Leslie has more than a degree in hand
This story was originially published in the BYU-Savannah State game program on November 22, 2014
Senior wide receiver Jordan Leslie is the ultimate dual-threat guy. The UTEP transfer finished his career as one of the all-time leading receivers in school history while also earning his mechanical engineering degree early.
During his time as a Miner he received the football team’s Dr. Diana Natalicio Academic Award and garnered multiple mentions to the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll and C-USA All-Academic Honors.
The 6-foot-3, 215 pound Houston native out of Tomball High School is no scrub on the field either. He racked up 125 receptions, 2,015 yards and 15 touchdowns during his three seasons in El Paso.
In his sophomore season, Leslie led the Miners in receptions (51), yards per catch (19.1), yards per game (81.1) and overall receiving yards (973) while ranking second on the team with six touchdown catches. He became the sixth UTEP player ever to have more than 200 receiving yards in a game with his performance against Tulsa when he hauled in 10 catches for 218 yards.
As a junior, he led UTEP in receptions again with 44 and totaled 612 yards and seven touchdowns catches while averaging 13.9 yards per catch. He earned All-Conference USA honorable mention and Phil Steele All-Conference USA Third Team honors.
After a 2-10 season and a year with a new run-heavy head coach, Leslie knew it was time for a change of scenery and started looking around for other places to play.
The wide out took advantage of an NCAA rule that allows a player to transfer to another school without sitting for a year. The rule requires the athlete to graduate from their previous school and enroll in a graduate program at a new school. Leslie finished his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at UTEP and is now enrolled in the Marriott School’s MPA program here at BYU.
“I took 17 credits the last semester at UTEP, plus I had to do a senior project so I was staying pretty busy,” Leslie said. “It was tough but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Leslie’s senior project was no walk in the park. Such projects usually consist of four or five students working together, but with Leslie speeding up his process to get to Provo faster, he had to work on his project by himself. He made a “Connect Four” game on a controller that could display on a TV in UTEP colors.
Leslie didn’t take the decision to transfer lightly and turned to a familiar face for guidance who now happens to roam the sidelines in Provo.
“When I was first able to contact different schools I wanted to talk to Coach (Guy) Holliday first,” Leslie said. “He was my coach for three years and was somebody I trusted. When I saw he was at BYU and the talent they had for next year, I got real excited.”
Holliday has been at BYU since 2013 and was with Leslie his first three seasons at UTEP. He was excited for Leslie to join the Cougars and likes what he has seen from the senior so far.
“He’s done exactly what I thought he would,” BYU receivers coach Guy Holliday said. “He’s physical, he plays hard and he never complains about not having the ball. And when he has the ball he can make things happen. He’s a really strong football player and it’s no different from when I had him before.”
Beside rejoining Holliday, having the chance to work with a quarterback like Taysom Hill was one of the biggest factors for Leslie making his way to Utah.
“He’s athletic and he’s the man,” Leslie said. “He puts a lot of pressure on the defense and forces them to put eight in the box and as a receiver that’s what you want and what you dream for. That’s what we want so we can make plays down the field.”
Leslie understands the importance of working hard, being a leader and setting an example. That’s what he has tried to do during his time at BYU. The veteran receiver wants to not only catch passes during his year in Provo, but lead his teammates as well.
“I want people to say I’m a leader,” Leslie said. “I’m one of the experienced receivers so I want people to come to me with questions so we can work together as a receiving corps. It’s not just about one person’s stats with us, we all get each other open and that’s why I’m really excited because of all the players we have.”
Cougar fans can appreciate Leslie’s knowledge of BYU’s past as well. When it was announced that BYU legend and Super Bowl winner Jim McMahon had finally graduated and would have his No. 9 jersey retired and be inducted into the BYU Hall of Fame, Leslie was asked what it meant to share the famous QB’s number.
“I’ll be the last person to wear it and that’s a great honor,” Leslie said. “It was already a great honor wearing it after players like Austin Collie and McMahon. I guess I’ll be the last one so that’s an awesome thing.”
Leslie wore the number at UTEP and says it’s because both of his parents wore the No. 33 in college. He took three and multiplied it by three to get nine; did I mention Leslie is a self-proclaimed nerd?
Growing up in Texas, Leslie rooted for the burnt orange from elementary school all the way through high school and was even recruited by the University of Texas. He was disappointed when no scholarship offer came; so heading into this season, Leslie was looking especially forward to the team’s trip to Austin.
“It’s about as big as it gets,” Leslie said after the Cougars beat the Longhorns. “This stadium holds over 100,000 people and that’s what I wanted. Being able to come back to Texas and beat them, it’s a dream come true.”
Leslie made the Longhorns pay with a season-high seven catches for 85 yards as he helped his Cougars blow out Texas 41-7 in Austin. He had the play of the game when Hill got hit as he threw and the ball fluttered through the air. Leslie went up against two Texas defenders and after some juggling came down with the catch to keep the drive alive.
This season hasn’t been without its ups and downs. In a win against Virginia where he scored his first touchdown as a Cougar, Leslie reached for a pass that was behind him and awkwardly bent his leg and ankle. Fans feared the worst as Leslie quickly hopped off the field without putting any pressure on the injured leg.
“I felt a pop in my ankle and it scared me,” Leslie said. “I’ve had two ankle surgeries so I was nervous. And that’s why I got off the field so fast. I wanted to get off the field and get help.”
Leslie wouldn’t return against the Cavaliers but was in the lineup 13 days later against Utah State and caught four passes for 135 yards including a season-long 53-yard reception.
While fans were happy to see Leslie back so fast against the Aggies, losing Heisman candidate and team captain Taysom Hill was a huge blow. After the game, Leslie talked about losing Hill and the attitude of the team going forward.
“It kind of knocks the wind out of you a little bit so of course it’s going to shock you, he’s our quarterback and a team leader,” Leslie said in the post game press conference. “But we have all the faith in Christian Stewart. It was just next man up and that’s what we have to go by.”
Leslie knows with Stewart stepping in to replace Hill there might be a steep learning curve, but he and his teammates are confident the offense can continue to be successful. It proved itself against UCF the following week when Stewart passed for 153 yards and three touchdowns in a heart-breaking overtime loss to the Knights and again a week later against Nevada where Stewart passed for over 400 yards and the offense put up 35 points in a hard-fought loss.
With his big play ability on the field and his humble personality off it, Leslie has quickly become a fan favorite in his short time in Provo. He says if he were to show off one thing to a visiting recruit, it would be the Cougar Walk before the game.
“I love seeing all the fans at the away games and then at home when we pack this place, it’s incredible and they’re so passionate,” Leslie said. “And this team, we’re a band of brothers, I said that when I first got here but now that I’ve been here a while, I really mean that.”
Few players have made the kind of impact Leslie has in such a short time. It goes to show Cougar fans will embrace hard work and humility. Leslie is grateful for the opportunity to wear the blue and white even if it’s just for one season and says he’ll never forget his time in Provo.
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