Red-shirt senior defensive back Jourdan Wickliffe leads Eastern with three interceptions. Wickliffe also had 53 tackles this season. (Mackenzie Freund)
Red-shirt senior defensive back Jourdan Wickliffe leads Eastern with three interceptions. Wickliffe also had 53 tackles this season.

Mackenzie Freund

Wickliffe a leader in last season at Eastern

November 18, 2015

In his last season playing football at Eastern, red-shirt senior defensive back Jourdan Wickliffe has adapted his skills to become a force on the field.

“Playing football for as long as I have, I have developed a second-nature instinct.’’ Wickliffe said. “I don’t have to think when I’m out there, it is just reaction. I have a feel for what’s going on, so I can react quicker than someone who isn’t as familiar with the game.’’

Wickliffe has earned all-Ohio Valley Conference honors in the last two years at safety; a position Eastern coach Kim Dameron said requires players to make adjustments throughout the game.

“They have to do everything,” Dameron said. “It is nice that the guys back there are intelligent football players, and they do a good job of seeing the formations and making the adjustments.”

Coming into the last game before postseason play, Wickliffe has 53 total tackles and one sack on the year, while leading Eastern with three interceptions for 78 yards.

Wickliffe started out his football career at a young age in a typical fashion for a young boy.

“I’ve been playing football since I was six.’’ Wickliffe said. “My brother had a basketball game and they lost because the time on the clock went out. He told me, ‘I like football because the clock keeps going, you should play football.’’’

Now, as a fifth-year senior, Wickliffe has assumed a leadership role on the field for the Panthers. Wickliffe said that since he’s one of the older guys on the team, the younger guys look up to him on the field.

“I have to continue to be a leader for the guys.’’ Wickliffe said. “I have to be that guy that when we face adversity, stays calm and collected. When the guys see that, they’ll know that we will be all right and make it through.’’

The Panthers may face some adversity this Saturday against Eastern Kentucky who is currently ranked third in the Ohio Valley Conference.

As he approaches Saturday’s big game, Wickliffe recalls on what he worked on in the offseason that helped him be the force he is on the field throughout the season, as the Panthers inch closer to postseason play.

“I like to work on footwork. Footwork is huge.’’ Wickliffe said. “Being a defensive back, you have to have good feet. In the offseason I worked on footwork drills and tried to get my feet right so I can come out better, along with watching film.’’

Being a defensive back, Wickliffe has the chance to incorporate his strengths into the aspects of the game that he loves the most.

“I like being a defensive back because of the opportunity.’’ Wickliffe said. “When the ball is in the air, I can get the ball. I like that I still get the chance to touch the ball because I love the ball in my hands. Also, I get to be physical. I get to hit people. Being a defensive back gives me the opportunity to be both physical and touch the ball, two things that I love most about the game.’’

Wickliffe’s ball skills have enabled him to make plays throughout his career. Counting this season, he has 11 interceptions in the last three years. Defensive backs that can attack the ball like that can most likely be successful at another position Dameron said.

“Whether you are a receiver or defensive back, guys that can up and attack or catch the ball do well,” Dameron said. “Most DB’s with really good ball skills can probably go out for wide receiver, which Jourdan can probably do.”

The Panthers are back in action this Saturday at O’Brien field for their last conference matchup against Eastern Kentucky at 1 p.m.

 

Maria Baldwin can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]