With a roster that features more than 20 players from the state of Washington, Idaho’s football game against the Huskies in Seattle means a lot more than a $825,000 payout.
“We’ve got a lot of kids from the state of Washington, and that definitely gets them excited,” coach Paul Petrino said.
One of those players is senior safety Jayshawn Jordan, who graduated from O’Dea High in Seattle and grew up a Huskies fan.
“I’ve been to a lot of camps, and I’ve done everything (at Husky Stadium) except play an actual game,” Jordan said. “It’s going to be really special. I’ll be playing in front of a lot of family.”
Jordan wouldn’t be playing if not for a quad muscle injury that ended his season after three games last year. He received a medical redshirt and spent the offseason preparing for another go-round as a senior.
“I feel like I’ve got a second chance, and a lot of guys don’t really get that,” Jordan said.
Jordan played cornerback his first three seasons and has converted to safety this year.
“(Coaches) said they wanted an upperclassman, a guy with some experience back there who can help lead,” he said.
The early returns are positive. Jordan had six tackles and one pass breakup in the season-opening win over Montana State.
“I think it’s been a nice move for him. …. We’re trying to put him in more positions to make plays at the safety position,” defensive coordinator Mike Breske said. “He’s kind of been our leader back there.”
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds, Jordan doesn’t have a typical frame for a safety, but Breske doesn’t worry about Jordan bringing physicality to the position.
“He’s not 6-1. He’s not 6-2. He’s not 200 pounds,” Breske said. “But he packs a mean punch.”
Every Vandal will need to pack a mean punch if they expect to compete with the Huskies, who are favored by 37 1/2 points.
“They kind of have all the ingredients you need to have a good football team,” Petrino said of coach Chris Petersen’s squad. “We’re going to face some really good players.”
It won’t be the first time Petrino’s squad has gone into hostile territory as huge underdogs. Idaho lost at USC (59-9) and Auburn (56-34) last season. Petrino said his players gained confidence against Auburn, the penultimate game of the season. Idaho outgained the Tigers in yardage (479 to 460) and hung tough in the second half (Auburn outscored Idaho 21-17).
“I think we came off the field that day, and everybody was a lot more confident in themselves and each other and their teammates,” Petrino said. “And it kind of carried over to the next game, Texas State. We’ve won both games since (Auburn).”
Still, Petrino acknowledges all those Washington ties on his roster won’t carry much weight Saturday.
“Once the game starts, it really comes down to how much fight you have inside of you and how much heart,” he said. “I don’t know if any of that helps you once the game starts.”
But after having to watch most of the season from the sidelines last year, Jordan said he’ll relish getting a chance to play in his hometown.
“I kind of enjoy everything I do this year,” he said. “Every snap I get I don’t take it for granted.”