On and off of the field...
The first big hurdle came when he lost his father in a car crash in 1992. Jaydan and his older brother Jordan were in the car with their father at the time. Jaydan suffered a broken collarbone and Jordan was left paralyzed from the waste down.
His mother Kristy not only had to pick up the pieces of her own life, but she had to be strong for her two sons. And what a job she did.
Jordan would receive a scholarship to the University of Arizona to compete on a track team for students in wheelchairs and Jaydan will begin his career at the University of Oklahoma in January.
Jaydan acknowledges that his mother has been the driving force in his life and her dedication helped him earn the opportunity to play linebacker at OU.
“Since I was little she has always pushed me hard,” Bird said with strong emotions ringing through in his voice. “Since I was in the third grade she has been pushing me the whole time to make sure that I could be the best athlete that I could be. She never let me stop trying. She has really pushed me and helped shape me in to what I am today.”
Kristy had a lot on her plate, but Jaydan said that she has never allowed him to miss a single practice or game. She always made the time for her son.
“She took me here and she took me there,” Bird acknowledged. “No matter what was going on. She made sure she got me where I needed to be.”
“She has been the biggest positive in my life.”
After his sophomore year of high school Bird began working with trainer Brian Butler, who runs a training organization based out of Wichita called Potential Players.
Butler has trained numerous division one college athletes and has become extremely close with the Bird family, and Jaydan knows Butler deserves credit for his achievements as well.
“He has been there for me and has been a father figure,” Bird pointed out.
“In his program we work on footwork, speed, and technique. His program helps turn us in to the best athletes that we can be. We work on the fundamentals and stuff like that to maximize our skill level.”
Butler deferred all of the credit to his Bird’s mother.
“Her story as a mother is one of the most unbelievable stories that I have ever heard,” Butler relayed. “With the successes of her sons and what they are doing in life and in the classroom is phenomenal. I think her families story is going to be on Oprah one day.”
“It is a great tribute to her. She has a great, great young man. I know she is the main cog for Jaydan. Her work and her energy is a great inspiration for him. She ain’t no joke!”
Bird’s adversity on the field came in the form of a major injury.
After starting at Andover Central as a freshman and sophomore he broke his left ankle the fourth game in to his junior year.
“Yeah, it was really hard,” Bird said of the injury. “It was really stressful. I wanted to help the team and I wanted to show everybody that I had developed even more. And I was hoping for a huge year. I thought that I lost my shot at a scholarship.”
While a broken ankle is not a career ending type of injury it could definitely be career altering for a player in a small Kansas town.
It is challenge in and of itself to make it to the D1 level, but an injury in your key developmental year is more often than not catastrophic on the recruiting front.
Butler said it was the way that he approached training after the injury that made the difference.
You could probably say that he has some of his mom’s strength pumping in his veins.
“He worked tirelessly,” Butler reminisced. “He was always working out in that cast. I taped his workouts at that time and I actually use his tapes for motivation for some of the younger guys that are working through injuries.”
“He did every single thing you could possibly do. He worked every thing from his right leg to his upper body. It was as hard as I have ever seen anybody work, especially injured. It was a break through for him because he saw that it is constant work that gets you to that success point and part of it is patience as well. He is a very high-strung individual and I think it taught him some patience.”
“Jaydan’s story should be motivation for everybody,” Butler continued. “It shows that an injury is not the end. If you work your butt off then you can still make it. The rehab is even more important than the training you were doing before.
“And if he did not do it I don’t think we would be seeing Jaydan Bird at Oklahoma. He got an offer from OU without even having any real film.”
For Bird the injury was a wake up call. He realized quickly that he better take full advantage of the time he has left out on the field.
“It really did show me that football is not everything and that I cannot slack or take anything for granted,” Bird stated. “I can’t mess around anymore and I have to focus the entire time, because it can all be gone in an instant.”
Bird’s senior season went much smoother. He transferred from Andover Central to Conway Springs High and he helped lead the team to a State Title.
“I felt like the transfer really benefited me,” said Bird who rushed for over 2,000 yards and rarely left the field. “The school I transferred to is full tilt on football. Everything is based around football.”
“It is a small town, but the community supports the school really well. It is really nice. It is kind of like a college atmosphere on how they live football. They have die-hard fans and die-hard players and that really helped me a lot to motivate me to be the best I could be.”
Bird racked up some impressive offers from schools like Kansas, Kansas State, Miami (FL), but an offer from the Sooners would be the one he would accept.
“I did not know from the beginning that I would be a Sooner,” Bird answered honestly when asked if he was an OU lock from the start. “I did not know who I was going to choose.”
“I started going down there (to Norman) more and more. I started talking to coach (Brent) Venables and coach (Bob) Stoops more and more and I just felt more and more comfortable. I just felt like that was the place that I needed to be.”
“I liked all of the players,” he continued. “They are all cool and I like the way that Coach Venables coaches. He is really verbal and he really gets after you. He pushes you real hard to your maximum and he has developed some really great linebackers. That played a big factor in my decision.”
Players that have participated in Butler’s training program are playing at major college programs throughout the country, but he would not recommend Oklahoma to all of them.
He has seen how the program works up close and he knows that it takes extreme dedication to succeed in the Sooner program, and he says Bird has the mentality to excel there.
“Not everyone can cut it at a school like OU,” Butler explained. “Jaydan has that type of work ethic. He can get the job done. I know that his personality will fit in perfectly with the personality of Jerry Schmidt (OU Director of Sports Enhancement). He is going to turn Jaydan in to an absolute monster. Jaydan will always be the first guy to show up at work outs and he will do whatever the coaching staff asks of him.”
“The players at these colleges are monsters,” added Bird. “They are huge. Going to the OU campus and seeing these guys just makes you want to work even harder. You have to think about your future and what you can do. It makes you think that if I work hard now that it will benefit you in the future and then in turn you may have the chance to play even earlier.”
Butler believes that Bird could remind a lot of Sooner fans of one of the very best linebackers to don a crimson and cream jersey.
“I think Rocky Calmus is a very good comparison for Jaydan,” Butler began. “If I was to compare him to any one Oklahoma player that I have watched in the recent years then Calmus would exactly be the guy that I would compare him to.”
“You watch. He will be something really special.”
Note: This story originally appeared in the February, 2009
issue of Sooners Illustrated
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