Jordan Woolverton has been a winner on the football field his entire life. Living in a small town in the southwest, and often forgotten, corner of Colorado, his accomplishments have largely flown under the radar. But big news Friday has given the Durango High School senior an introduction to a much larger audience.
After a spring and summer in which college football recruiting was made all the more difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic and an NCAA-mandated dead period for college visits, Woolverton was left wondering if his big-time Division I college football dreams would go by the wayside. Then, he got a call from the University of Colorado. A couple of months later, Woolverton was offered a preferred walk-on spot on the Buffaloes’ roster with an opportunity to work his way up in the Pac-12 Conference program.
“It’s crazy. It’s been a dream of mine ever since I could remember playing football down here in Durango in (Young America Football League), middle school, everything,” Woolverton said Tuesday after finishing practice and a weight-lifting program at DHS. “Getting a chance like that, it’s a feeling like no other. It’s hard to explain how good it feels to really be in this position. I’m blessed.”
Woolverton’s life has gotten busy since he received the offer Friday. Interview requests have flooded in from Boulder media and Colorado Buffaloes website reporters. Calls from coaches at other colleges have come in, too. He’s juggling it all while getting ready for a season opener Oct. 9 at home against Class 3A preseason No. 1 Pueblo South, the team that knocked DHS out of league title contention and out of the state playoffs in the quarterfinals a year ago.
“A few other schools have reached out. It has definitely opened some eyes from other schools,” said Woolverton, son of Kathleen and Ryan Woolverton.
Relief has been the overwhelming feeling for Woolverton. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound quarterback went into the summer with a handful of top Division II offers and some interest from D-I programs. He hoped a chance to go to camps and take visits would help solidify his standing amongst larger programs. But he never got the chance because of the novel coronavirus.
He had two invites to national events. The Flight School put on by Quincy Avery, the coach of Houston Texas star QB Deshaun Watson, was scheduled for Los Angeles the first week of spring break. Then, it was the Elite 11 scheduled for mid-April in Dallas. Between those two events, Woolverton had plans to visit the new coaching staff at Colorado State and attend a junior day event at Kansas State, where former DHS teammate Carver Willis is now a freshman on the offensive line. Those all were canceled.
Summer visits to Big Sky Conference and Ivy League schools also were put on hold, as were trips to Boise State and Wyoming. Woolverton had believed strong performances on any of those visits would lead to offers.
Instead, he was left to work on his own in Durango as well as at a few academies he belongs to in the Denver area.
“Understanding how important these were for Jordan’s recruiting and now were most likely gone, we had to get creative,” said Woolverton’s father, Ryan, a former college kicker for Idaho who is the DHS offensive coordinator. “We reached out to Six Zero Strength Academy in Denver. Matt McChesney is an ex-NFL football player and ex-Colorado Buffalo. He provides a gym for kids to work on strength, conditioning, film work and skill work. He does a lot of filming and markets the kids with his connections. We committed to Matt and his gym and made our way to Denver over the summer to do workouts.”
Woolverton also has worked with Tim Jenkins, a former Fort Lewis College and NFL quarterback who runs Jenkins Elite, where he is notorious for his work with Colorado’s top quarterbacks.
On one of these trips to the Front Range, Woolverton was on the field and caught the attention of Chase Howell, a reporter who was writing for the online coverage of the Colorado Buffaloes for Sports Illustrated. The Colorado alum liked what he saw and made sure the Colorado coaches knew Woolverton’s name.
“What jumps out to me is the accuracy,” Howell said. “If I’m a quarterback coach, that’s the No. 1 thing I’m looking for when evaluating tape. So when you look at Jordan’s stats and he’s over 70% for his high school career, then you turn on the tape and it’s not like he’s throwing a bunch of check downs and screen passes. The dude can sling it.
“I went to Jenkins’ camp, and he was a step above everybody out there. I didn’t have a roster or anything, so I went off of purely what I was seeing without a bias, and he was clearly the best one there in terms of mechanics and accuracy. He’s mechanically gifted, meaning he can throw the football with ease, and he’s very compact in his throwing motion. And then the athleticism, it always helps to have a quarterback that can move.”
