By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
The legendary pitcher Satchel Paige used to tell the story about the great Negro League player Cool Papa Bell.
“He was so fast he could turn the light off in the hotel room and be in bed before the light went out,” Paige would say.
Say hello to Jordan Thompson, West Virginia University freshman slot receiver from the legendary football program at Katy, Texas, who not only can turn the light off in his bedroom and be in bed before it went out, but do it barefoot.
See, Thompson told a writer in Texas the one thing no one knows about him is that he can’t sleep with his socks on.
“It is impossible for me to be able to sleep with socks on. Really,” Thompson said. “It can be 0 degrees outside. That does not matter. If I have on socks, I cannot sleep.”
We’ll see up here in the West Virginia winters, but just from that alone you get the idea what kind of kid this is.
If you can play major college football at 5-8 and 165 pounds — he actually was 158 when he showed up at West Virginia — you can run barefoot through the snow.
Now, there are people who would argue that someone that size does not belong on a college football field.
“If you can’t touch him, you can’t tackle him,” Holgorsen said, about to tell a story about all-Pro receiver Wes Welker, who played for him at Texas Tech.
“I told the team this story about three weeks ago. He came out of Texas Tech at 185 pounds. We bulked him up his senior year to about 185-188, and obviously he was a great player. The first thing they asked him to do when he got to the NFL was to lose 12 pounds. He’s played his entire career at about 170-175 pounds, which is about the same size as Tavon (Austin).
“Tavon was asking if he needs to get to 180, but I told him I’d rather have him at 170 and be the fastest guy on the field. Jordan’s a little shorter than Tavon, but he came in at about 158. When Tavon came in, he was at about 155.
“Throughout the natural progression of the first year, I think Jordan has already added 10 pounds in the last few months. It’s not about size — it’s more about quickness at that position. He’ll be hit by big guys only if they can touch him. He’s a tough kid, but I’m not giving him any credit right now; he hasn’t played a down.”
Because of his size, Thompson was not recruited heavily.
“I was really underneath the radar, and a lot of teams didn’t have a lot of interest in me and weren’t talking to me,” he said. “One day my high school coach called me into his office and told me that Dana Holgorsen was looking at me,” he said, a smile crossing his face as he said the words Dana Holgorsen. “He said he was coming down to my game.”
Holgorsen is something of a legend in Texas.
“Everyone knows who Dana Holgorsen is down there. They know he’s the mastermind of the greatest offense — the spread,” Thompson said. “Anyone in Texas would love to play for Dana Holgorsen.”
Holgorsen showed up and it was a good thing he wasn’t late. Katy won going away, just the way a team that has won six state titles, has been to 11 finals and has produced four NFL players is supposed to.
“I only played the first half because we were way ahead, but I had like five catches for 125 yards and three touchdowns,” Thompson said. “From then on Dana contacted me nonstop, even when I was in class. I’d have to say to the teacher, ‘Will you excuse me? I have a college coach on the phone.’
“Then on Dec. 9 I came in for a visit here, and that sealed the deal. It felt like a second family when I was here. I felt very comfortable. The coaching staff was amazing, and I felt like I fit the system.”
It didn’t hurt that WVU was going into the Big 12, either, which meant he would be playing near home.
Holgorsen believes he has a gem, someone who can play behind Tavon Austin this year and maybe take his spot in a year.
“You get him out there, and he’s pretty excited playing hard. I think his helmet popped off, and he got hit in the head by a DB who had a helmet on, which could have been bad, but he just put his helmet back on and got ready for the next down.”
NOTES: Athletic director Oliver Luck sent an email to season ticket holders that ticket prices and required donations would go up this season, something that was not unexpected with the move to the Big 12. ... West Virginia also has worked out a deal to get out of a contract for games against Michigan State in 2014 and 2015. They previously had dropped games in 2012 and 2013 with Florida State. WVU will play Maryland, East Carolina and Towson as its non-conference games in 2014 and Maryland, East Carolina and Liberty in 2015.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.