Chalk it up to Character
Writer Tom Scanlon
The old Clash song “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” fits the dilemma of Jordan Schlueter of north Scottsdale. A star student athlete, he had the chance to play football and study at all the big Ivy League schools, including Harvard and Yale. He could have hit the beach near the University of San Diego, or explored the hot Silicon Valley while playing for San Jose State. In all, 14 colleges and universities asked him to play football for them.
The Notre Dame Prep star defensive back turned them all down. He decided to shoot for the stars, rolling the dice as a walk-on at Arizona State University. He won’t be guaranteed a roster spot, and will have to compete with talented, gargantuan athletes just to make the team. It’s the kind of choice that sums up his courageous character, those who know him will tell you.
James Gmelich, the school principal, shakes his head in wonder about the star senior. “He’s amazing,” Gmelich says. “Much of what people know about Jordan are his athletic accomplishments. That’s just a sliver of what he’s all about. He’s a better kid than an athlete, and he’s a great athlete. Teachers find him to be a leader. They use the phrase, ‘guiding behind the scenes.’ His friends, his friends’ parents, teachers, they all know he’s done great things in sports, and he’s terrific beyond all that.”
His parents were excited when Ivy League schools began courting Jordan midway through his high school years. But they feel like this smart kid – we’re talking straight A’s, and honors-level classes – has made another wise choice.
“Though we felt an Ivy League education would be difficult for him or anyone to pass up, we’re proud that he has always had the ability to think independently while taking into consideration the advice or insight from his parents, coaches and close friends,” says Jeffrey Schlueter, Jordan’s father. “Like all parents, we wanted Jordan to be comfortable with the college he would be attending and we’re confident he is extremely comfortable, as well as excited with his decision to attend ASU.”
A studious, analytical type, Jordan took his time before making the decision, weighing in various factors over three years. Colleges started reaching out to him when he was just a tenth grader. “The most tempting offers were from the Ivy leagues because the schooling is amazing. …My final few schools had a high tuition no matter what, so compared to an Ivy League it made more sense to go to ASU even if I am a walk-on,” Jordan reasons. “Because either way I’m still on the team and have a shot to compete and that’s all I can ask for.” Emotion also factored into this – driven by the chance to play for the hometown team. “I’ve also always had love for ASU, so I finally decided that I could not pass up ASU.”
He hopes to be accepted to the Barrett Honors College at ASU to study engineering. Meanwhile, he’s trying to engineer himself a spot on the football team.
Last month, as other high school seniors were enjoying the last days of high school, Jordan Schlueter was hard at work, trying to get bigger, faster, stronger for the next level of football. He stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 175-180 pounds, which is huge for a defensive back at a small high school. He was more of a shark than a big fish in a small pool, dominating with his size and athletic ability. He was able to roam the field, doing everything from playing running back and wide receiver on offense to returning kicks and being a “gunner” on punt and kickoff coverage. But he caught recruiters’ eyes as a safety, which is where he expects to play in college. He’ll need to bulk up his frame in order to compete in the big-time Pac 12 Conference.
Best times in his Notre Dame Prep career? “One of my favorite memories I have was my sophomore year when we were a 14 seed and went down to Tucson and destroyed No. 3 seed Tucson Salpointe by at least three touchdowns. Then junior year, we went, played, and won a game in Ireland, which was extremely memorable, not just the game but the whole trip as well.”
His family is as proud of him for his school work as his football success. “Despite being a smart and athletic kid, Jordan has never taken anything for granted,” his father says. “He has always worked hard at his academics and obviously his high school 3.94 unweighted GPA and the 4.31 weighted GPA reflects this. We’re very proud of his similar accomplishments with athletics.
“He has always worked his butt off during practices and in preparation for games. With respect to football, he has never missed a practice or a game since he started playing flag football in 2002, and playing competitive football every year thereafter. He’s had the good fortune of avoiding any significant injury, and his hard work in the weight room and with conditioning is attributable to that.”
Schlueter did a remarkable job juggling sports and school work in high school. “Time management is big when trying to balance different activities and I feel that I can do that well,” he says. “My favorite class that I took while in high school was my freshman physical science class with Coach Bemis, who was also the head coach of the varsity football team before passing away.”
Scot Bemis launched the Notre Dame Prep football program, and led the team to two state titles before losing his battle with cancer at age 45. “He was an amazing person obviously, and since he stopped coaching midway through sophomore year, that class was really the only time I had with him. I just wish I could have played for him throughout my high school career.”
The Schlueter family had some special moments in 2011 when freshman Jordan got into a few varsity games and lined up next to his older brother, Jake, then a senior linebacker. “It was really amazing and wonderful to see them both on the field during a competitive varsity high school football game,” Jeffrey Schlueter recalled. “Jake did need to cover for Jordan on a missed tackle once, which we still haze Jordan about occasionally.”
Though Jordan spent most of his high school career flashing around making tackles, picking off passes and taking off on long kickoff runs, he comes across as a humble, well-grounded young man with unusual maturity.
“Jordan has always appreciated the fact that any team is only as strong as its weakest player, and that it takes an entire team to be successful, not just one or two special athletes,” his father says. “He’s always been a relatively quiet leader, letting his actions and play on the field or in the classroom motivate those around him.”
Now, after being a dominating player and leader, this fall he will face his greatest athletic challenge: Battling star incoming freshmen and huge, tough veterans in an attempt to make the ASU team. Stay tuned to see how he does.