Liberty football coach Bryan Nixon had just one thought run through his mind the first time he saw Jordan Love in person after the former Patriots standout quarterback came back to town during his redshirt freshman year at Utah State.
“Man, he’s huge,” Nixon recalled saying to himself, repeatedly.
Love, who graduated early from high school less than a month after leading the Patriots to the 2015 Central Section Division I championship, is now the starting quarterback for Utah State. And he has his team in the postseason.
The Aggies will take the field on Dec. 29, in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl in Tucson, Ariz., against New Mexico State.
Love began his career as 5-foot-6, 140-pound freshman, and left as a 6-3, 185-pound senior. He now stands at 6-4 and weighs 220 pounds, a college redshirt freshman who's “best days of football” are still in front of him, according to Nixon.
“I don’t feel like a freshman. I feel like I’ve been here for a little bit,” Love said. “I am trying to get those game reps. It’s a lot different.”
That’s where the decision to graduate a semester early from Liberty came into play for Love, who used that extra time to get bigger, stronger and faster.
“Coming up here early and getting reps at the college level, it always helps,” Love said. “Leading into that next semester, I had a big jump on everyone else. I put on about 30 pounds. It was good to get into the weight room and actually start lifting for once.”
Love didn’t play his first semester on campus, and for good reason. He was still 17 when he arrived in Logan, Utah and didn’t turn 18 until that November.
When he finally took the field this season for the Aggies (6-6), Love was nowhere near the same guy that left Bakersfield.
Not that he was ineffective at Liberty — far from it in fact. As a dual threat quarterback with long legs and a power arm, Love threw for 2,148 yards and 24 touchdowns his senior year with the Patriots, while rushing for 806 yards and six more scores.
“You knew once he stopped getting taller that his maturation process would be to get stronger,” Nixon said. “But he got the double dose of getting taller and stronger. It’s a true blessing for him.
“It’s always fun to see how big he is getting and maturing. He’s not that young boy that played for us. He’s a young man, and that’s fun to watch.”
Love heard the people talking about how he might have missed out on the last semester in high school and burned a redshirt year. With that said, he needed that extra 18 months to turn into the player he is today.
“It shows you that I went from being skinny to a little bit bigger,” Love said. “It shows that I can do this and be as big as I want. I don’t know about being like Cam Newton or someone like that, but it changes your demeanor, especially running the ball. I know I can lower my shoulder on some people and take some more hits. At the end of the day, I am playing the same game but it adds that different mentality.”
Love began this season as the backup quarterback to Utah State senior Kent Myers. But he quickly took over and it wasn’t long before he saw how the changes to his body have given him a new element to his game.
In USU's Oct. 26 game at UNLV, Love said he knew such changes were for the better.
“I was running and just hit somebody and he bounced off me,” Love said. “I was like, ‘OK. I can do some damage with this.’”
Love has thrown for 1,377 yards this season, along with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. He's added 164 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns to his resume. His best game statically came in the regular season finale against Air Force with 284 passing yards. That performance came in a losing effort, however.
“I am really excited to finish the season on the right note,” Love said. “It’s fueling us a lot knowing that we finished the regular season with a loss and need to bounce back and get this win.”