That Jordan Patterson – the one who plays inside linebacker for Pacific Lutheran University, bolting through gaps and putting loud hits on ballcarriers – is the same Jordan Patterson who works with elementary school kids and heads the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at PLU.
Patterson, a senior from Lakes High School, led the Lutes with 71 tackles, 15 for loss, last season and was named a second-team preseason All-American in July. He is the leader of a defense that returns 10 starters and held opponents to a Northwest Conference-low 22.2 points per game last year.
But with Patterson, it’s not just about the tackles, but the exclamation point he applies to most of them.
Coaches and players remember him stuffing an off-tackle run against Whitworth last season. Defensive coordinator Craig McCord said Patterson looked like he was launched.
And they remember his stop of a Linfield play on fourth-and-inches in the Lutes’ playoff game – their first since 2001 – that gave PLU the ball back in the second half and led to a score.
Then there’s the Redlands running back Patterson lit up on an attempted screen pass.
“It was just ridiculous,” said PLU defensive lineman Mychael Tuiasosopo, also named a preseason All-American. “It looked like something you see in the movies.
“He lays the wood. He’s a big boy, that’s for sure.”
For such a physical guy, he’s known by teammates as compassionate, caring and a natural leader. A guy who doesn’t talk often, but people listen when he does.
“People don’t just follow him because he’s a good player,” Tuiasosopo said. “He’s a good person. He’s a guy who actually listens to you and pays attention and wants to help and that’s why guys are drawn to him and want to follow him and why he’s a captain on this team.”
Patterson is the prototypical “servant warrior” late coach Frosty Westering and current coach Scott Westering strive to produce at PLU.
“He’s a train wreck, as we would call him,” said Scott Westering of Patterson’s style on the field. “But we hold our players to levels of accountability of being respectful, and being polite and considerate and not looking at life like, ‘I’m a first-class citizen, get out of my way.’ So when these young men like Jordan are kind, respectful, considerate and all these things and have people say, ‘Wow, I met Jordan Patterson, your inside linebacker, what a tremendous young man.’ … Then they’ll finish and I’ll just kind of wink at them and say, ‘You ought to watch him play football.’
“People don’t think you can be that way and play this physical, chaotic, hit-or-get-hit collision sport without having to be a Mr. Macho, get out of my way guy. … Jordan fits right in the top drawer with our best. That’s for sure. Great player, great man.”
Patterson said he’s always felt like he’s been a nice guy, but family and friends have noticed a leap in his personality since he arrived at PLU four years ago, which stems from the Westering philosophy of putting people first, then football.
Patterson is part of a group from the football team that is involved in reaching out to kids at Tacoma’s Lister Elementary and First Creek Middle School. He is considered a group leader and speaks to a class his group “adopted” about different life skills and mental approaches such as goal-setting and the concept of doing your best.
Last year, Patterson spearheaded an effort to collect signatures to make FCA an official school club. Players from various teams at the school originally met off-campus at the house of former PLU All-American volleyball player Beth Hanna until Patterson was able to get it school-sanctioned. He said he regularly organizes the meetings and tracks down guest speakers.
“My dad has come up to me and said, ‘I am so proud of you, son,’ ” Patterson said. “Those are the best things. … I can’t even put into words how this place has changed me. Going into the world, I know I am going to be better because of what I’ve experienced here.”
Most coaches refer to the “complete package” football player as one possessing speed, strength, agility and all the athletic gifts to be successful.
McCord said Patterson is the complete package. Just the PLU version of it.
“He has it all,” McCord said. “His mind, body and spirit are as good as anybody we’ve had. Mentally in his preparation and knowing everything we are doing is as good, physically he’s as good and all that, but also his spirit – what he is and what he’s about – is as good as we’ve had here.”
PACIFIC LUTHERAN LUTES
Coach: Scott Westering, 10th season (47-35 record)
Last season: 7-3 overall, 5-1 in NWC (second place); lost to Linfield in first round of NCAA Division III playoffs.
Preseason coaches’ poll: Second place.
Offense: Coordinator (set) – Scott Westering, Trevor Roberts (multiple). Returning starters (eight) – QB Dalton Ritchey, 6-0, 200, jr.; RB Brandon James, 6-0, 200, sr.; WR Kyle Warner, 6-2, 210, jr.; WR Kellen Westering, 6-1, 185, so.; LT Parker Browning, 6-2, 260, jr.; LG Chris Edison, 6-0, 275, sr.; RT Zach Phelps, 6-3, 280, jr.; RG Tevon Stephens-Brown, 6-1, 255, jr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) – Craig McCord (3-4). Returning starters (10) – DE Conor Gabbert, 6-1, 220, jr.; DE Sam Lavis, 6-0, 230, sr.; NG Mychael Tuiasosopo, 6-0, 295, sr.; ILB Dalton Darmody, 6-0, 225, sr.; OLB Ben Kaestner, 5-8, 200, sr.; ILB Jordan Patterson, 6-2, 245, sr.; CB Connor Cummings, 5-10, 175, jr.; SS Greg Hibbard, 6-2, 200, jr.; SS Sean McFadden, 6-1, 200, sr.; CB Jonny Volland, 5-10, 185, sr.
Special teams: Coordinator – Jud Keim. Returning starters (2) – K Nick Kaylor, 5-8, 205, sr.; KR/PR Connor Cummings, 5-10, 175, jr.
The skinny: Oh, this could get fun. Because most of the nucleus of a high-powered Lutes’ offense returns, Westering said he can go to some of his expanded play-calling “from the old days” of the 1980s and 1990s when PLU was winning national titles. Ritchey, a dual threat, has to take that expected step forward in leading the offense in his second season as the starter. And while experienced, the offensive-line personnel has to gel quickly as a first unit. Even if the offense has an off day, it will be nice to rely on an even more experienced 3-4 zone-blitzing defense, which is anchored in the middle by three all-Northwest Conference performers from last season – Tuiasosopo at noseguard (10 tackles for loss), Patterson at inside linebacker (team-leading 71 tackles, 15 tackles for loss) and McFadden (61 tackles, second on the team) at strong safety. Defending conference champion Linfield might be the favorite, but the gap between the Wildcats and PLU isn’t substantial.
Schedule: Saturday at California-Lutheran, noon; Sept. 21 vs. Redlands, 12:30 p.m.; Sept. 28 at Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 10 a.m.; Oct. 5 at Linfield, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 12 vs. Lewis & Clark, 12:30 p.m.; Oct. 19 vs. Pacific, 12:30 p.m.; Oct. 26 at Willamette, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 2 vs. Puget Sound, 12:30 p.m.; Nov. 9 at Whitworth, 1 p.m.