Drive Slow: Jordan Veasy: footballer, jokester, spare-time philosopher

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Lianne Frick/Senior Staff

At first glance, Jordan Veasy seems like a man of contradiction.

He’s a Division-1 athlete who didn’t play football until his senior year of high school. He’s a Cal starter who attended three colleges before landing in Berkeley. He’s an Alabama native who loves the Los Angeles Lakers and may just prefer the California sunshine. He’s a football player with a mean streak and a smile that lights up a room.

“It’s been a winding road,” he laughs one day after practice. “I jumped around a little bit.”

The Bears are coming off their biggest win of the decade over then-No. 8 Washington State, and they have found renewed focus after vaulting themselves right back into the hunt for the Pac-12 North Division.

Their starting wideout sits in the endzone with teammates, laughing. For him, pressure to perform is nothing new. Through five schools in four years, Veasy has seen it all, and he has let his play do (mostly) all the talking.

You’d never guess today, watching such a physically dominant wide receiver consistently win battles for tough receptions, but while growing up in Alabama, Veasy never even had football on his radar. When a fairytale-like growth spurt spoke, though, he had to listen.

‘You may have a Walmart, but that’s like, the biggest thing.’

Upon further inspection, it’s clear Veasy is a man of conviction as well.

He was a varsity baseball player for Gadsden City High School for three years before growing six inches in one summer. Now 6’3”, the statuesque senior thought he may as well give football a try. Nine touchdowns later, the late-but-full-bloomer was ready for college ball. He’d start his collegiate career at Faulkner University, down the road in Montgomery, Alabama.

Veasy had originally chosen to attend Faulkner in part to be closer to his sister, who was going to Auburn. But after just one promising season, Veasy realized his future would be the brightest if he transferred to a premier JUCO in Mississippi to gain more D-1 exposure. Once again, he packed his bags — off to Itawamba Community College.

The amateur football culture in Mississippi is, to put it lightly, extraordinary. The community college scene is a feeding ground for D-1 schools to scoop up undiscovered treasures, and the players know it. The intensity of competition is among the very best in the country, FBS included. Veasy jokes that he’s “really lived the ‘Last Chance U’ life.”

“It’s competitive, it’s tough, and they love it. It’s like it’s all they have,” he says. “You know how people have that cliche of ‘How’s it going in the South?’ Well that place was like the real South. There’s just nothing there — all you do is play football.”

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Veasy knew he was taking a risk by transferring. It’s the kind of move that makes or breaks a young player’s career. Just as one can prove their belonging at the next level by looking good against the strong competition, struggling can also suggest an inadequacy among peers — and, when it comes to any prospects of going D-1, a death wish.

He loved it.

“When they say it’s tough, and they say you need to be mentally strong and emotionally and spiritually strong, they’re not kidding,” he says. “I just took a risk, took a chance on myself, because I knew I could play and I knew that I could reach the level that I wanted to be at. It paid off.”

Veasy proved himself so quickly, in fact, that he was picked up by a bigger school before the next regular season even began.

The then-sophomore would soon move again to a better opportunity — this time in California. Golden West College in Huntington Beach is removed in almost every possible way from the base of Veasy’s extensive support system in the South, but none of his friends ever drifted far.

“I have a huge support system from where I’ve bounced around. That’s what I’ve enjoyed the most. People talk to me all the time from Montgomery, and I have guys that reach out from Itawamba, and then I have guys at Huntington that support me too,” he says. “I still talk to a lot of people from down there.”

‘They hit me up on Twitter all the time!’

Even with so much uncertainty in his past, Veasy comes off as a man with a plan.

“After I’m done with ball, I want to be a coach,” he says. “I want to go into coaching, then after I’m done coaching, I want to be an athletic director on the collegiate level.”

And, honestly, it’s easy to believe he’ll do it. Using what he’s learned to get to the places he wants to be is what Veasy’s very best at — both on the field and off it.

He fondly recalls Faulkner and Itawamba, where he picked up the one-on-one tricks in his bag. That helped him reach the next level.

When talking about his time at Golden West, Veasy’s thankful that he learned so many tenets of the West Coast offense in Southern California. With its emphasis on finesse and technique in route-running, Veasy doesn’t think he’d have gotten signed to Cal after just one year without it.

“California has better defensive backs — I had to be more technically sound,” he says. “Where, before it was just, well, it was a different kind of football.”

There were multiple teams eager to pluck Veasy after he recorded 1,552 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns at Golden West, but he determined Cal was the best springboard for both his short- and long-term future.

veasy3_lfrick_ssHe’s in paradise in the Berkeley melting pot, living in a place with greater variety of people than perhaps anywhere on Earth. On campus, he’s taken a class with Colin Kaepernick about the representation of minorities in the media. His little brothers, in pee-wee football back home, proudly wear Cal towels when they play.

And on the football field, he loves that Bears head coach Justin Wilcox uses a pro-style offense, a scheme heavily installed across the NFL — where he hopes his career will lead him next.

Tied for the team’s high in receiving touchdowns in his senior year, it does appear Veasy may be soon on the move again, following an even better opportunity.

‘You have to embrace the moment to seize it.”

Jordan Veasy may just be half-man, half-novel.

His life story could already fill a volume, his anecdotal ones perhaps three more. He has nothing to hide, for every experience has pushed him to a place that he’s very proud of. He’s satisfied, at least for now — tomorrow always teems with opportunity.

“You’ve got to be aware of the moment, and be able to appreciate everything that you go there, and eventually be able to apply it,” he says.

He was talking about football — but impending graduation, the approaching bewilderment of adult life and other substantial questions had to be on his mind too. Although, specifics didn’t seem important.

“That’s why I like my journey so much, and I really cherish it, because I’ve learned so much,” he says. “I know so many more things.”

It seemed worth a shot — maybe this guy knows the future. What does he think the chances are of LeBron James in purple and gold? Is the King signing with LA next summer?

“I hope that never happens” Veasy says.

“They’re always trying to say he’s the best since Michael Jordan, but that’s crazy. It’s Kobe.”

It’s the meanest thing he says all evening. A Laker fan who doesn’t want one of the best players of the generation on his favorite team?

Like I said: At first glance, Veasy seems like a man of contradiction — though he much prefers the term “well-adjusted.”

He runs off the field, helmet in hand, and yells one last joke before he’s gone.

Austin Isaacsohn covers football. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @austinisaacsohn.

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