CORVALLIS — Jordan Poyer says he is going to turn out for baseball at Oregon State when Pat Casey’s club convenes sometime in late January.
A pitcher and outfielder at Astoria High, Poyer skipped playing baseball for the Beavers last spring, but played with the Corvallis Knights over the summer.
This year, the 5-11, 190-pound sophomore figures he’ll play either center or right field for Casey.
“It’ll be a change,” Poyer says, “but I think I’ll be able to handle it.”
He means playing both baseball and football at the Division I level.
Not many can accomplish such a feat, but Poyer is an exceptional athlete.
Oregon State fans have found that out this fall as the versatile former Astoria star has made his mark on special teams and at cornerback.
In the Beavers’ 36-7 upset of 20th-ranked Southern Cal, Poyer’s electric 65-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter “was the turning point of the game,” teammate Jacquizz Rodgers says.
Poyer first sprang onto the scene against the Trojans as a true freshman a year ago, returning a kickoff 70 yards. He was a regular on OSU’s special teams and a backup safety.
This season, Poyer remains a special-teams stalwart, returning kickoffs and punts and serving as gunner on the punt team. And he’s the third cornerback behind James Dockery and Brandon Hardin.
It’s hard to believe Poyer’s main options were Idaho and Portland State until Oregon State came in with a scholarship offer in December after his senior season at Astoria.
Poyer earned 10 letters at Astoria, starting four years in baseball and three years in both football and basketball. He was a two-time state Class 4A player of the year in baseball, the state 4A player of the year on both offense and defense in football as a senior and the Cowapa League player of the year in basketball. Poyer helped Astoria claim two state baseball titles and one in football.
Though his mother, Julie Poyer, played softball at Oregon State and his grandfather, Lynn Baxter, played basketball with the likes of Mel Counts and Terry Baker at OSU, Jordan had divided loyalty as a youth.
“I grew up both a Beaver and Duck fan,” he says. “I liked both of them.”
Poyer attended Oregon’s summer camp shortly after his junior baseball season, and his arm was tired. Poyer went to the camp as a quarterback, since Astoria employed a spread offense like the Ducks.
“I didn’t do well at all,” he says, “and they stopped looking at me.”
Poyer played cornerback at Oregon State’s camp that summer and caught the eye of OSU cornerbacks coach Keith Heyward.
“I remember him wearing an Astoria jersey with the No. 1,” Heyward says. “He did a good job covering. He showed a lot of football instincts.”
Head coach Mike Riley’s first offer was to grayshirt.
“I thought long and hard about it, then committed,” Poyer says.
Then a spot opened up, and in April — “right before my birthday,” Poyer recalls — Riley called to inform him he would be invited to training camp.
The expectation was to redshirt Poyer in 2009. It became apparent right away the Beavers needed him immediately on special teams.
“James and Jacquizz (Rodgers), they were just ready as true freshmen,” Riley says. “So was Jordan. With some guys, it takes a year to get used to the level of competition. He was just ready.”
“People think I play way older than I really am,” Poyer says. “I feel like I’m a gamer. They brought me here because I can make plays. It’s neat getting onto the field right away.”
Poyer had 154 all-purpose yards against SC including interception, kickoff and punt returns.
“He has good speed, but mostly, he has that ‘it’ factor,” Riley says.
“I try to play smart,” Poyer says. “I don’t have that breakaway speed like James or Markus Wheaton, but I know what the opponent is going to do before he does it.
“And I love having the ball in my hands. Growing up, that’s the way it always was.”
Poyer’s teammates noticed him right away.
“When Jordan first came here, we all saw he’s a natural player — maybe the most natural player on the team,” Dockery says. “Tell him to do anything, he’ll figure it out in time.
“It’s good that he has guys like me and Brandon with him at cornerback, so he doesn’t have to carry the load. He’s able to do what he does best.”
Riley is glad he came to his senses and offered a scholarship. So is Poyer.
“I love Oregon State,” he says. “If Oregon had offered me, it would have made my decision that much tougher, but I have no regrets. I hate the Ducks now. I’m happy with coming here.”