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February 7, 2008

Gordon creates space from foes, but not recruiters

The shoeboxes are stacked neatly beneath Eric Gordon's bed, a constant reminder of what lies ahead for the versatile football standout at Nashville's Hillsboro High School.

Inside the boxes are recruiting letters sent to Gordon's older brother, Jamont Gordon, a coveted hoops prospect four years ago who ultimately chose Mississippi State.

"I was kind of young, but I saw him get tons of letters," Eric Gordon said of his brother. "Under my bed are shoeboxes filled with his letters, and he wore a size 14."

Already a top prospect in 2009 and instantly a focus for several schools in next year's signing class, Eric Gordon stands 5-feet-11-inches and 186 pounds but already has shown Hillsboro coach Scott Blade the ability to play virtually as large as any role dictates. During the Burros' 2007 playoff run, Gordon flashed his supreme skills by playing safety, corner, linebacker, fullback, tailback and wideout. He probably could have been a water boy and sold popcorn if needed.

"I think Eric compares with the best in the country. If the public's not aware of that just yet, it sure will be once the highlight tape gets circulated and news gets passed around," said Hillsboro coach Scott Blade, no stranger to great athletes after winning a state title at Canyon (Calif.) in 2005. "My goodness, he is a terrific athlete. He compares right up there with the best of them. I just made his highlight tape, it's 10-and-a-half minutes, and it's non-stop yikes! He's returning interceptions for touchdowns, kickoffs for touchdowns, punts for touchdowns. He takes a middle screen for a 60-yard touchdown. He's doing it all."

Gordon likewise intends to explore all of his options during his recruiting process.

"I've learned to take all my visits," Gordon said of the just-concluded recruiting frenzy. "Don't jump in the fire too quick. Weigh my options out and make decision I can live with, feel comfortable with and see where I can play at."

Gordon already had earned All-State accolades as a cornerback when it became evident his team needed him to switch positions as a junior. For Gordon, it was a non-issue.

"Most definitely I can play any position, but mostly my team needed me (at safety) and I had to step up," said Gordon, who's seen Phillip Fulmer and Nick Saban, among others, already stop by his high school. "I was All-State at cornerback, but the team needed safety and I had to step up and be the bigger guy. I just kind of had to handle that position."

Deep into the playoffs and knowing Gordon is virtually fearless, particularly when it comes to contact, Blade asked him to play linebacker against a wing-T offense. No problem.

"Talk about being a special athlete and he could play several different positions," Blade said. "We're pretty blessed to have that type of player with those fundamental skills."

But it's accelerating into the second level and getting into space in which Gordon particularly separates himself from others on the field.

"He is amazing in space," said the second-year coach. "To understand space, and spatial awareness, that's something you can't really teach. How to run routes, shirk would-be tacklers you can kind of teach, but just an awareness of space and your body and how they go together, that's what he's real special at. And to say the least, he's not afraid of contact."

For Gordon, he wants to separate himself in the classroom and from previous standout athletes at the suburban Music City school who perhaps didn't recognize their opportunity to influence younger kids.

"Once again, this big brother thing helps out a lot," Gordon said. "I've seen my brother go through a lot of things, and he kind of gave me the inside scoop. You have to play the game inside classroom, and I'm trying to work hard and focus on my ACT. And Coach Blade helped me to know you just go in and do what you've got to do without talking and causing disruption in the class. I didn't believe it at first, but a lot of people look up to us. I'm trying to set an example."

Though he hasn't even compiled a list of front-runners at this point, Gordon did like the example set by Tennessee and its fans last fall for the Georgia game.

"It was great. The stadium was packed, it always is, but it was a great stadium and the fans were great," he said. "I didn't see too much of the campus, but I'd like to go on a visit and just tour the campus. I like Phil Fulmer a lot too. They (the coaches) all seemed nice. They seemed pretty down to earth to me."


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