When analyzing Jordan Love’s strengths as an NFL prospect, online scouting services all seem to agree.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound quarterback has the mobility, athleticism and arm talent to play at the next level when his career at Utah State comes to an end.
But after just one conversation with the Liberty graduate, another word comes to mind: poise. He’s all business and nothing — or at least very little — is going to make him lose his focus on the field.
“The biggest thing is his demeanor,” Liberty coach Bryan Nixon said. “I think he’s so even-keel. When he throws a touchdown you get the same reaction as an interception. It’s not too high, not too low, he stays even-keel and he understands the magnitude of the game.
“That’s one of the big characteristics of a quarterback is you have to be able to take the ebbs and flows of a football game, and he took those in stride and didn’t waver.”
That trait — staying calm under pressure — has been especially important for Love this season.
After throwing for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns, with just six interceptions last season, the redshirt junior was recognized as one of the top college quarterbacks in the country heading into this season.
But things haven’t necessarily gone as planned this year.
Although still in the hunt for a Mountain West Conference title, the Aggies (4-4, 4-1 MWC) enter Saturday’s game at Fresno State having lost two straight games, including a 42-14 home loss to BYU last week.
“(The season) obviously isn’t going the way I wanted it to, but at the end of the day we’re still 3-1 in the Mountain West and still in the chase for the (conference) championship,” Love said. “It’s all about how we finish and how we end the season. That’s been our main goal, just attacking these practices this week and focusing on Fresno and knowing it’s just one game at a time. We have four more left and that’s just how we’re attacking it right now.”
Love has had his moments this season.
He threw for 416 yards and three touchdowns in a season-opening loss to Wake Forest. Love had 394 yards passing in the loss to BYU, and is averaging 251 yards through the air for the season. But he was also intercepted three times in both games. His 12 interceptions this year equals his total in the previous two seasons combined.
“Some dudes are banged up on our team, but they’re having to play through (the injuries) … but I think we’re doing a good job,” Love said. “Our offense is fine and it just comes down to how we’re executing our plays. It’s on everybody (to do that).”
That’s an outlook that comes as little surprise to Nixon.
“That’s the one thing that helps him play the position he’s playing, and play at the level that he’s playing at,” said Nixon of Love’s calm nature. “He understands that he has to be able to go onto the next play no matter what. And the next play is the most important one.”
Nixon should know. He witnessed it first hand when as a senior, Love guided the Patriots to the Central Section Division I championship and into a CIF State regional bowl game. Liberty lost to Loomis-Del Oro, but a star was born.
Love finished his two-year career at Liberty with 4,078 pass yards and 42 touchdowns.
“Jordan always had a phenomenal work ethic and phenomenal attitude toward his approach,” Nixon said. “He always wanted to get better and he was never satisfied. I think those are some of the characteristics that really stood out (when he was in high school).”
That determination helped the one-time 5-foot-6, 130-pound high school freshman to make a huge leap. But few offers came in from Division I colleges.
“He’s definitely a late bloomer … he grew a lot over the course of his high school career,” Nixon said. “And I think the position of quarterback is recruited so early that I think some of those guys missed that during his growth spurt.
“Everyone we talked to knew he was going to grow into the athlete (he is), but just at quarterback they all wanted those fine-tuned guys right now. And he’s really developed into one of the premier quarterbacks in the country and it’s been fun to watch.”
Plenty of Love’s family and friends will have an opportunity to see that for themselves Saturday when he takes the field just 100 miles to the north.
“It will be good to be back home and see a lot of people that I know that will come up to the game,” Love said. “This will probably be my closest game to home, and I have a lot of support (in Bakersfield), but at the end of the day (I have to prepare like) it’s just another game and we prepare (for it) like always. We just have to go out there and perform.”