Trying again on it, there have been numerous occasions the place Jordan Dangerfield’s soccer profession may have ended. Occasions the place it in all probability ought to have. His faculty’s soccer program was minimize months after he arrived. He went undrafted, launched extra occasions than he may depend, and missed one entire 12 months after struggling an early-season damage.
However he by no means counted himself out. By no means gave up. He’s made it eight years within the league. And he doesn’t imagine his journey has come to a detailed but.
Dangerfield wasn’t a blue-chip, can’t-miss prospect popping out of highschool. There was no recruiting frenzy. He had three provides: Florida Worldwide, UMass, and Hofstra. And shortly, that record narrowed down to 2.
“I had a suggestion from FIU,” Dangerfield tells me in a current interview. “FIU, they needed me to play nook. I suppose I took too lengthy to really decide to go there. So that they ended up pulling the scholarship really, like proper after my senior season.”
That left UMass and Hofstra. He settled on Hofstra. Although he grew up in Florida, he was born in Elmont, New York, and Hofstra was only a quick drive from there.
The possibility to play instantly, too, was engaging. And he did play. Dangerfield appeared in eight video games, making one begin, and completed the 12 months with 23 tackles. Not a season to jot down residence about, however a strong begin for a freshman.
Then, he acquired a textual content. The entire soccer group did.
Pressing group assembly.
He and his teammates went to their soccer facility. Out of nowhere, they had been knowledgeable Hofstra was disbanding its 73-year-old soccer program.
“They stunning a lot mentioned, as an alternative of canceling six or seven applications, they simply selected to cancel soccer program for cash functions. And that they’re going to finish the soccer program.”
Gamers got two decisions. Stick with Hofstra and end out their lecturers, or they might switch and be on their very own. In that second, Dangerfield thought his soccer profession was over. It was onerous sufficient to discover a faculty popping out of highschool. Now, on the final minute, he needed to begin the method throughout. However with some faculty expertise, he really had extra choices this time round. Towson College pushed the toughest to convey him in.
“They actually had a coach there a minimum of each different day, driving up from Towson to Hofstra. Which needed to be wherever from a 4 to five-hour drive. So they’d anyone right here. They’d anyone speaking to me on a regular basis or calling me on a regular basis. They really got here in and picked me up by automotive and drove me again to Towson. They had been simply shifting the quickest and speaking essentially the most enterprise.”
Towson was on the lookout for a security. Dangerfield was on the lookout for a house. So he dedicated.
They had been a program in transition. Within the three years previous to his arrival in 2010, the Tigers went a mixed 8-26. Issues weren’t higher in his first 12 months on campus. In reality, they had been worse. This system bottomed out in 2010, successful only one recreation.
However Dangerfield was an instantaneous starter. And, he helped create a fast turnaround. The following 12 months, they received 9 video games and made the FCS playoffs earlier than narrowly shedding to Lehigh. In 2012, his ultimate season, Towson went 7-4. The 12 months after he graduated, they beat UConn, defeating their first ever FBS group, and ended the 12 months within the FCS Championship Sport.
By then, Dangerfield had eyes set on enjoying professionally. Regardless of strong testing, together with an attention grabbing 41.5-inch vertical, his small faculty standing labored towards him, and he went undrafted. Buffalo signed him as an undrafted free agent and carried him by way of camp earlier than releasing him at ultimate cutdowns. He wasn’t provided a spot on the apply squad, making him a avenue free agent, ready and praying for a telephone name which will by no means come. But when it did, Dangerfield knew he needed to be prepared. He labored out twice a day, 5 days every week, for all the fall and winter in case a group needed to convey him in.
It took till January 2014. However Pittsburgh gave him a shot.
“I used to be scared. I used to be in form. I used to be figuring out every single day, Monday by way of Friday, two occasions a day, just about the entire season. So I used to be ready for the second. Which [looking back], I actually recognize that. If I might’ve mentioned, ‘Nah, I’m attempting to maneuver on,’ I may not have been ready. I had an amazing exercise and so they ended up signing me.”
Dangerfield was again within the NFL. However the onerous half was simply starting. He was inked to a futures deal, one among 90 gamers on the roster, with no assure he’d be on the roster the subsequent day. The Steelers may signal one other free agent to push him off the roster. A draft choose may take his job or soccer enterprise and politics may have him again on the road.
That’s what Dangerfield shortly came upon. The following 18 months was a sequence of handing over his playbook and getting it again. Right here’s the way it appears within the transactions log.
January tenth, 2014: Signed
August twenty sixth, 2014: Launched
November fifth, 2014: Signed
December ninth, 2014: Launched
January eighth, 2015: Signed
July twenty fourth, 2015: Launched
August eighth, 2015: Signed
September fifth, 2015: Launched
September sixth, 2015: Signed
It’s not fairly Ross Ventrone ranges of roster yo-yo’ing. However that feeling of by no means being safe weighs heavy, too.
