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Column: Training at home, Jordan McIntyre is showing he’ll be ready when football returns

Receiver Jordan McIntyre of Chaminade has been doing daily workouts at home during quarantine using a backpack and filling it with sand bags, bricks or anything he can find.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Wearing a backpack filled with five sandbags, Jordan McIntyre gets to work in the family driveway of a quiet cul-de-sac in Chatsworth. There’s no music blaring, only the sound of birds chirping. The senior receiver at West Hills Chaminade has been following stay-at-home orders for more than two months, denied the chance to train with teammates or coaches.

He’s been placed on the honor system like hundreds of other high school athletes around Southern California. Their coaches communicate on Zoom and give them workout instructions, but it’s up to the athletes to do the work, and that’s going to be one of the most intriguing story lines of the 2020-21 sports season.

How many athletes are motivated enough to get better when no one is watching? College recruiters can’t wait to see which athletes had the self-motivation, maturity and improvisation skills to find ways to keep improving after months of stay-at-home restrictions.

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McIntyre, 6 feet 1, 185 pounds, could be one of those athletes who bursts ahead of others if there’s a high school football season. He’s been determined to keep building up his strength, size and speed. He’s using bands, sandbags, bricks and other props while doing pushups, stretches, running and lifting on his own. He’s got his third-grade brother, his track coach father and his always enthusiastic mother cheering him on.

“All those DBs better be ready, because I’m coming faster and stronger than last year,” he said.

In a normal year, most football teams would have held spring practices by early June and spent weeks training in the weight room. The COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a halt in early March. Coaches, athletes and parents have been scrambling and improvising. College recruiters lost out on getting the opportunity to visit schools to judge whether someone has gotten bigger or stronger. There’s tension among athletes because of the uncertainty whether there will be a season.

“It’s been pretty tough these past couple of months trying to figure out new ways to work out and get everything done,” he said.

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The smart athletes are the ones controlling what they can control — their bodies. They don’t have a date when they will need to be ready, but if they’re like McIntyre, they’re being determined to keep their options open.

“It’s really a waiting game,” McIntyre said. “A lot of colleges you can talk to, but there’s no way to get out there. You have to play the waiting game, build a relationship through the phone. When all this lifts, you’ll be able to talk to all the coaches comfortably. I already have a lot of colleges saying they’re going to come out and watch me. It’s me preparing now for when they come so I can show them what I’m really able to do.”

The family home at the end of the cul-de-sac gives McIntyre almost his own straightaway to practice running 100 meters. There’s no car traffic, so he can run back and forth safely. He caught 44 passes as a junior and figures to be thrust into a leadership role this fall. He was a freshman when Stanford receiver Michael Wilson was a star for the Eagles.

“Just try to go for what he left. Maybe break a couple records and be the best I can be,” he said.

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The challenges are going to be considerable for everyone involved in trying to restart high school sports.

“Yeah, it’s going to be tough getting back learning new stuff and getting ready for the season, but I have trust in the coaches they’re going to teach us fast and teach us well,” he said.

So there’s going to be a season?

“I think there’s going to be a season,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be pushed back or start on time. I just want to have a season.”


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