“Undersized. Slow. Not athletic.”
Those words greet former Nebraska wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp every time he logs on to Twitter. They’re pinned to the top of his account as a reminder of what he’s heard about himself so many times throughout his football career. Instead of being defeated by those words, he uses them as motivation.
“I’m someone that likes to prove people wrong,” Westerkamp said. “I was told I wouldn’t amount to anything in high school and I went and broke pretty much all of the state records and almost the [Nebraska records in] college. I had a great career at Nebraska and a great experience, so it’s how I’ve always been.
“I’m super motivated so when I see those things, I really enjoy proving people wrong.”
Since graduating from Nebraska, Westerkamp has been set on doing just that. When he wasn’t selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, he made the best of a tryout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When they didn’t sign him, he made his way to Cleveland for another opportunity until a tweaked right hamstring prevented him from finishing the camp. After that? Miami.
Westerkamp remains unsigned, but still has faith. Back in Chicago from his Miami tryout, he’s using the experiences and feedback from each team to get better. He knows his phone could ring at any moment.
The Buccaneers, for example, weren’t in a position to sign a wide receiver after the minicamp. They liked Westerkamp quite a bit and offered a lot of positive feedback, but the timing wasn’t right. If the situation changes, Westerkamp is on their emergency list.
As for Miami, Westerkamp worked out last week with a small group of receivers looking for an opportunity just like him. The Dolphins ended up selecting someone a little bigger than Westerkamp, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost.
“I was able to meet with the coaches and talk with the general manager and they said really good things,” Westerkamp said. “I just have to stay in shape. I mean, I could end up back there in a week.”
Many would give up in Westerkamp’s position. It’s not easy being turned down over and over, but the wide receiver goes back to the words he’s always heard: “Undersized. Slow. Not athletic.”
“I’ve been hearing my entire career that from high school to college and now college to the NFL,” Westerkamp said. “It’s all been the same comments. I’m not big enough, not fast enough, not athletic enough. I just laugh at that.”
Westerkamp has every right to laugh at the criticism after the mark he left on the Nebraska football program. A quick glance at his Nebraska bio page highlights accomplishment after accomplishment. A two-year team captain, Westerkamp ended his college career with 167 receptions for 2,474 yards and 18 receiving touchdowns, placing him in the school’s career top 5 in each category. His time was also marked by impressive catches that earned him awards and recognition from the Big Ten and ESPN.
He knows he could give up, but that’s not how he operates. He comes from a family of hard workers. He often turns to his parents for support and motivation, which both are happy to provide.
“[My dad] actually had a career-ending [football] injury, so he knows all about the injury thing as well,” Westerkamp said. “He’s a guy I always looked up to and could talk to and he’s super motivating. It’s the same with my mom. She’s super successful. She loves what she does and she takes a lot of crap sometimes in her job.
“It’s just two people that I really look up to and I love them to death. They’re very motivating and I’m really fortunate that they’re my parents.”
With his family by his side, Westerkamp continues to wait for the right opportunity to come. He has plans for his future if football doesn’t work out, but he’s not yet ready to go down that path. He loves football too much to think otherwise.
“Football has always been a part of my life and I love playing football,” Westerkamp said. “It’s my love for the game. I know I can do it. It’s just a matter of finding the right opportunity and the right timing. After getting feedback and talking to people, I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll end up somewhere soon.”
The next time Westerkamp logs on to Twitter, he’ll see those words again. “Undersized. Slow. Not athletic.” But those aren’t the only words he’s greeted by. He’s added three more of his own.
“Prove them wrong.”