Mountie star Jordan Botel fights his way through a group of Laval defenders as he pushes for extra yards in yesterday's Uteck Bowl game in Sackville. Laval downed the Mounties by a score of 48-21. DOHERTY PHOTO
The young man who has been running on high octane fuel every time he stepped on the field for the Mount Allison Mounties over the past two seasons is a totally different personality in the classroom or in discussing various points of view as he demonstrates a pragmatic thinking process while searching for an appropriate response.
Jordan Botel literally carried the Mounties on his shoulders during the entire 2012 campaign and also for much of the past season in leading the team to the Atlantic Conference championship and a date with Laval in the Uteck Bowl.
Prior to the team finding an aerial attack the powerful native of Prince George,. B. C., was a one-man force, being called upon time after time to grind out yardage against some tough defenses. It was his bull-like rushes that allowed the Mounties to gain some respect a year ago as they posted a 3-5 record following a disastrous previous season and this year they ended with an overall mark of 6-6. This was based on a 4-4 season performance, a 2-1 playoff record combined with an exhibition loss.
"Jordan Botel has been a rock in our program," says head coach Kelly Jeffrey. "He's as complete a back as I've ever had - he can run, catch, protect and was excellent in ball security. His durability is incredible and over the course of the last two seasons, he went 16 games without a fumble while leading the country in carries each year.‚ÄĚ
During his two campaigns he had 461 carries for 2,051 yards to easily lead the nation in attempts.
Jeffrey notes that Botel had the ability to drive piles and make yards out of runs where there weren't holes was unmatched.
"His consistency and nose for the goal line will be difficult to replace," says the head coach, pointing out that Botel has used up his eligibility under the most recent ruling that was put into effect by the CIS.
During the past campaign Botel carried the ball 236 times for 1,060 yards and did not have a single fumble. During the early part of the 2012 campaign he lost the ball three times but that stopped suddenly when he shedded his quarterbacks padding for that of a tailback.
"The new pads allowed me to protect the ball much better and I also used practices to work on keeping control and it all paid off, even against Laval whose players come at you with one goal in mind, to steal the ball."
Unfortunately, the finest running back to carry the ball for the Mounties since the great Eric Lapointe will not be rejoining the Mounties in 2014. Under the CIS regulations he will have reached the age of 25 in the new year, which makes him ineligible. Such a rule earlier would have prevented such stars as Gary Ross and Kelly Hughes from helping revive the Mountie program.
Botel played two seasons with his high school team in Prince George and took a year off to attend the College of New Westminister. Then he toiled for four seasons with the strong Vancouver Island Raiders in junior ball.
During this period he was considering continuing his education and received offers from several schools including UBC but Jeffrey convinced him to visit the Mount Allison campus and he says the reception given by the entire team convinced him this was the place to be ‚Äď and he has never regretted his decision.
Meanwhile, athletic director Pierre Arsenault says Botel "reflected the type of individual we want to build our program around", and he says his ability as a tailback has allowed the team to develop in other areas.
And defensive coordinator Scott Brady weighed in with the comment that Botel not only brings tremendous talent with perfect balance "he runs low, is really tough to knock off his feet and never fumbles."
At 5'11" and 195 pounds Botel is relatively small for his position and definitely for the records he has established but he says it his amazing balance and powerful legs that have allowed him to carry hordes of tacklers for good gains. Throughout his two seasons here he has been used to run between the tackles and, at times, it hasn't been easy as it was necessary to rebuild almost an entire offensive line.
‚ÄúWe tried a few plays to the outside but they never seemed to work properly so we stuck to grinding it out and after our aerial game came around it was a whole lot easier."
Asked if there was a single incident or moment that was responsible for the sudden emergence by the Mounties from a dismal 1-4 record to a fantastic five game winning streak, the veteran back may have been more forthcoming that others.
"Every player looked at the scoreboard and decided if we wanted to play another day we had better start winning." he says, but he really credits the sudeen emergence of one man as the key.
Botel says quarterback Brendan Leyh returned from a bad game with a new determination and maturity to lead the team to its surprising success.
‚ÄúLeyh always had a rifle for an arm," he says, and after he shook off some early blues, came on to lead us with some great passing and rarely threw an interception. He just raised his game to a totally new level."
And Botel should know - he was the last man providing protection for Leyh and the one the signal caller turned to whenever things became a little unraveled.
The two-time All Conference selection and second team All-Canadian in 2013 believes the Mountie program should continue successfully in his absence. Pointing to a strong defense that should be returning all dozen players as well as an offense that has had another year of experience he believes the picture is rosy. With Leyh having moved to a new level and with a strong corps of receivers due to return he sees no reason the team should not return as conference champs. Of course, he knows that the coaches must never let up and need to recruit strongly, pointing out how this is the way championships are won.
A quick check of the website shows the Mounties have signed a 6'5", 295 lineman and a quick defensive back and Arsenault says he believes at least two more strong recruits have been inked.
So what lies in the future for a football hero who has won the admiration of football fans for his tremendous contribution to the game over two years in Garnet and Gold?
Much is still up in the air but Jordan Botel, who is working on his BA, thinks he will continue in an environmental studies program. One thing for certain, he will take a year off from football regardless of what opportunities might be presented.
There definitely are not many backs with the skill and power of Jordan Botel and his dominance will be missed as the Mounties move on without him but he will never be forgotten - you can count on that.