Jordan Woolverton is willing to bet on himself. He has done it since the fifth grade, and he has yet to bust.
The Durango High School senior signed with the University of Colorado football team Wednesday afternoon during a ceremony held at DHS. He accepted a preferred walk-on offer and turned down scholarships from the nation’s top Division II programs.
And though he won’t be on a scholarship when he reports to the Boulder campus, the quarterback who led Durango High School to the 2020 Class 3A state championship aims to work his way toward a scholarship from the Buffaloes and head coach Karl Dorrell once he arrives.
“I want to go out there on Saturdays and represent my home state, represent Durango. The opportunity up there is like no other,” Woolverton said. “Growing up in Colorado, you always watch the Buffs and want to play for the Buffs. The opportunity that I have is hard to pass up on as a Colorado kid. The opportunity and the culture they are creating up there with coach Dorrell is awesome, and I am excited to get in it and be part of it.”
Dorrell is in his first season with the Buffs after he was hired to replace Mel Tucker last winter. Colorado went 4-1 in the shortened regular season and is eligible to play in a bowl this season. Dorrell was hired to a five-year contract.
Quickly, Dorrell has reversed the program’s reputation for not recruiting in-state talent, as the 2021 recruiting class already features players such as Eaglecrest wide receiver Ty Robinson of Aurora, Cherry Creek wide receiver Chase Penry of Greenwood Village and Heritage tight end Erik Olsen of Littleton.
“That is the thing that I need to make sure I am reaching out to, and I have done a number of outreaches to our high school coaches already,” Dorrell said during his signing day press conference Wednesday. “It is so important that we have great representation of our best players right here in our program. My job is to make our program attractive. We have to have success just like the success we are having this fall. We have to have success so our local kids see that this program is on the upswing. It is going back to what it used to be in the ’90s. It is doing some really positive things to compete for the conference championship year in and year out. I want them to look at Colorado and think they have a chance to play championship level football in the Pac-12, but also the ultimate goal is to get this program in the College Football Playoff. That is what we are going to try to get ourselves to, and we want to get there in a hurry.”
Woolverton talked with other Division I colleges such as Columbia and Holy Cross. He also had high-level Division II offers from Colorado State University-Pueblo, Pittsburg State and West Texas A&M.
But after he got a walk-on offer from Colorado quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf, he only imagined himself playing Division I football in a Power Five conference such as the Pac-12.
After Woolverton’s offer came in from Colorado, he expected a few more Division I schools to contact him. But during a recruiting dead period because of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the NCAA decision to grant all current college players an extra year of eligibility, there were few offers to be had in 2020.
Now, Woolverton will report to campus Jan. 10 after graduating high school a semester early with a 3.91 grade-point average. The chance to get on campus and have spring practices before his true freshman season was something he wanted to be ready to accept if the opportunity came.
It is the same move Durango offensive lineman Carver Willis made a year ago when he graduated early to start at Kansas State, where he saw playing time as a true freshman during the 2020 season. Woolverton said he has been able to talk with Willis in preparation for his big move.
“It’s going to be a big adjustment,” Woolverton said. “I’m moving to a different place, a new school. One of the biggest adjustments will be getting used to new receivers, a new playbook, a new system. That’s what I’m most excited about is to get up there and gain the football knowledge they can give me.”
Woolverton credited his parents, Kathleen and Ryan Woolverton, for getting him ready for the moment. His dad was his longtime coach and offensive coordinator of DHS, while his mom always supported his dream while making sure he stayed on top of his academics and nutrition.
“Mom has been my rock through this all,” he said. “She made sure I was focused in the classroom and was eating right and gaining weight. I can’t say enough about the influence both of my parents have had. I wouldn’t be here without all of their hard work.”
As a senior in a shortened season, Woolverton passed for 1,010 yards and 12 touchdowns to only two interceptions in seven games. He completed 61.5% of his passes. He also ran for 409 yards and eight touchdowns to match Ben Finneseth for the team-high. Finneseth also has a walk-on offer at Colorado if he chooses to accept it.
After he took over the Demons’ starting quarterback job halfway through his freshman season, Woolverton amassed 5,535 passing yards, 59 touchdowns and only nine interceptions while he completed 70.2% of his passes. He finished with a career quarterback rating of 131.4.
Add to that, he ran for 1,635 yards and 28 touchdowns in his 39 career games.
A born competitor, Woolverton isn’t afraid of the challenge of competing with scholarship quarterbacks within the Colorado program. Once he steps on the field, he is there to win.
“I’ve had to prove myself at every level I’ve played at,” he said. “I’m excited to gain knowledge from the older guys and the coaches up there. I am ready to go show them all what I can do. There are going to be a few guys who doubt me, but that’s not my concern. I am going there to play football and get the job done.”
Woolverton also tallied more than 69 tackles and nine interceptions on defense as a safety, including six interceptions his senior season with a game-altering third-quarter interception in the championship game against Roosevelt. That interception led to his 67-yard game-winning touchdown pass to fellow senior Gage Mestas to send DHS to a 21-14 championship win, its first outright state title in school history and first state championship since a 1954 tie with Lamar.
An all-around talent, Woolverton also got it done on special teams during his career. Following in the footsteps of his father, who was a Division I kicker at Idaho, Woolverton made 31-of-42 extra point attempts his sophomore and junior seasons. He also averaged 42.7 yards per punt attempt as an upperclassmen with nine punts pinning opponents inside the 20. He tallied a career-long punt of 65 yards as a junior with a 61-yard punt as a senior.
With 221 career points in a Demons uniform, Woolverton will go down in the all-time record books for DHS football. On Wednesday, Woolverton was named the CHSAA Class 3A Player of the Year to go with his first-team all-state status. A year earlier, he was all-state second team.
DHS principal Jon Hoerl said Woolverton left the school in a better place than he found it and helped create a new standard for Demons football. He also thanked Woolverton for being a strong role model to his own children.
“He does all the right things,” DHS head coach David Vogt said. “He’s such a great leader to the freshmen kids and everybody in the program. We are just so blessed that now these kids can look up to players like Jordan and the rest of the senior class. It’s such a blessing for the program to be led by a kid like him with such high character and work ethic. He definitely set the standard for the Durango football program going on. He’s going to be sadly missed with his leadership on both sides of the ball and the type of person he is.”
In the Young America Football League through elementary school, Woolverton quarterbacked his Durango team to a 40-1 overall record and three championships in four years. The lone loss came in a Super Bowl game in fourth grade when Woolverton was unable to play quarterback because of a broken thumb injury suffered in recess the day before the game.
At Miller Middle School, Woolverton made the “A” team as a seventh grader and led the Angels to two undefeated seasons with a pair of championships.
In fifth grade, Woolverton made a list of his sports goals. He wanted to win another YAFL Super Bowl in sixth grade. He wanted to make the A-team in basketball and football as a seventh grader in middle school. He wanted to lead those middle school teams to championships.
Then, he wanted to make Durango High School’s varsity in football, basketball and baseball as a freshman and start at least one game.
Before he left high school, he wanted to win a state championship.
Then, he wanted to play Division I college sports.
He has now accomplished every goal he wrote down for himself except the last one, which is his hope of playing professional sports.
“That list, it shows how long I’ve been dreaming of this,” Woolverton said. “For it to come true and to have all the people I care about and love come support me as I signed today, it means a lot to me. I’m going to keep working for those dreams.”