Welcome to Poyer Island
Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 03:11
A wide grin spread across Jordan Poyer’s face as he fielded questions about the Civil War. It was right after the Beavers clobbered Cal on Saturday.
But rather than enjoy the glow of the win, the senior cornerback was thinking about the biggest game of his career. It will be the last chance for Poyer to win the Civil War.
“The bragging rights would definitely be nice, especially in my senior year,” Poyer said, considered by many to be the top cornerback in the Pac-12, and one of the best in college football.
The last time Oregon State defeated the Ducks was in 2007. Poyer was playing quarterback at Astoria High School at that time.
Coming out of high school in 2009, he had scholarship offers from the University of Idaho and Portland State. But he chose OSU, even though he wasn’t guaranteed a scholarship right away.
“I was a kid from a 4A high school, barely had any scholarships to go play anywhere,” Poyer said. “I came in expecting to redshirt and just didn’t know what was going to happen in my career.”
At fall camp as a freshman, Poyer questioned whether he even wanted to play football.
“The first couple days of fall camp in my freshman year I wondered, ‘Is this really for me?’” he said. “I did everything I was supposed to do, but it was hard.”
Eventually, Poyer found his rhythm. The competitive genes handed down from his parents played a role. They both were collegiate athletes at Eastern New Mexico University.
“It was just the way of our family,” Poyer said. “Everything we did was competitive and that kind of carried over to sports.”
That drive made it difficult for OSU head coach Mike Riley to redshirt Poyer in his freshman year.
Riley called Poyer into his office as fall camp came to an end, where he asked if Poyer wanted to play instead of being redshirted.
“What do you mean ‘What do I think about that?’ Damn right I want to play,” Poyer remembers telling the coach.
When cornerback Tim Clark fractured his right leg in the Civil War that fall, Poyer shifted from safety to cornerback.
He credits former OSU cornerbacks James Dockery and Brandon Hardin for his success at the position.
Cornerback isn’t a position for the humble.
“You kind of have to play with cockiness, with swagger,” Poyer said. “A lot of people say it’s the hardest position to play in football, other than quarterback obviously, just because you are one-on-one. You get beat and everybody knows it.”
This season, Poyer is playing like an All-American.
Oregon State’s wide receivers practice against Poyer daily, and say they have seen his skills mature.
“As a player, he’s not the fastest, not the most athletic,” said senior wide receiver Markus Wheaton. “His smarts and his aggressiveness are what stand out to me.”
Poyer’s strategic thinking was on show Saturday night, as the Beavers took on Cal. In the first quarter, he made an interception — his sixth this season — look routine.
“I knew exactly what route he was running before he even ran it,” Poyer said. “Whenever you understand what’s coming, you’re able to play a whole lot faster.”
That was one of many highlight-worthy plays in Oregon State’s 48-point victory over the Golden Bears.
In his senior year, Poyer has stepped into a leadership role and fought alongside Wheaton to correct last year’s dismal season.
“He’s a verbal and active leader,” said junior linebacker Michael Doctor. “In the summer time, he made sure everyone was on time for everything, made sure everyone was doing extra lifting, extra running, anything we could do to get better.”
Poyer’s leadership style was largely propelled by his own competitive drive.
“His number one attribute is he is such a competitor,” Riley said. “He does not like to lose, and he practices like that all the time, that’s just his nature.”
“I really think losing hurts a lot more than winning feels good,” he said.
But Poyer is having the best season of his career, tied for second in the nation in interceptions (6) and ranked 24th in passes defended (11).
“I play with just a passion,” Poyer said. “I feel like if you don’t play with emotion, you’re playing dead.”
Poyer lives with three teammates: Doctor, Sean Martin and Kevin Cummings.
Martin says as soon as they get home after a long day of class and practice, the video games commence.
Friendly wagers over Call of Duty and NCAA Football keep the competition alive off the field.
“We’ll bet for push-ups, we’ll bet for who cleans the dishes, we’ll bet for all of that kind of stuff,” Poyer said. “They get pretty heated in the house. Sometimes they turn into wrestling matches.”