“It’s onerous. It’s undoubtedly a thoughts recreation. I believe loads of of us will let you know that after they get to the NFL. The entire thing is extra psychological, actually, than bodily. It’s extra of a psychological recreation. Even enjoying within the recreation. All the things is extra psychological.”
Dangerfield lastly discovered traction in 2016, making his first NFL look and beginning two video games. He ended the 12 months with 16 tackles and started carving out his path on particular groups. Although 2017 grew to become a misplaced season after struggling an ankle damage, since then he’s served as a backup security and situational participant, usually the third security in aim line packages. His biggest worth has come as a core particular teamer. From 2018 to 2020, he’s logged 911 particular groups snaps, by far essentially the most of any Steeler over that span. In 2020, he was named a particular groups captain. His most essential position there’s serving as the private protector — PP, the Steelers name it — on the punt group. Name him the quarterback of that unit.
“We’re making the calls and we’ll name out the play earlier than we snap the ball. So I’m the quarterback. I’m taking a look at what number of guys are coming to hurry. What number of guys they’re bringing or if they’ve a special sort of return. I gotta have my eagle eyes. Similar factor because the quarterback.”
Generally they’re the set off man for calling out fakes, too, although Dangerfield mentioned that duty can fluctuate week-by-week.
“It may very well be gameplan. It modifications up, however it undoubtedly runs by way of the PP. However like I mentioned, it may very well be gameplan. It may very well be from a glance to perhaps the coach is asking it. So it’s a recreation plan factor.”
What makes for a top quality particular groups participant? Dangerfield says it’s a must to be “a little bit loopy,” mixed with an unstoppable work ethic and love for the sport.
In Pittsburgh, Dangerfield performed for some of the fiery coaches in soccer. Danny Smith. He’s been the Steelers’ particular groups coordinator since Dangerfield arrived. And as Dangerfield says, Smith handles nearly the whole lot.
“Danny Smith modified my life. That’s my man. I undoubtedly need to have a relationship with him it doesn’t matter what occurs. He modified my life. Gave me the chance to play the sport I really like and to do what I really like. He noticed one thing in me. He’s sensible. Fingers down one of many smartest coaches I’ve performed for. He is aware of what he’s doing. It’s simply him. A variety of these groups have two, three, 4 particular groups coaches. And I imply, it’s not simply Danny. However he’s the principle man.”
Particular teamers are like offensive linemen. If nobody is speaking about them, they’re in all probability doing their job properly sufficient. In the event that they get seen, one thing’s in all probability gone flawed. Fly below the radar, do the grunt work, and put the celebrities in place to make the spotlight reel. However Dangerfield’s favourite Steelers’ reminiscence got here in a type of “gone flawed” moments. Final 12 months, the Dallas Cowboys pulled off an excellent trick play on a punt return, throwing throughout area to a different punt returner. It ought to’ve been a landing. However Dangerfield had the angle and hustle to forestall the rating.
“I ran down that trick play. I really feel prefer it acquired missed. But it surely saved the sport, actually. Throughout that entire play, I simply felt prefer it confirmed my entire journey and my entire profession in a single play.”
Have a look for your self.
It felt like a catastrophe of the play for Pittsburgh. However Dangerfield prevented from the result being worse. Not solely did he make the deal with, he drew a block-in-the-back name, pushing Dallas again 15 yards. They in the end settled for a area aim, a vital four-point swing in a recreation the Steelers received by 5.
It’s straightforward to agree with Dangerfield’s evaluation. That play sums up his profession. Counted out, however rallying and getting the job completed.
Dangerfield at the moment stays a free agent, regardless of the worth he’s added to the group. The Steelers have saved in touch with him, he says, and different groups have proven curiosity as properly. However with the draft simply weeks away, he is likely to be enjoying the ready recreation.
“It’s been a loopy state of affairs with them simply business-wise. We now have had contact. The door’s not closed but. We’ll simply keep optimistic…I might love to remain. I simply need to play soccer.”
That’s been a primary driver of his journey. Dangerfield loves enjoying the sport and by no means needed to marvel what if he gave up on his dream. One other is a perception he was going to kick down all of the doorways that had been by no means opened for him.
“That’s the primary a part of it. Having confidence in your self. You possibly can’t doubt your self. I really feel like that’s step one.”
In his early days, seeing reviews that he was only a camp physique, that he had no path to the roster, put a chip on his shoulder.
“I see issues. Individuals despatched me issues again within the day in 2014 once I first began. How I wouldn’t make it. In order that motivated yearly. And I simply took it one 12 months at a time. One 12 months, one 12 months, one 12 months. I’m not taking it without any consideration.”
He’s taken it year-by-year. Eight years in a row. Whether or not it’s in Pittsburgh or someplace new, Dangerfield has earned a ninth.