The Wolfpacker

May/June 2022

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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30 ■ THE WOLFPACKER S P R I N G F O O T B A L L 2 0 2 2 BY MATT CARTER C State fourth-year junior running back Jordan Hous- ton understands what be- ing the star of the team is like. Until the past couple of seasons, that's all Houston has ever experienced. Houston started playing competitive football when he was 4 years old. Despite consistently being the fastest player on the team, Houston originally found him- self lining up as a middle linebacker. A switch to a new club team when he was 8 led to Houston finally getting a chance at running back, although a part of the linebacker experience never really left him. "That's where I got my original physi- cality from," Houston acknowledged. By the time he was getting ready to start his sophomore season at Flint Hill High in Oakton, Va., Houston already had an of- fer from Penn State, personally delivered after a camp over the summer by Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin. "My goal in high school was that I wanted to be recruited, I wanted to go D-I," Houston recalled. "I got to high school, and boom, I had my first offer." There was perhaps some family pres- sure to go ahead and end his recruitment then. Houston's mother, her brother and their mother all attended Penn State. Yet the school Houston originally com- mitted to was Maryland before he made a late switch to NC State in January of his senior year. One of the reasons he was sold on the Wolfpack was that he saw a chance to make an immediate impact. "They told me on my official visit that I would have an opportunity," Houston remembered. The coaches were true to their word; Houston saw substantial playing time during his rookie year, starting three games while playing in all 12 and rush- ing 101 times for 526 yards and a pair of touchdowns. As a team, NC State struggled, compil- ing a 4-8 record and finishing the year with six consecutive losses. Houston, though, came away from his first colle- giate season convinced that he was on the right track. "My freshman year wasn't the smooth- est with our record," he noted. "We weren't doing well, and the energy in this building wasn't positive, but, to me per- sonally, I thought I was doing really well for myself. I was happy with my perfor- mance." Then, for one of the few times in his life, Houston had to take a backseat on a football team. With running backs Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr. emerging as potential NFL Draft picks, Houston saw his carries dwindle during the 2020 and '21 seasons. He ran a combined 62 times for 226 yards and four scores in that span. In the current era of college athletics, Houston would seem like the perfect ex- ample of a player who would end up in the transfer portal. Yet, he is still donning the red and white, having just completed another spring practice at NC State. Knight and Person are now gone, trying to make the NFL. Houston has patiently waited his turn, and in the process earned admirers across the NC State coaching staff. On the morning of the April 9 spring game, coach Dave Doeren expressed that gratitude personally to Houston's mother. "I'm really proud of him," Doeren said. "I think he showed great character. He came here for a reason. He had good play- ers in front of him. I think he maximized his role while they were here. He contin- ued to work and earn our trust, and we completely trust him. "We're excited for him. It's a great mo- ment." Houston admitted he had outside forces suggesting he should consider his options, and there were definite moments of frus- tration. The coaches tried to find ways to get him on the field, including a tryout of sorts at receiver in the spring of 2021. Ultimately, Houston focused on the big picture. He knew from talking with run- ning backs coach Kurt Roper that both Knight and Person had visions of the NFL on the horizon. "I just had to take a step back and realize I still had years of eligibility left," Houston noted. "Rather than just leaving and hav- ing to learn a whole new system, I would rather just stay here and wait my turn be- cause I knew it was coming." Viewing the totality of a situation is something that comes naturally to Hous- ton, but that did not necessarily make it easy. "I probably learned how to do it better in college, to sit back and learn how to look at the big picture," he said. "I think part of it, too, is blocking all that outside noise. That stuff is poison and gets in your head." Doeren noted that Houston "can do a lot for us." "We're excited about what he does," Doeren added. "He's playing fast. He knows the offense, and he can do a lot of things — whether he's catching the ball, running the ball or in protection." Houston's goal is simple for the up- coming season. He aims to prove that although he has not been playing much, he's ready for a bigger role and has im- proved on the running back that NC State fans saw in 2019. He wants a return to the old days when he was a star performer. "Everyone is talking about Ricky and Bam, and I don't want people to feel like there's been a drop-off," Houston said. "I am going to make sure there is no drop-off." ■ N A STAR IS REBORN After Waiting Patiently, Junior Running Back Jordan Houston Is Eager To Build On His Promising Debut

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