It doesn't seem that long ago that Jordan Pendleton was knocking heads and scoring touchdowns while wearing the blue and white of Bingham High School. Pendleton then came to BYU and looked up to players like Bryan Kehl and David Nixon. Fast-forward three years later, and BYU's star outside linebacker is now a leader.
"I love being that guy," Pendleton said. "Like I said, the first couple of years I had a tough road here, so to get to where I'm at now and be able to lead feels really good. I've done my time and it feels good to help the younger guys and do what I can to help the team get better."
Pendleton was recruited out of high school as a safety. A quick, fleet-footed, physical and very athletic safety, Pendleton didn’t anticipate playing a different position. However, after the continual prodding and gentle coercion from the Cougar coaches, he relented to their wishes and moved to the outside linebacker position that he's since thrived at.
"When you play one position your whole life, you're set on it,” said Pendleton. “So to get moved is very discouraging, but in the end it was what was best for the team and for me. Sometimes those coaches know what they're doing, you know. After I made the switch, I loved it and realized that this really was the best fit for me."
The experiences Pendleton gained during his first three years have helped mold him into the type of leader he is today and bolster his ability to be a more complete player.
"I think because I've been there and been through it all, that's really helped me," Pendleton said. "I've been that guy who's been yelled at and been called back and [I] just know how all the newcomers feel. On top of that I've also had to deal with everything all over again with a position change, so it's much easier for me to go and talk to the younger guys who are struggling. Because of those things, I know I can help them and get them back on their feet."
Leaders not only help teach, but also lead by example. Over the summer, Pendleton did just that knowing he was the one being looked up to.
"I'm just always here putting in time, putting in the work and making sure that if people aren't getting the defense, I can be there to help teach them," he said. "As far as the weight room, I make sure I'm here every day and that I'm the strongest in the weight room. It’s really just about putting in the work and helping others who do want help – because there are people who will shy away from it – and do want to watch film and learn. I'll always stay and help them. It doesn't matter how late it might be, I'll always stay and help them learn.
"Once I'm out on the field, I'm vocal sometimes but I like to lead by how I play and by example," Pendleton continued. "If you just be that example of someone who goes hard all the time and never lets up, then others start to feed off of it and do the same."
One player that petitioned Pendleton for help was offensive tackle Braden Brown, who has increased his size and strength through the offseason workouts.
"I just think [Brown] saw my work ethic," Pendleton said. "I had surgery in the offseason, so I went from 235 pounds down to 215. I lost a lot of muscle and couldn't lift in three months, and once I started getting back into things and being able to lift … he sees me put back on 25 pounds and get up to 240. He was like, 'What are you doing, because I want to put on weight like that.' That was when he was like, "You know what? I want to work out with you.' Really, we just eat really good and don't put crap into our bodies. We eat really healthy and just put a lot of work in. I think we're going to be ready to play when the time comes, and a lot of that came through a lot of hard work and effort over the summer."