Spencer excels on football field, basketball court, and in the classroom
By Derik Vanderford firstname.lastname@example.org
UNION COUNTY — The determination of a two-sport athlete at Union County High School has garnered him success not only on the field but also in the classroom.
Union County senior Jordan Spencer is a member of the Yellow Jackets football and basketball teams. In relation to the majority of the players on both teams, Jordan was physically smaller, but that did not hinder his focus in the least.
“I’m always undersized, no matter what sport, but I like that,” he said. “You’ve got to out-hustle and out-work people. It makes you work harder when you’re disadvantaged from the start.”
At the beginning of Jordan’s junior year, he was excited about the news of Steve Taneyhill coming in as the new head football coach, but he knew he would have to impress him.
“I was just a little, short kid,” Jordan said, mentioning his senior teammates who were already known for some of their accomplishments.
“I think I impressed him over the summer. He talked about the possibility of me playing both ways. I showed him what I could do with the ball in my hands.”
As a senior, Jordan played both WR and DB, became a team captain, and made All-Region.
Jordan said he believes Coach Taneyhill is one of the top coaches in the state.
“He is a perfectionist, and he demands the best out of his players,” Jordan said. “I have a lot of respect for him, and I am proud to say I got to play for him.”
Coach Taneyhill shared a story to illustrate the type of person Jordan is.
“When I got here two years ago, he was No. 20, and he wanted to change to No. 2,” Taneyhill said. “I told him if you want to be a low number for me, you have to run a 4.5 40. If you run a 4.60, you don’t get No. 2.”
Each player has two attempts to run the 40, and on Jordan’s second attempt, he ran a 4.5, and he was No. 2 from that point on.
“That’s the story about him accepting a challenge,” Taneyhill said. “He was a great player for me and a great leader. That’s who he is.”
Jordan played offense, defense and special teams; he led in interceptions and was third in receiving.
“Yes, he’s small in stature, but he is good in the weight room,” Taneyhill said. “He was fast, and he worked to get faster.”
Jordan said Coach Brian Kemp also made a lasting impression on him. Kemp came on as Jordan’s position coach for his senior year. Jordan said he was nervous when he found out he would have a new position coach. He knew he would have to impress Kemp, who played defensive back at Wofford. Jordan said he and Kemp developed a close relationship over the past year.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” Jordan said. “I felt like I earned his trust as the year went on, and he challenged me every day in practice to be the best.”
Kemp said although he only coached Jordan for a year, Jordan is one of the best players he has ever coached.
“Jordan was a pleasure to coach,” Kemp said. “Jordan played the game how you would want all your players to play, with heart and great effort.”
Jordan said Kemp taught him a lot about football, but also about life in general.
“He is like a big brother to me, and I look at him as a role model,” Jordan said.
“Jordan is in the top of his class academically which is another testament to the type of person he is,” Kemp said. “He is always respectful and always smiling. I was really blessed to have been able to coach him.”
Jordan said even though football is his first love, basketball runs a close second, and he has enjoyed time playing under coaches like Coach Will Hickson and Coach Mitchell Moss.
“I fell in love with basketball as a little boy watching Duke,” Jordan said. “I’ve always been a huge fan of Duke and Coach K. I try to play the game with passion and hustle like Coach K’s teams are known for.”
According to faculty members, Jordan shows that same passion and hustle in the classroom, as he was named to the All-Area Academic Team for both football and basketball. Among the top academic students in his class with a 4.75 grade point average, Jordan’s school days consist of three classes at UCHS (Biology II Honors, AP U.S. History, and Spanish III Honors) and then two classes at USC Union (English 102 and Psychology). In addition, Jordan is a member of the National Honor Society, Arthur State Bank Junior Board of Directors, Interact Club, and Spanish Club.
“Jordan is a super-focused guy and an excellent student,” said UCHS Guidance Director Jim Palmer. “He has always been focused on doing his very best in athletics, but he always kept his eye on the textbooks.”
Palmer said he has never met a young man for whom he has more respect than Jordan, who he said is respectful and willing to take advice.
Jordan’s AP U.S. History teacher Jeanie Malone said Jordan sets an example daily for others.
“Jordan is a hard-working young man who gives a 110 percent to life itself,” Malone said. “He chose to take my Advanced Placement US History and accepted the challenge without complaints while maintaining an A with all of his other classes and extracurricular activities. I have no doubt that success will follow Jordan!”
Jordan said many of his teachers have shown him support, including his 7th grade science teacher Melissa Gregory. Jordan said he did well in Gregory’s class, and she has kept up with him through high school.
Jordan also pointed out that he has received support from those with whom he attends church at Tabernacle Baptist, particularly youth ministers Cyle and Alison Coker.
“They have played a major role in my life; I look at them as spiritual encouragers,” Jordan said. “They’ve kept me on the right path in my relationship with Christ. They constantly remind me of their children — Cade and Hannah Cali — seeing me as a role model, so I strive to be the young man that Cade, Hannah Cali, and other kids can look up to.”
Jordan said most of his encouragement, though, comes from his parents, Jason and Amy Spencer.
“They have a counterbalance going,” Jordan said. “My mama pushes me in the classroom and my daddy pushes me on the field. Both of them are encouragers in everything I do.”
“My mama stays on me about school more than my daddy does,” Jordan added. “Every day when I come home, she asks what homework I’ve got and what tests I have that week. She doesn’t let me slack at all.”
Jordan said his dad — who was a team captain for both the baseball and football teams for Union High School and also All-Area Academic — pushes him in the weight room and gives him tips for improvement. Jordan said his father knows how to motivate him on the field better than anyone.
“He’ll talk junk to me,” Jordan smiled.
Jordan said his dad is proud of his playing time under Coach Shell Dula, the same as he is proud of playing for Taneyhill. Jordan mentioned the week Union County faced Woodruff (and their WR Blake Bone). He said his dad would tease him, saying Bone would get 100 yards on him that week.
“That week, my daddy challenged me, and I think I answered the challenge,” Jordan said. “Bone only had four catches for 42 yards.”
Jordan said that encouragement helped him give good performances against the best receivers in the state, including Bone, Shaq Davidson of Gaffney, and Debo Samuels of Chapman.
“That doesn’t go in the stat book, but it’s something I take pride in because I know they are all D-1 prospects,” Jordan said.
For the future, Jordan is still debating between Presbyterian College and the University of South Carolina. His sights are set on pharmacy school at either institution. He said he believes pharmacy school will provide the best opportunities right out of college. As for collegiate sports, Jordan said as difficult as pharmacy school will be, that question is still up in the air.
Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234.
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