Between lacrosse and football, Jordan Faison does it all for

  • Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Senior WriterMay 18, 2024, 07:00 AM ET


    • College football reporter.
    • Joined in 2008.
    • Graduate of Northwestern University.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — On the night of Oct. 7, Wesleyan wide receiver Colby Geddis traveled back from a game in Maine with his phone on life support, attempting to track the Notre Dame-Louisville contest.

Jordan Faison, Geddis’ close friend and longtime teammate in both football and lacrosse, was set to make his football debut for Notre Dame. Faison had come to college as a top-50 lacrosse recruit and walked on to the football team as a wide receiver.

Geddis’ phone had only enough juice to allow him to refresh the statistics.

“When I saw him touch the field, I’m like, ‘Holy s—, this kid is playing D-I football,'” Geddis said. “It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.”

Faison has continued to impress his friends, family and Fighting Irish fans, spending the winter and spring successfully juggling two sports that, at Notre Dame, carry the highest of expectations. The true freshman scored Notre Dame’s first goal of the lacrosse season Feb. 14, 38 seconds into the opener against Cleveland State, and is a starting midfielder for an Irish team that continues its quest to repeat as national champions when it faces Georgetown in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals (noon ET, ESPNU). Faison ranks fourth on the team in both goals (19) and points (27).

When Notre Dame began spring football practice March 22, Faison was around as much as he could be, avoiding contact to preserve his body for lacrosse, while still learning new offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock’s scheme.

Faison came to Notre Dame primarily for lacrosse, joining a program that had captured its first national championship in spring 2023. But then football had to come first. He made 19 receptions in seven games as a slot receiver, tied for second on the team in touchdown catches (4) and earned Sun Bowl MVP honors with five catches for 115 yards and a touchdown.

“You’re held to a standard in both sports and you’ve got to meet that standard to make sure the team is developing well,” Faison said. “Being able to do that has just been freaking awesome.”

Faison wasn’t even supposed to see the football field for Notre Dame this soon. He’s also somewhat of an unlikely lacrosse prodigy, hailing from a region not known for producing many college stars. But after a blistering start at Notre Dame, he has become the link between two sports that are often not viewed through the same lens but contain plenty of parallels.

Jordan Faison originally wasn’t supposed to play football this past season, but he was too impressive in practice. Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire

NOTRE DAME WIDE receivers coach Mike Brown spends chunks of his year on the road recruiting, which often means watching prospects compete in other sports. Basketball is common. So are track and baseball. Those recruiting in the Midwest often see future football players on the mat in wrestling singlets.

But Brown hadn’t experienced much lacrosse crossover.

“Obviously with Jordan out there, I’m watching a lot more and just learning,” Brown said. “It’s a lot of similar movements, change of direction, how they rotate. It’s a football slash basketball-ish mix.”

Faison is a distinct talent, but there are other players with football-lacrosse backgrounds competing at the Division I level. There’s even another at Notre Dame. Tyler Buchner, who opened the 2022 football season as Fighting Irish starting quarterback and vied for the QB1 job last spring before transferring to Alabama, returned to Notre Dame over the winter to compete for the lacrosse team, a sport he had not played since early in high school. Buchner is a reserve midfielder for the Irish.

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Will Shipley, the Clemson running back selected in the fourth round of last month’s NFL draft, was a standout lacrosse player in high school who could have played both sports at Notre Dame had he signed with the Irish. Maryland defensive back Dante Trader Jr., who started the past two seasons, earned honorable mention All-America honors for the Terrapins lacrosse team in 2023 before focusing solely on football.

So what skills in lacrosse translate to football?

“What wouldn’t?” Notre Dame lacrosse coach Kevin Corrigan, who has led the program since 1988, shot back. “Changing directions, reading a guy’s hips to know when to come out of your break, deception that you use to make guys think you’re doing one thing or another, those are all traits that you’re using on both fields. Forget about the acceleration and stopping and those sorts of things. All the athletic traits translate very easily.”

Geddis, who played both football and lacrosse with Faison throughout their childhood, cited significant tactical differences, but also similarities with core movements. The two sports track especially for wide receivers, who have to beat defenders in press coverage with their feet and hands, just like lacrosse players seeking room to attempt shots.

“It definitely does translate a lot in terms of understanding where to attack leverage on a guy and how to break him down,” Geddis said. “Going against D-I safeties and corners, his IQ and skill set is probably so much better now for lacrosse. And that aspect goes both ways.”

And those talents immediately jumped out to Faison’s football teammates.

“He’s agile, fast, athletic, quick, so no wonder it’s going to translate to lacrosse,” wide receiver Jayden Thomas said. “Seeing him in football, it’s obvious, and then going out to a [lacrosse] game and watching him, it’s like, ‘OK, it makes sense.'”

