After a devastating injury befell Shea Patterson, Ole Miss fans witnessed backup junior quarterback Jordan Ta’amu throw his first passes on the Division I stage last Saturday. He went 7 for 11 passing and led his only two drives of the game to a total of 10 points. It was an intriguing performance, but it was limited.
Normally, a quarterback does not make his debut as a junior. In Shea Patterson’s case, he stepped up for the first time as a true freshman and immediately cemented his place as a starter. However, Ta’amu has not simply been sitting behind Ole Miss quarterbacks, waiting for the day that he will get to take a snap in a game. In fact, he’s been tearing up college defenses since 2015.
Born Dec. 10, 1997, in Pearl City, Hawaii, Ta’amu grew up idolizing a fellow Hawaiian: current Tennessee Titan and former Oregon Duck Marcus Mariota. According to Ta’amu, his friends and teammates call him Marcus and he has always hoped to play like him. He was a standout quarterback for Pearl City High School, where he was named All-State and the Division II Offensive Player of the Year. He earned the achievements after a stellar senior year in which he threw for 1,779 yards with a touchdown to interception ratio of 29 to 4. He was just as explosive on the ground, rushing for 392 yards and two touchdowns that same year.
Rated a three-star prospect, Ta’amu decided to play junior college football at the New Mexico Military Institute. At NMMI, his performance greatly exceeded expectations. After a quiet freshman year, his sophomore season saw him throw for 3,014 yards and 32 touchdowns while rushing for 328 yards and seven touchdowns in just nine games. His outstanding season sat him as the No. 99 overall player in junior college football and No. 4 among quarterbacks. It also earned him the title of 2016 Southwest Junior College Football Conference Player of the Year as well as All-Region and All-SWJCFC honors.
Having received several other Division I offers after his 2016 JUCO season, Ta’amu decided to commit to the University of Mississippi on Dec. 10, 2016.
“From the moment I set foot on campus, I knew this was the place for me,” he said shortly after committing. “My family and I kept praying that God would show us the way and what school I was meant to go to, and today, he answered my prayers.”
Now, after calmly stepping up and filling Patterson’s shoes last Saturday against LSU, Ta’amu will have his first full game as an SEC starting quarterback at home against the Arkansas Razorbacks. However, heading offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s playbook, full of intricate schemes and details, is not easy. Arriving on campus prior to spring football, Ta’amu has had the time to learn the system and believes his stint under Patterson was a benefit.
“I was still learning more in August, to be honest,” Ta’amu said. “Just sitting behind Shea and watching him in the games and practices taught me a lot. I learned a lot of from him, and now I just have to apply it to the field.”
Appearing cool and prepared in front of the media, he has made it clear he feels nothing but excitement and readiness for the biggest test of his football career.
“Everything is a lot faster. Everyone is a lot bigger and faster and all of that,” he said, smiling. “I believe I have it, though.”