A Special Interview from our friends at Mighty Oregon
By Dusty Ritter
Deceptive speed from the edge coupled with a wingspan that allows him to effectively reach the opposing quarterback in a variety of ways, and gritty determination all describe what Dion Jordan brings to the Oregon football program. Jordan, #96, 6’7″ 245 lb. defensive end from Chandler, Arizona, is often seen celebrating sacks with his defensive comrades, and cites the chemistry between the defensive line and the general fun of playing as reasons he succeeds. This year his experience and instinct has been called upon often as the Ducks look to win a second consecutive BCS Bowl game.
MO: What sport did you like growing up?
DJ: I was a basketball player. I love hoops. That was my first love. But after basketball, I kind of turned to track. I ran track for about ten or eleven years. Track is a tough sport. You have to be very mentally strong to run track, especially for 10-plus years. I honestly credit all of my hard work and dedication to track and field after sticking with it for so long.
MO: What did you excel at in track?
DJ: I was a hurdler in high school. But over my career I pretty much did everything — high jump, long jump…I actually did the decathlon one year.
MO: What was your best mark in track, if you were to pick one?
DJ: I can’t remember. I just know I was doing very well and leading all of my events until it got to the mile. A couple of those guys were more prepared for that race than I was. It was fun. I really enjoyed myself.
DJ: Yeah in high school I played tight end. I also played basketball my first two years.
MO: Do you play pick-up basketball with any of the other football or U of O basketball players? If so, how do you do?
DJ: I played a little bit my freshman year with a couple of guys, pretty big guys. I had Michael Dunigan here and Josh Crittle. I was really close with those guys when they first came here, but you know, I’m a football player, so I try to stay off of the hardwood so I don’t get hurt out there. I feel like it’s easier to get hurt on the court compared to the football field.
MO: So you’re from Chandler Arizona…Who’s heart did you break coming to Oregon?
DJ: Yes sir, a lot of people (laughs)
MO: Who were you personally torn between?
DJ: Honestly, nobody really. I stuck with Oregon because after I had an injury in high school, it messed up a lot of things for me and was a real setback. Oregon stayed interested and I continued to get calls and letters from the coaches. That was part of the reason I stuck to the school, and really wanted to see what they were all about. When they sent me up here on a visit it was just a family atmosphere. It was minus all the great things they have here (facilities), and was just a family atmosphere.
MO: Once you got here things changed. Take us through your transition from offense to defense, and summarize all four years?
DJ: I was recruited as a wide receiver, so I sat in the wide receiver room as a redshirt freshman. I had to do the scout team thing, and actually when I was on the scout team they needed a tight end. I was the best out of the scouts, and I was willing to work and help out. The year after that I found myself in the tight end room (laughs). I was behind some great people: Ed Dickson, David Paulson, and I really didn’t find myself on the field until towards the end of that year when I was on special teams.
I made it a point to myself that I wanted to play and was going to find a way to get on the field. Coach Oz (Tom Osborne), who was on special teams, also said if you want to play you need to work harder, and that’s exactly what I did. Out of my respect to coaches and peers, coach Kelly came to me at the end of the season and talked to me about converting over to the defensive side of the ball. I was willing to do that, especially since a lot of the guys I was close to in the program were on the defensive side. I started to look forward to playing, and having fun, and it took off from there.
MO: What was your weight and what is it now? Has it changed much from when you started on defense?
DJ: I was pushing 225-230 (to start). Now I’m at 245. I continue to grow. I just keep getting bigger. I feel like I have the frame to put on however much weight I want, but I’m not gonna sacrifice my speed, which is the thing that I really focus on everyday. I have to run; that’s my calling card.
MO: What do you like and dislike about defensive end?
DJ: What I like about defensive end is that I have a chance to use my abilities to run and go out there and chase the ball. Dislike; I don’t know. There isn’t much to dislike about it. It’s a tough job. You have to go out there and grind it out everyday. Defense is rough work — a lot of times you can’t be selfish on the defensive side of the ball. You depend on a lot of guys to get the job done.
MO: Do you go against the left or right tackle usually?
DJ: It depends. I switch and go to both sides of the field.
MO: I assume getting the quarterback is what you like the most?
DJ: It is (laughs). That is the highlight of it all. You have to put the work in first, though, and all the glory and fun comes after.
MO: Speaking of fun and glory, what is your biggest highlight play in a game so far?
DJ: My biggest highlight is the Rose Bowl this past year, I had a lot of fun with guys I came in with and worked hard with. And we were all starting together on the defensive side of the ball.
DJ: I’m not predicting any of that. My goal is to just get after the quarterback every snap in the game. Because that’s my job, I just flip the switch and I try to break it when the game starts, and if the opposing team isn’t ready, then that’s how it works out.
MO: When you’re lined up on the line of scrimmage, what goes through your mind and what are you looking for?
DJ: The first thing I usually look for and try to figure out is where the quarterback has protection, and I’m looking for little things like where the running back is. From then on, I’m on the ball. Like I said: speed, that’s my calling card. It’s tough for people to do that every down. I try to make my best snap my last one.
MO: Did the Arizona game mean more to you? Do you know any of the players?
DJ: It didn’t mean anything more. It’s just another game for me, honestly.
MO: How’s the team attitude for the BCS game?
DJ: It’s a great attitude out there. Everybody wants to compete and try to get better. And that’s all you can really ask for day in and day out. You can’t be riding an emotional rollercoaster everywhere, or you’ll find yourself slipping. So we try to keep that in mind and keep a good attitude everyday: come out and compete.
MO: Goals after college or professional football? What field of work is a possibility?
DJ: After pro ball, of course, I want to find a way to stick around the sport. I love the sport of football. I also like helping people, so (I’d like to do) any type of community service or way to reach out to people who don’t have any goals yet. Like where I was when I grew up, there wasn’t very much for me to look up to until I reached out and got into sports…Just try to help people out, and help them realize the world is bigger than the little bubble of hardship you might be living in.
Coach Nick Aliotti’s comments on Dion:
MO: How did the transformation from offense to defense go for Dion, and did you foresee him being this good?
NA: He picked it up right away, and I think that he’s been a great player and leader for us. Dion has been awesome in his time here, and the more he knows, the better he gets.
MO: How good can Dion Jordan be?
NA: As good as he wants.
MO: Does he need any improvement? If so, in what areas?
NA: Everyone needs improvement in some way, shape, or form. But he needs to continue to work his trade and get better at his game. And he will. That’s what’s good about him.
MO: What do you like about Dion Jordan as a person and a player, and what has it been like coaching him?
NA: Great leader… does the right thing on and off the field. Always on time and always gives you a hundred percent. Great character. What’s not to like? He’s just a wonderful young man as far as the football part I see in him and my everyday interaction with him.
MO: Where do you believe he can go from here?
NA: Hopefully he gets a chance at the NFL. And those things are definitely a possibility, but he has this season to continue to grow as a player.
Mighty Oregon Reporter Dusty Ritter has been a Duck fan since he was ten years old, and started writing at a local newspaper when he was only fifteen. His favorite Duck football moment was in 2003 vs. Cal when the lights went out at Autzen stadium with Oregon behind, but the Ducks beat Aaron Rodgers and crew in a dramatic comeback fashion. Now, age 21, he attends Oregon games and plans on studying journalism at the U of O.
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Top Photo by Amazing Moments Photography