When Whitehaven High’s football team captured the TSSAA Class 6A championship in 2012, the strides Jordan Williams made that year at the backup quarterback were a sign of things to come.
To his credit, while Williams did not make any starts that year for a Tiger team went wire-to-wire as the area’s top-ranked team with a 15-0 record, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound junior proved, among other things, that he was destined to assume a starting role.
His golden opportunity came full circle this past season.
Williams not was given the nod to orchestrate Whitehaven’s potent offensive attack, but he adjusted masterfully to his new role as the Tigers’ No. 1 signal caller. By and large, he was efficient through the season’s first seven games for a Whitehaven team that generated a 6-1 mark.
Suddenly, a disheartening occurrence transpired, one that resulted in an unceremonious end to Williams’ breakthrough season.
Against cross-town rival East in Week 9, William tore his ACL on the third play of the second quarter, a development that sent shock waves throughout a Tiger program that was a heavy favorite to defend its state title.
“When I tore it, I felt it buckle,” Williams told MemphiSport. “I didn’t think I had torn it. I actually ran off the field.”
As Williams recalls, he sensed that wasn’t the end of his night, much less his season.
“I was on the sideline doing backdrops,” he explained. “I was telling the offensive coordinator to put me back in we were struggling. And he said, ‘We’ve got to wait until halftime.’ And so the trainer said, ‘Let me check you over again.’ He said he thought I tore it and that’s what it feels like.”
Unfortunately for the Tigers, they never recovered from their lethargic performance against upset-minded, falling 13-10 for their second defeat in as many weeks. If that wasn’t enough to rattle a team that was in need of a serious midseason makeover — particularly on the offensive side of the ball — news spread throughout the locker room that Williams had in fact torn his ACL.
Just like that, he was done for the year.
“It was so much,” said Williams, when asked what his initial reaction after learning of his season-ending injury. “I was just thinking I can’t play football anymore this year. I was thinking I’ve got to get healthy for next season. I didn’t want to believe it. Really, nobody knew.”
What majority of the Tiger faithful knew was that their starting quarterback was putting up record numbers prior to his injury.
Through seven games, Jordan had amassed more than 1,000 yards passing and threw for 10 touchdowns. He was just as effective with his legs as a dual-threat athlete, considering he also rushed for more than 500 yards and had five rushing scores.
In a nutshell, nothing, it seemed, could stop Williams now that he had blossomed into the Tigers’ marquee player.
Nothing except that torn ACL.
“I tried not to cry, but it was hard,” Williams said. “I was thinking about football, but I was thinking about basketball too and having a good year at the (shooting) guard position.”
Among those who were shocked by the news of Williams’ freak injury was his father, Santos Williams, who were called out of the stands at the time his son’s injury was announced.
“I’m not a sports doctor, but there were a few things I needed him to do for me in order for him to keep playing,” Santos Williams explained. “I wanted him to swat on that one particular leg. But in my experience of seeing torn ACLs and the things he was doing for me, what he was doing was nowhere near a torn ACL. Actually, like him, I couldn’t believe it because he was around here jumping and playing at the house. He was getting ready (for the next game).”
However, Jordan Williams never suited up for the next game. Instead, he spent approximately three months rehabbing and was finally cleared by doctors to participate in non-contact drills in mid-February. According to his father, the possibility exists that his son could be cleared to resume full-contact drills by late April, which wouldn’t interrupt his scheduled visits to several 7-on-7 camps and combines this summer.
Despite the injury that brought his junior season to premature end, Jordan’s performance prompted various college scouts to take notice of the contributions he could make to the level. Auburn, Tennessee, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Memphis, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale are among the schools that have expressed interest in the dual-threat athlete — a trend Jordan Williams deems inspiring as he continues to get back into playing shape.
“I feel good,” he said. “I feel about 80 percent ready. I feel good about everything. There’s nothing I can’t do.”
That was evident through the first seven games this past season.