conference opener, and he has a plan in place.

“You have to be ready at any moment. Always do your job. Catch the ball, block your man and play fast,” he said.

Those are easy guidelines to follow for a guy who’s seeing things more clearly now than ever before.