It was with muted enthusiasm that Nick Jordan watched Justin Tucker beat Texas A&M one last time.
It was with mixed emotions that his parents, both Aggie grads and seated on either side of him at Kyle Field, watched both Nick’s reaction and experienced their own.
“I didn’t want to rub it in,” the Texas signee from Coppell said. “But they were OK with it. They were happy that Justin made it because it was Justin. And they know someday that could be me.”
Someday is coming real soon.
Walking out of spring practice, Texas coach Mack Brown was practically shouting that he doesn’t have faith in his kickers.
“We will go into the fall with competition in both kicking positions,” Brown said.
Jordan, given the performances of Ben Pruitt and Will Russ, will be squarely in the middle of that competition. He might even be at the forefront of it, and he knows it too.
Pruitt, who was the odds-on favorite to replace Tucker, was too inconsistent from short range and nonexistent from deep. Russ has a big leg but it is better suited for punting and kickoffs.
Jordan watched and listened all spring as Brown lamented the loss of Tucker and the plight of the current kicking game. And with each passing comment he knew the reality of becoming a true freshman kicker in the Big 12 was closer to becoming a reality.
“Really when I first started thinking about (playing in college) I thought that I would redshirt or not really get on the field for the first year or two,” Jordan said. “Now I know I have the opportunity to play right away.”
Here’s the thing though, that opportunity hasn’t pushed Jordan into some impossible workout regimen with unrealistic expectations. He just stuck to what he was doing, because he knew that was more than good enough.
“Before any of this happened, I was already preparing myself to be ready to play right away,” Jordan said.
No over-kicking. No paralysis by analysis. Instead, Jordan decided to take the methodical, intelligent and measured approach to being in prime shape by June. It’s that same approach that led him to be one of the top kicking recruits in the country.
“He has got a really strong leg,” said Brown, who first evaluated Jordan at a Texas kicking camp. “We saw him kick out on a 60-plus-yard field goal, and he pulled it a little bit left.”
OK, it was 60 yards, so a little bit of a pull is understandable. He did make a 65-yarder to win the field goal portion of the National Underclassmen Challenge last year. And at more realistic yardages, Jordan usually is pretty true. Ditto with pressure situations: Like with the 34-yarder he made to put Coppell into overtime against Hebron as a sophomore. Or the four field goals he made in the fourth round of the 2010 playoffs against Trinity.
Now he is stepping into an entirely new and more pressure-packed situation. Texas has had guys thrive -- Texas is 8-for-8 on game-winning kicks in Brown’s 14 years -- but only one has been by a true freshman, Dusty Mangum in 2001. He finished the year 18 of 26 on field goals that season. The most crucial miss coming from 49 yards in the third quarter in a 39-37 loss to Colorado. He made three other field goals in that game.
But that was way before Jordan’s time. What he and Texas have to figure out over is if 2012 will be his time.