The Canadian Press
For Kamar Jorden, football hasn’t exactly come easy.
Well, the game itself came naturally to the 28-year-old, but his path to playing the sport he loved was a bumpy one.
“All through my football life, it’s never been an easy road for me,” said Jorden. “I’ve been to junior college, back to Bowling Green (University) and then got cut from the Vikings (and then) played Arena Football.
“I’ve really been all over the place as far as just trying to work my way up to whatever level. I was kind of always used to that grind, that kind of under dog, having to prove myself whenever I got my opportunities.”
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Jorden played two seasons at Hudson Valley Community College where he hauled in 96 receptions and 1,109 receiving yards in 2010 – good for third-best in school history. The following season, he finished the year with 78 catches for 1,089 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The 6-foot-3, 203-pound slotback then transferred to Bowling Green State University where he put another stamp on a record book, this time becoming the eighth all-time reception leader in just two seasons.
He then was signed, and released, as an undrafted free agent by the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings in 2012 and played the next season with the AFL’s Spokane Shock, where he caught 95 passes for 1,082 yards and 26 touchdowns.
His talent was there, he just needed an opportunity to get to the next level.
Jorden joined the Stampeders practice roster late in 2013 and spent four weeks there. The following two seasons, he played in three games and flip-flopped the rest of both years on the one-game injured list and the PR.
By 2015, three years went by since first signing in Calgary and Jorden questioned if he would ever get the chance to hit the field and earn a starting spot.
“When I first got here, it was more about just learning the game and learning the offence, the first two times I came up here,” he said. “Once I finally got through training camp (in 2015) then it was more like, ‘when do I play? When do I get my chance?’
“At the end of the day, through everything, through me being put on one-game (injured list), me being hurt or being passed up by another guy, I was always trying to humble myself and get back to square one which was improving and getting better.”
“I feel like I was always able to do this but now everybody else can see it.”
Jordan grew up with his mother and brother in Darby, Pa. and his grandmother had a saying that resonated with the pass-catcher. Perhaps that was on his mind when he wondered if he would ever get the chance to play professional football.
“Her mom said (it) about everything,” he remembered. “(It) was just ‘it’s going to work out at the end. At the end of the day, if you’re doing everything you gotta do then it’s going to work out at the end’ and I’ve always said that.”
And just like his grandmother had said they would, things had finally started to work out for Jorden.
His chance to prove himself came in 2016, when an injury to Bakari Grant opened up a starting spot in Week 14.
“I remember when I came in when Bakari got hurt, Bo (Levi Mitchell) just told me, ‘KJ, I’m going to look for you, bro. I know you haven’t been playing but I’m going to be looking to go to you so just make sure you’re ready.’’
Jorden caught nine passes from Mitchell that night, collected 126 yards and one major score. That performance impressed head coach Dave Dickenson enough to keep him in the line up for the rest of the season – including the West Final and the Grey Cup. He finished the year with 42 receptions for 580 yards and three touchdowns in nine games.
For the first time in his career, Jorden finally felt like he had earned a starting spot when he headed to training camp earlier this season.
“This year I expected to come in the starter and make plays and stuff like that,” he said. “At the end of the day I know it’s not given to me, I had to go out there and show the team, show the coaches, show the quarterback especially, that I’m able to go out there and make plays in any situation that I get.
“I just felt like the difference this year was that I did come into camp with the team having a bit more faith in me.”
With confidence in himself, and from his team, Jorden has skyrocketed to the top of the league through the first quarter of the 2017 season.
He sits fourth in receiving yards (468) and first in receiving touchdowns (four) in five games. He’s already passed his career-high in major scores and is on pace to passing his career-high in yards in his first full CFL season.
But despite having an excellent start to the year, Jorden remains humble when asked if he finally deserves to be in the same conversation as the top receivers in the league like Adarius Bowman and S.J. Green.
“I think highly of myself as a receiver,” said Jorden. “I feel like I can perform at a high level given an opportunity and getting chances. I believe I can be that guy, I believe I can be one of the top receivers but I don’t think I’m there yet.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot more to do and a lot more to prove to show people that I’m that consistent guy like those guys.”
Jorden’s patience, hard work and determination has finally paid off in his fifth season with the Stampeders. Some players may not have waited that long for their shot, but for Jorden, it was all worth it.
“It’s definitely been a grind, for sure,” admitted Jorden. “But I always knew in my mind what I could do and I never lost faith in what I could do on the field and the type of player that I could be once I got my opportunity.
“Honestly, it all feels like it’s coming to fruition now. I feel like I was always able to do this but now everybody else can see it.”