As a young boy, Jordan Wilmore was so chubby his flag football coach put him at center. As a 5-year-old, the first time he got to carry the football was on an interception and he ran the wrong way.
“You have 30-something parents screaming and hollering,” said his father, Romalice, one of the coaches. “I’m pointing, ‘Go this way,’ and he took off.”
Wilmore is still running away from defenders. He has become the star junior running back for Lawndale, which is 3-0 going into a nonleague road game on Friday night against San Pedro.
This season, Wilmore rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns against Ventura St. Bonaventure. Then came 261 yards and five touchdowns against Encino Crespi. And last week, he had 232 yards and four touchdowns against neighborhood rival Leuzinger.
“He’ll be the best running back on the West Coast,” coach Travis Clark said. “He’s got power, strength, speed, the work ethic, incredible vision, great hands. He’s an all-around back and he wants to play on Sundays.”
Last season, in a playoff game against Fontana Summit and future USC running back Stephen Carr, Wilmore rushed for 325 yards in 39 carries and scored four touchdowns in Lawndale’s 38-14 win.
St. Bonaventure coach Tony Henney said of Wilmore, “I thought he was the real deal — fast, great vision, tough, a real D1 running back.”
Listed at 5 feet 9, 188 pounds, Wilmore began his high school career at Gardena Serra as a freshman.
“I loved him,” Serra coach Scott Altenberg said. “He was going to be our guy.”
Except Wilmore decided to leave for Lawndale, and now the Cardinals have a player everyone must deal with.
“The life of a running back is you have to have a lot of vision,” Wilmore said. “You have to be calm running the ball. You have to have great instincts.”
And you have to be ready for the aches, pains and bruises on Saturday morning.
“Man, I’m sore,” he said about his routine. “I’m not going to lie, but in the offseason, I did a lot of weightlifting, making sure my body was right.
“Strength is important because if you don’t have strength, you’re going to get hurt. And if you don’t have speed, you can’t break away from defenders.”
Wilmore ran for the track team on its league championship relay team last spring trying to improve his speed. Aided by a solid offensive line, he makes it difficult for teams to stop him. And he loves running with the ball.
“Scoring, breaking long runs, breaking tackles, stiff-arming people — that’s the fun part,” he said.
Now that he’s a marked player, things are not going to get any easier. That’s fine with Wilmore. As expectations rise, he’ll be ready to deliver.
“I like to prove people wrong,” he said.