Penn State's Jordan Stout Sets a Course for the NFL

Mark Wogenrich

When he entered the NCAA transfer portal after the 2018 season, Virginia Tech kicker Jordan Stout didn't know what to expect from that wilderness. Would any school be interested? Interested enough to offer a scholarship?

Within two hours, Penn State made its pitch. Stout ultimately accepted, calling it "one of the best decisions I've ever made," and now he's looking forward to a return trip to Blacksburg in another uniform.

When Penn State visits Virginia Tech in September, Stout will be kicking against former teammates two hours from home. He can't wait.

"I'm excited to go to their house," he said. "My old place and play with my new team."

After a breakout season in 2019, Stout emerges as one of the most versatile, and interesting, players on Penn State's 2020 roster. The redshirt junior returns as a touchback specialist (he had 12 against Idaho alone) who can hit field goals from long range. Stout set the Penn State record with a 57-yarder against Pitt.

This season, Stout likely will add two more disciplines. He is the top contender to replace punter Blake Gillikin and also is set to hold for fellow kicker Jake Pinegar (and vice versa).

It's all part of Stout's plan to make himself as marketable as possible for an NFL career. Which isn't a path he saw before him at Virginia Tech.

Like many college kickers, Stout got his start in soccer. He had a skill for striking the ball with power, which the high-school quarterback noticed. During a ninth-grade soccer practice, the quarterback asked Stout whether he could make a 40-yard field goal. Stout did, became a three-time all-state kicker in Virginia and walked on at Virginia Tech.

Stout grew up in Cedar Bluff, a small town in western Virginia where the Hokies are the team of choice (Tennessee is second, he said). Stout had a successful season at Virginia Tech in 2018, ranking fourth in the nation in touchback percentage (84.5 percent), but said he didn't see a path to stretch further in the program. That led him to the transfer portal.

"I felt like I couldn't pursue my dream of the NFL there," Stout said.

Penn State and Arkansas quickly made scholarship offers, easing a process that Stout called stressful but ultimately "eye-opening." He accepted Penn State's offer, pronouncing himself "all-in."

"Because once I commit to a team," Stout said, "I'm there."

He quickly became a fan favorite by booting kickoffs through the end zone. He finished the regular season with 58 touchbacks and a 78.4 touchback percentage that ranked fourth in the FBS.

In the opener against Idaho, Stout also made a 53-yard field goal that was the team's longest in six years. Two weeks later, Stout launched himself into Penn State legend with his record-setting, 57-yard field goal against Pitt. It was a kick for which Stout lobbied.

"I went up to [the coaches] and said, 'Hey, let me kick this, let me kick this,' and they let me," Stout said. "And after that happened, I really feel like that boosted their confidence. And I'm so thankful they gave me the opportunity, because it's not like that everywhere."

Joe Lorig, Penn State's second-year special teams coordinator, had a recruiting dilemma last year. Should he pursue a scholarship punter to replace Gillikin or lean on his current roster, with Stout topping that list?

During a conference call this spring, Lorig said that some of the nation's top scholastic punters had attended camps at Penn State last year. But none fit. Meanwhile, Lorig had plenty of confidence in Stout eventually becoming the full-time punter.

"It turns out that, in watching Jordan through the fall and through the summer last year, we wouldn't have gotten a punter who's better than him anyway," Lorig said. "I don't think there will be any question that Jordan is good enough to fill in for Blake."

Stout is intent on becoming the sort of "combo guy" NFL coaches like to employ. He predicted that his best route to a professional contract is by being effective at multiple disciplines. That's why he is stressing punts this offseason.

"I think the best way for me to make it to the NFL is exactly what I'm doing now: punting, kicking off and kicking long field goals just to show NFL teams that I can do all three," he said.

As he moves toward training camp, Stout will be careful to manage his workouts, limit his kicking and not overstressing the leg. Lorig called that even more of a priority this season, especially if Stout becomes the full-time punter.

Turns out, as Lorig said, that quick scholarship offer to Stout proved quite valuable for Penn State in several ways.

"He's very talented, and I'm really thankful that we took him last year," Lorig said. "We really took him as a kicker. But because he's such a good combo guy, it allowed us to not panic and be patient and make great decisions [in recruiting]."

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