The 171/2 sacks as a senior in high school couldn't convince him. The mockery he made of post-practice sprints at Cal didn't do the trick. Chasing down running backs before they could turn the corner wasn't a strong enough selling point.
For whatever reason, it took former Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan a little longer than everyone around him to realize he had a gift. When he finally did, he put himself in position to buy a lot of gifts.
Jordan is expected to be among the top 20 picks during Thursday's first round of the NFL draft. That will mark the culmination of a maturation process that turned an innocent, fun-loving 18-year-old into a grown-up.
"It's been a progression over my college career," Jordan said. "I came in as a goofball. I'm not a kid anymore. After a couple of years, there was still time to play around, but I knew I had to get serious."
Jordan admitted that during his first two years of college he probably didn't take practice seriously enough, something that gnawed at former Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory. After a strong second half to his sophomore season in 2008, it seemed a foregone conclusion Jordan would start as a junior. But Gregory demoted him to the second team for part of training camp because he felt Jordan wasn't practicing hard enough.
Jordan ultimately was in the starting lineup and put together strong junior and senior seasons. Overshadowed by former first-round pick Tyson Alualu as a junior, Jordan became one of the Pac-10's most feared defenders last season, registering 121/2 tackles for loss and 51/2 sacks. He then dazzled NFL personnel evaluators at the Senior Bowl and NFL combine, putting him firmly in the first round.
"He gives you a lot of scheme versatility," ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said. "He had a great year, a great Senior Bowl and a great combine. If Cameron Jordan went in the top 10, nobody would rip that pick based on the way he played and how he performed at the two key venues."
Jordan, the son of former Pro Bowl tight end Steve Jordan of the Minnesota Vikings, had a handful of major offers coming out of Chandler (Ariz.) High. But it was apparent after a few days of training camp of his freshman season that he had a special brand of athleticism. The first time the Bears ran sprints after practice, Jordan left the rest of the defensive linemen about 50 yards behind him.
"When we recruited him, we knew that he was very athletic. But to see his ability to run for a big guy, it was pretty amazing," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "We had to take him out of the sprints with the D-linemen and put him with the running backs because that's how he ran. He was bored running with everybody else."
Jordan's potential got him in the playing rotation as a true freshman, and he earned a starting spot during his sophomore year after Rulon Davis got hurt. Jordan showed off-and-on flashes of his enormous potential, like when he earned Pac-10 Player of the Week as a sophomore after registering two sacks and a forced fumble against Arizona State.
Partly because of his own revelations and partly thanks to guidance from Alualu, Jordan began turning himself into a legitimate NFL prospect as a junior.
"For a long time, I was always Steve Jordan's kid," Jordan said. "I always heard Cameron Jordan could be great, that I had so much potential. That was the story of my life. Everybody else had high expectations for me. I was just enjoying life. It just took awhile for it to sink in."
NFL scouts have raved about Jordan's versatility, that a combination of size (6-foot-4, 287 pounds) and athleticism (4.74 40-yard dash) make him suited to play inside or outside along the defensive line. Kiper rates Jordan as the 13th-best overall prospect, while several mock drafts have Jordan following his father and going No. 12 to Minnesota.
"He gives a defense a lot of flexibility," said Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who has served stints as defensive coordinator in the NFL with Arizona and Kansas City. "They can use him in a lot of different positions because he's such a good athlete. Cam is an extremely bright player and has a very good intellect for the game. He loves to play the game."