Kent The Ultimate Multi-Tasker

Oregon multi-sports star starting to make mark on football field

Nov. 2, 2006


By Lindsay Schnell

Special to


Don't tell Jordan Kent he can't do something. Odds are he'll just go prove you wrong.


The three-sport star at the University of Oregon has heard it all. He can't play basketball and track at the same time and he definitely can't play football too. After all, he didn't even play football in high school.

Play at the Division-I level? In the Pac-10?


Please, critics scoffed, he'll last a month.


But Kent must be the type that thrives off doubt. Two years later, he's become a starting wide receiver for the No. 24 Ducks. Oh yeah, and in between he's found time to play basketball and win All-American honors in track.


"I like to stay busy," he explained with a shrug.


His GPA has probably suffered mightily, right? Aren't star athletes are too busy winning games and setting records to finish homework on time?


Wrong again. Kent crossed the stage last spring, graduating with a degree in business administration.


"Summer school every year," he said. That and meticulous time management.


"You really have to manage your day - I probably could tell you what I'm doing four weeks from today."


Okay, but someone like this doesn't possibly have time for anything else, does he? No friends, no girlfriend, no social life, right?


Sorry. He's fooled you again.


It's 10 am on a Friday and Kent is meeting some of his closest friends for breakfast. They arrive at a pancake house close to campus and Kent orders bacon, eggs, French toast and pancakes -- the diet of a not-so-typical college student.


Twenty minutes later Kent has polished off every plate and passes the sports section amongst his buddies.


Conversation moves from if Cal can go through the Pac-10 undefeated to how everyone will be dressing for Halloween night's round of costume parties. Kent, a video game addict, plans to go as Scorpion from Mortal Kombat.


So he hangs out with friends. What about his family?


Well, he's got that covered too.


After breakfast -- Kent's treat for the table -- he's off to visit his older brother, Marcus, at the local SCUBA shop. They greet each other with a handshake and a little brother-to-brother trash talk, smiling the whole time. Soon Marcus is convincing Jordan to try on a dry land suit.


Jordan squeezes his 6-foot-5 frame into a green and yellow suit, straps on a pair of goggles, inflates the suit and waddles around declaring, "I feel like a lineman."


Next it's off to the apartment of little sister McKenzie, an Oregon junior. She needs to get some last minute measurements for the Scorpion costume she's making for him. Then he calls mom, Dianna, to set up plans to meet for dinner later that night with the family.


"Getting dinner with my family, that's something I do whenever I can," he said.


But someone like this, whose face is plastered all over Eugene in three different uniforms, who everyone on campus knows, he can't be ... nice, can he? As it happens, yes he can.


Kent's charisma, charm and ear-to-ear grin have won him fans all over town. Passersby routinely greet him by name and wish him luck in upcoming games.


He's even a hit with the younger generations: a couple of times a week, Jordan visits local elementary schools to chat with students about the importance of staying in school and following your heart.


But he must have a failing somewhere, right? No one is perfect.


"I'm really not that cool," he says with a shrug and smile. "I'm just a big dork."


Hardly a nail-biting confession.


But what might be most compelling about this athlete is that from the beginning, he really never should have played three sports.


Originally, Kent was recruited for track. Tall and fast, he became the first Oregon prep athlete to win four individual state titles as a sprinting specialist who also found time to long jump.


But he had enjoyed plenty of success in high school basketball as well.


Growing up the son of Oregon's head basketball coach, Ernie, no doubt helped. But what helped even more than growing up with the sport and having an inside track on expert coaching was his blazing speed.


He found he could simply outrun defenders. He ended up averaging 18 points at Churchill and leading his team to an appearance in the state championship his senior year.


He redshirted a year in basketball and track. Then, on a whim, he decided to try his hand at football.


"I had never played before and I had always wanted to," he said.


"It's weird, because I never usually step outside my comfort zone or take a risk. But I had nothing to lose and I didn't want it to be one of those shoulda, coulda, woulda things eight or 10 years down the road."


Kent rounded up then-Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens to throw him some passes just a few days before the start of last year's fall camp.


"I think the toughest day was when I went out and there were some [defensive backs] working out," he said, laughing and rolling his eyes. "And this is the first day I had a helmet.


"I borrowed one from my old high school. It doesn't have a chin strap, so this thing's just wobbling left and right and I'm feeling like the biggest loser. That was really the moment I could have said to myself, `Let's just not do this.' But it's something you have to invest a lot of time in and that year wound up being one of the most incredible years of my life."


Jordan suited up in those crazy lightning uniforms in 2005, and got what garbage minutes he could in the Ducks' 10-2 season.


He caught his first touchdown pass against Washington State, a 68-yard bomb that went for a score. He finished the season with just three catches for 114 yards. But he has really emerged this year.


He's averaging just under 33 yards a game so far this year, and has already scored three touchdowns. What's more, he is flirting with the idea of giving up his final season of eligibility in basketball and track this year to take a shot at playing football in the NFL.


"There's a lot of season left still," he said. "I'm going to have to evaluate myself at the end of the season.


"But if that's an opportunity that presents itself, that's something I would have to take advantage of. I'm not saying it to be selfish, but I think you can't really pass up that kind of opportunity."


Should he forgo his last seasons on the hardwood and cinders, Kent will certainly be missed at the University of Oregon. His long arms and quick feet make him a feared basketball defender around the Pac-10, and he's the anchor on a highly touted 4x400 meter relay team.


Making the NFL? A guy who never played in high school and really only got in one meaningful year in college? That sounds crazy, you say?


Well, maybe so.


But don't tell Jordan Kent he can't do something. Odds are he'll just go prove you wrong.

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