It was a day of firsts for Jordan Stanton.

Early in the second quarter on Saturday, Wyoming held a slim 7-0 lead over Northern Colorado.

On third down and one from his own 34-yard-line, Northern Colorado quarterback Seth Lobato tossed a pass to his right, which cornerback Tim Hayes arrived at simultaneously with the receiver and tipped high into the air.

Stanton, making his second start at middle linebacker, found the football -- and a plethora of obstacles separating him from the end zone 39 yards away.

None of that mattered, though. In his head, he already knew.

“I was excited, because I knew I was going to take it to the crib," Stanton said with a big smile after the game. "As soon as I saw that ball get tipped, I don’t know, my eyes were bigger than they ever have been before.”

The junior college transfer snagged the ball out of the air and took off, as the student section inside War Memorial Stadium rose to its feet and took its decibel level a notch higher. His defensive teammates became makeshift blockers, knocking Bears out of the path of the rumbling 246-pounder.

The high school running back, fullback and tight end broke one tackle after another, shrugging off a pair of hands that had latched onto his shoulder pads before cutting back to his right.

He zigged in and out of traffic, as if he were a video game player being controlled by someone with far too much free time.

Finally, the return culminated with a spin move at around the 10-yard line that freed Stanton from the last few capable pursuers.

After the game, Stanton was asked if he knew that he had all of those moves in his arsenal. The junior replied that he could have taken it even further, if necessary.

“I just knew I was going to score. Nobody was going to stop me," Stanton said. "Even if I had to do a backflip, spin around, whatever I had to do to get in the end zone, that’s what I was planning to do.”

In all, he traveled about 60 yards vertically and laterally to complete the 39-yard return. Finally reaching the end zone, Stanton dropped the ball and raised his hands into the air.

In a moment of glory, all he really wanted was a respirator.

“I was tired, I’m not even going to lie," he said. "I was trying to get to that bench and sit down.”

Like his path to being named a starter, it was a difficult journey, but he had arrived.

Stanton, who transferred from Los Angeles Pierce Community College to Wyoming prior to the season, entered the fall as senior Devyn Harris' backup.

Harris was established, touting 120 career tackles and four years of experience heading into the season opener at Nebraska.

Once the ball was snapped, though, the stats washed away.

Stanton outperformed Harris in Lincoln, racking up eight tackles and two tackles for loss in a hostile environment on the road.

He earned his first Division I start a week later against Idaho, picking up seven more tackles. But all the firsts came on Saturday.

First Division I sack. First Division I touchdown. First interception return for a score on any level -- ever.

All those firsts are the reason Stanton is starting.

“Jordan’s played well all year for us, and that’s why he played himself into a starting position," UW coach Dave Christensen said. "We’re really pleased with the way he played [Saturday]."

After his team-leading 12-tackle performance, Stanton was the last one to leave Jonah Field, walking slowly as if he was still tired from the interception.

As he passed through the arch underneath War Memorial Stadium's video board, a kid half his size leaned over the side railing to slap his hand.

"I liked your pick six, man!" the kid yelled, as Stanton shook his hand and thanked him. He then continued wandering down the path toward the locker room, soon to meet up with his mother, father, grandmother and sister, who had all traveled to Laramie to watch him play.

He smiled.

There had been a lot of firsts, but certainly not lasts.

Reach reporter Mike Vorel at Mike.Vorel@trib.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeVorel.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.