Shortly after, Colorado quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf reached out to Woolverton. That began conversations that were sporadic at times. Woolverton wasn’t sure about getting his hopes up, and he was also was worried after his senior year originally was postponed until the spring because of the pandemic.
He had arranged to graduate from DHS early in December so he could report to a college campus in January to get enrolled in classes and begin spring practices with a college team. If high school football was going to be played in the spring, he would have to choose between going to college early or staying in Durango for one last shot at a state title with his hometown Durango Demons. It wasn’t a choice he wanted to make.
So, relief came twice in the last two weeks. First, his senior season was moved back to the fall with the Oct. 9 start date for a six-game regular season. Then came the preferred walk-on offer from Colorado.
“Back in July, everything was frustrating,” said Woolverton, who had opportunities to potentially leave Durango and join teams in other states where fall high school football had been approved. “I couldn’t get in front of coaches. I felt like it was going to be my time to shine and get big offers. Now that it has happened and I am where I kind of wanted to be, I can breathe a sigh of relief.”
Woolverton had a standout junior season en route to Class 3A All-State Second Team honors. He passed for 1,941 yards, 23 touchdowns and only three interceptions while he completed 73.6% of his passes. He also rushed for 1,005 yards and 15 more touchdowns. He did it all while also playing safety on defense.
“The CU coaches said they liked my elusiveness,” Woolverton said. “They liked that I could stand in the pocket and pick apart a defense with my arm. They also liked that I could make plays with my legs when the pocket fell apart.”
His passing numbers were especially impressive considering DHS passed the ball only 174 times with a run-first offense led by Everett Howland, who rushed for 1,443 yards of his own.
Still, college coaches have been shy to offer Woolverton without seeing him in person. The default criticism is that he plays small town Colorado high school football, though the team has been in a league with mighty teams from Pueblo during Woolverton’s entire career.
“Being from Southwest Colorado in a 3A league plus being a QB, it takes quite a bit to get any interest from any D-I schools,” Ryan Woolverton said. “As the Cornell coach recruiting Jordan said, ‘You play small town Colorado football, we have to see you in person to confirm your film.’”
Woolverton had talked to Colorado State about being a preferred walk-on, but the Rams had already signed three QBs in the 2021 class, and nothing came in the form of an offer. Many colleges are also figuring out how to deal with an extra year of eligibility granted to current players by the NCAA and how that will affect incoming recruits.
When Colorado called Woolverton and Langsdorf said head coach Karl Dorrell had a spot on the team for him, Woolverton immediately called his father.
“You could hear his excitement in his voice and how proud he was,” Ryan said. “It has been his dream to have a D-I opportunity, and it now was a reality for him. We couldn’t have been prouder after he called and told us that Friday night. He has worked so hard for so many years behind the scenes, and that hard work has provided him an opportunity he has dreamed of.”
Woolverton never lost a game he started at QB through elementary school. He won two middle school championships at Miller Middle School and then took over the QB job at DHS halfway through his freshman season. Now, he wants to lead the Demons to a state title game before his days in Durango are over.
Woolverton said he will take a few weeks before making an official decision on what is next after high school, though he said he is eager and ready to get to Boulder in January. And while many greener fields await the talented quarterback, he knows he will have plenty to prove wherever he ends up.
“Watch out this season,” he said. “I’m coming out ready to go, ready to play and to put on for Durango and all of our fans we have. I am going to prove what I can do and prove CU was right to give me that preferred walk-on spot. I know I am going to have to continue to prove myself and will have to prove myself even more at the next level.
“My intention is to go up there to compete and to eventually have the starting job. It’s a business in college football, and I am ready for it. Durango is very under recruited even within Colorado. It’s hard to get looks down here, but I am excited to get an opportunity to go represent our town and compete with the guys who come from all the big schools from all over the country who have the big offers. I think I can go throw with just about anyone, and I am going to show that.”