The inner calm of Daniel Jordan separates him from most athletes his age.
At 20, Jordan talks about playing in front of enormous crowds. He then places his hands to each side of his head to signify one thing: focus.
It's that Zen-like concentration that helped Jordan enter Georgia Southern's fall practice as the No. 1 punter after walking on just a season ago. Should he win the punting job, the Greenbrier graduate will get his first taste of on-field experience Between the Hedges in the Eagles' season opener at Georgia.
"That's what you work for," he said. "I knew we would be playing there this season. I want to be the No. 1 punter by that game."
It's difficult to tell Jordan's a punter. He wears No. 89, a tight end's number. He's also 6-foot-4, 212 pounds - good size for a tight end, except Georgia Southern has none on its roster.
In fact, Jordan spent most of his high school career playing defensive end and tight end, along with punter. After catching 10 passes his junior year, he hauled in 30 receptions his senior year and was named to The Augusta Chronicle's all-area first team as a tight end.
He attracted some small scholarship offers, but nothing to dissuade him from attending Georgia Southern. Jordan, who graduated with honors and a 3.9 GPA, planned to pursue an engineering degree. He also decided to try out for the football team.
He performed well enough in fall preseason practice to earn the backup job behind starter Sean Holland. Jordan traveled with the team and sat on the sidelines for every game, but didn't play one minute, thus saving his redshirt.
Holland then became ineligible in the off-season, opening up the starting job. In spring practice, Jordan averaged punts of 43.3 and 43.8 yards in two different practices. He was even better in the team's intrasquad scrimmage.
In the Blue-White game, Jordan boomed five punts an average of 49.6 yards. He exited spring practice as the team's top punter.
"I don't always kick that good," he said. "I was just in a rhythm."
Jordan's punting prowess led him to drop his engineering major, because after two years he would have to transfer. But just because he entered fall camp as the No. 1 punter, Jordan doesn't automatically become the starter.
Even though he has a leg up on the competition, Jordan will have to stave off the competition, which includes freshman signee Patrick Bolen. The South Effingham product averaged 40.5 yards a punt his senior season and is expected to be the one person standing between Jordan and his collegiate debut at Sanford Stadium.
But don't think Jordan is a long shot. After all, he has momentum on his side and he has flexibility. Jordan is so limber sometimes when he punts he can hit his nose with his knee.
He wants to take yoga in the near future to continue work on his flexibility, along with his focus - something that will be tested in preseason camp.
"If I'm consistent, there shouldn't be any way I won't have the job," he said. "I just need to stay healthy."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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