STANFORD, Calif. – At 28, Jordan Pratt is the oldest player on the Stanford football team. Not surprisingly, teammates call him the “Old Man.”
“It’s a fun dynamic,” said Pratt, a junior wide receiver from Monmouth, Ore. “I really feel like I fit in here. I’m definitely in a different walk of life, but at the same time, we are all very focused on football and school, so we can relate in that way.
“We have fun around the locker room, sometimes at my expense. I enjoy talking to some of the younger guys. They ask me about their girlfriends and dating and stuff. I try to give them my best advice, which is mostly be honest and be a good guy.”
Pratt was the only married player on the team until last summer when Jarek Lancaster tied the knot.
“So Amy (Pratt) will have a friend at the Rose Bowl this year,” said her husband.
Pratt’s journey to Stanford is unique. A three-sport standout in high school, he recorded an 11-0 record with a 1.18 ERA and 107 strikeouts as a senior and was the Gatorade Oregon Player of the Year. He signed with Washington State, but decided to pursue professional baseball after being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth round in 2003.
The hard-throwing right-hander spent eight seasons in the minor leagues and compiled a record of 21-19 in 185 appearances. He reached Triple A in 2010, but elected to quit baseball and enrolled at Stanford as a 26-year-old freshman.
As a high school junior, Pratt caught 76 passes for 1,124 yards and 17 touchdowns and earned second-team all-state honors. He also returned five kickoffs for touchdowns. But he played in only two games as a senior due to injury.
The 6-foot-3, 213-pound Pratt didn’t see the field at Stanford in 2011, but received the Greg Piers Award for outstanding scout team contributions. Last year, he caught one pass for two yards at Colorado.
This season, Pratt has blossomed into a dependable receiver. Playing in all 13 games, he has caught 12 passes for 148 yards (12.3 average). Pratt caught a career-long 35-yard pass from quarterback Kevin Hogan in the second quarter against Arizona State in the Pac-12 title game to set up a short touchdown run by Tyler Gaffney.
“It feels great,” said Pratt. “I love to be out there contributing. Last year, I was confident in my abilities – I don’t think I was frustrated – but I definitely wanted to contribute any way that I could.”
David Shaw, The Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football, knew Pratt had great potential, but also figured it would take time for him to re-acclimate to the game.
“When he first came back, you could tell there was a football player in there, but he’d played so much baseball, it took a while to get that football feel to come back,” Shaw said. “But this off-season, he worked his tail off, he knows this offense inside and out, worked on every single route, and has gained the trust of the coaches and the quarterbacks and the other receivers where they cheer for him. He’s made some big plays in some big games for us.”
Pratt credits his pro baseball career for teaching him to be patient and positive.
“It’s absolutely huge,” he said. “Not just football, but school-wise, too. I really spent a lot of time focusing on the mental game of baseball because you just have so much time between each pitch. I learned a lot in my baseball career focusing on the process of what can I do today to make myself a better player and how to respond when things aren’t going well. I had some success in baseball, but I had a lot of failures and a lot of times I wasn’t playing as well as I should or wasn’t living up to my own expectations.
“I really think that journey and that process comes up on a daily basis here in football. You drop a pass, so what? What’s next? How are you going to respond to that? That’s a big part of managing my time, whether I’m at practice or in school. The day before the Pac-12 Championship Game, I’m in a lecture for an engineering final I have in a couple days. If I’m focusing on the football game, I’m going to miss that.”
Shaw calls Pratt a quick study and said he is always prepared.
“He was a professional athlete for a while, so he knows how to get his job done,” he said. “He knows how to focus on what’s important and he doesn’t get distracted.”
Pratt also credits former offensive assistant Aaron Moorehead for keeping himself ready at all times.
“He said, ‘It’s a long season. Don’t get frustrated if you’re not getting to play. Just continue to bring your best effort on a daily basis in practice.’ And I think that’s what I’ve tried to do this year. I just stayed focused and enjoyed the success the team was having as much as I could. Sometimes they do throw you the ball.”
Pratt has two years of eligibility remaining and plans to play for at least one more season. He’s on track to finish his degree in atmosphere and energy engineering this spring and wants to pursue a masters in sustainable design construction.
His top priority at the moment is helping Stanford beat Michigan State in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. As it turns out, Dodgers Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully is the Grand Marshal in the Rose Parade.
“Obviously, he’s a legend, so we always talked about him,” said Pratt. “We spoke of him reverently, but I didn’t ever meet him. I think my dad grew up listening to him. It’s definitely special.”