March 31, 2011
WATCH: Skip's Interviews About Paul | Fitz's Practice Report (3/31)
By Skip Myslenski
NUsports.com Special Contributor
Matt MacPherson, the 'Cat running backs coach, unearthed him up in Michigan, which is part of his recruiting territory. But Adam Cushing, who tutors the offensive line, was duly impressed when he reviewed the tapes of the young Paul Jorgensen. "He had tremendous feet on high school film. Unbelievable feet," he recalls. "Played tackle in high school and played in an offense where he had to move his feet quite a bit. So we saw it on film."
But films rarely reveal the whole story and never, ever reveal all that can be viewed by the naked eye. So, on that weekend in '09 when the 'Cats played at Michigan State, Cushing left the team hotel and traveled to DeWitt and himself watched Jorgensen perform. "The attitude he played with was just unmistakable," he remembers of that night. "From the stands, I could hear him as a leader. It really stood out."
And what defines that attitude he played with, we wonder.
"It's the willingness and the desire to finish on every single play. And the desire to find somebody to block at the end of every single play. It's irreplaceable."
His name was Dick Stanfel and, back when the Bears won the Super Bowl a quarter-of-a-century ago, he was their offensive line coach. "A mean bastard on the field and a perfect gentleman off," is the way he once described his ideal performer.
"Paul absolutely fits that profile," says Cushing when that description is tossed his way. "He's absolutely one of the best human beings you'll ever meet. But when you get between the white lines, he plays really, really, really hard."
"That's a true statement," head coach Pat Fitzgerald says when he hears the description.
Is that Jorgensen?
"Paul? Yes. But I think we've got quite a few guys who fit that mold. That's the hallmark of an offensive lineman. He steps between the white lines, he's got a mean on. He's just looking to kill everybody. But then they step outside the white lines and they're gentlemen. That starts at the top with Cush. That's the kind of guys we recruit. We want guys with an attitude, that play that style of football, but understand the difference between right and wrong."
It is spring, that time of promise when shoots break through so-recently frozen ground and offer visions of a warmer future filled with an array of colors. There are no guarantees, of course. Nature is too fickle for those. But, still, there is hope.
It is spring, that time of promise when unknown names assert themselves in football practices and offer visions of future falls filled with spectacular success. There are no guarantees, of course. Life is too fickle for those and much can happen between now and then. But, still, there is hope.
It is spring and Paul Jorgensen, a redshirt freshman, is one of those 'Cats who has asserted himself and, with his play, demanded that he be watched. He, in the absence of Doug Bartels (out for the spring following surgery), has slipped into the starting spot at right guard and impressed all with his comportment. "We thought we saw it in high school and now it's coming out. He's got an attitude about him," Fitzgerald says when asked what most stands out about him. "He wants and has a desire to be excellent. He's joined at the hip with (starting left guard) Brian Mulroe. Brian comes in to watch some film, here comes Paul. Brian's doing extra work in the weight room, there goes Paul. So he's got a great work ethic and couple that with his attitude, the sky's the limit for him."
"He's got a great attitude," echoes Cushing. "He shows up everyday willing to work, and he's got that offensive lineman attitude that he's willing to mix it up and go and get after it. You can't replace that. He's got some physical things he needs to get better at. But he can do it with that attitude."
He grew up as a Michigan State fan, but chose the 'Cats over the Spartans and Stanford. He felt, he explained back then, that their spread offense was more conducive to his attributes (quick feet) than the Spartans' power game (which would have demanded he bulk up to 330). He has bulked up, from just under 280 to just under 290, yet is still adjusting to the changes that inevitably face all who play the offensive line.
"Size, speed, power," says Fitzgerald, who chuckles as he enumerates those changes. "You might go weeks without seeing somebody over 250 pounds in high school. Now you don't see one guy under 250 pounds, especially inside. So it's a whole new world, learning how to control your body, learning the fundamentals and techniques and how you have to be right not some of the time, but all of the time. That sense of urgency."
"Just who you're going up against," says Jorgensen himself. "Regular games during the season (in high school), I didn't play many big guys. Here you're going up against the biggest, the best of the best in the Big Ten. Every single day you've got to up your game and play the best you can. I mean, I hardly played against many big guys like I do everyday here. So I had to adjust to how big they are, how fast they are. It's just a big overall adjustment."
Still, he will later say, "It's going well. I'm trying to take advantage of it (his opportunity) the best I can. I'm trying to get better every practice and do what I can to say there."
Now we wonder about his attitude, which both Fitzgerald and Cushing have extolled, and that old description by the Bears' Stanfel.
"I feel I'm a really nice guy off the field," Jorgensen says. "But when you're on the field, it's time for football and you don't get to be a nice guy if you're an offensive lineman. You've got to be tough mentally. You're on the field every single play. Wide receivers, some other guys come off. But you're on the field every single play going up against the biggest guys out there. So you've just got to be tough mentally and know you can get it done."
How does someone get that way?
"You've just got to work on it. It's all mental toughness. You've got to believe in yourself, have confidence. It's a tough thing to do. I'm working on it right now."
We can't, we now tell him, imagine getting up on Saturday mornings and thinking, "Goody. This afternoon I get to crack heads 70 times with some 330 pound beast."
Paul Jorgensen chuckles at that and then, attitude on full display, says: "We love it. We love doing it."
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