When Faison’s two-sport ambition came into focus, Notre Dame mapped out a detailed schedule for him. Faison spent the summer and fall with the football team, immersed in the demanding schedule of practices and meetings, and ultimately travel and games. He missed six weeks of lacrosse practice in the fall, as well as weight training and individual work.

After the Sun Bowl on Dec. 28, Faison briefly went home, but he was at the first preseason lacrosse practice Jan. 11 and became a full participant days later. The lacrosse plan called for him to focus on defense, mindful of his time away, but he quickly showed he could handle all the midfielders’ tasks. The 5-foot-10, 182-pound Faison did in-season lifting with lacrosse this spring, while doing little physically with football, where he spent most of his time in meetings as Notre Dame installed its offense.

Corrigan credited football coach Marcus Freeman and strength and conditioning coach Loren Landow for aligning their expectations to ensure Faison is at his best in lacrosse during the spring and at his best in football when the fall comes.

“I’ve told Marcus and them, ‘If you gave us all your skill guys and made them play lacrosse in the spring and they had the ability to play it at a high level, it would be the best training physically for those guys to possibly have,'” Corrigan said.

The Faisons lived in a RV so Jordan could play club lacrosse during the summers with a team in Long Island, New York. Quincy Faison

FAISON’S INTRODUCTION TO lacrosse came easily and innocently.

He was 6 at the time and just finished a youth football game with Geddis in South Florida. Geddis immediately began lacrosse practice on a nearby field. Faison then grabbed a stick and started launching balls as far as he could.

“That got me into the sport, and then I took it and ran with it,” Faison said.

His football teammates all began playing lacrosse for a team coached by Geddis’ father. Faison showed the natural ability to make one-on-one plays and absorbed the finer points of the sport, especially within the team construct. Lacrosse in Florida has become more popular, but the area still trails the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic in generating elite-level competition and Division I recruiting avenues.

“We were smoking every team down here,” said Quincy Faison, Jordan’s father, who helped coach the youth lacrosse team. “Then, when we would take our team up to the North, we would get smoked. So to get better, you need to understand how they operate, how they practice, what they work on.”

To gain greater exposure, Faison began playing club lacrosse during the summers with a team in Long Island, New York. During that first summer, before he entered high school, he lived in an RV with his parents and younger brother, Dylan.

The Faisons posted up in an RV park near Nickerson Beach, about 15 miles from JFK International Airport. Quincy, a technology executive, and his mother Kristen, who works in software development, had the RV equipped with portable high-speed internet so they could keep working.

Jordan’s brother, Dylan, is following in his footsteps. Quincy Faison

“My wife and I loved it; I’m not sure how Jordan and Dylan felt,” Quincy said. “We were within 100 yards of the beach, there was a bike ramp set up. I took Zoom calls from the RV. It was basically like camping for the whole summer.”

But Jordan said he had “mixed emotions” about the RV.

“The area was nice, next to a beach, that was kind of fun, but being in tight quarters with my family, sometimes you’ve got to get away from them,” he recalled.

Although Jordan missed hanging out with his friends back home during the summers, he benefited from the club lacrosse experience, rising to No. 48 in Inside Lacrosse’s recruiting rankings. Faison didn’t receive as much attention for football until later in his career as a quarterback and defensive back at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale.

His recruiting went into three tracks: lacrosse only, lacrosse/football and football only. He wanted to play both sports and discussed the possibility with schools such as Duke and Ohio State, as well as Notre Dame.

The only deal breaker, according to Quincy, is that Jordan couldn’t play quarterback along with a second sport. Jordan also considered schools like Syracuse and Michigan for lacrosse. In the fall of 2021, he committed to Notre Dame for lacrosse, but his football recruitment would eventually pick up.

Iowa, which doesn’t have a lacrosse program, offered Faison for football. About a year after he committed to Notre Dame, he visited Iowa City.

“Recruiting is majorly different between football and lacrosse, the budgets are different, how they treat the athletes,” Quincy said. “So going on lacrosse visits and then going to Iowa, the red carpet’s rolled out, you’ve got your own hotel room, they’re feeding you, so he got googly-eyed. He was actually thinking about just going to Iowa. I said, ‘There’s a lot more into this.’ He gave it some consideration, that’s for sure.”

But Jordan ultimately stuck with Notre Dame even though his football path wasn’t set in stone. The decision has paid off and rubbed off on Dylan, who in March became the first football recruit to commit for Notre Dame’s 2026 class. Dylan plays the same position (wide receiver) and starred in the same sports as his big brother.

Although lacrosse recruiting doesn’t begin until September of a prospect’s junior year in high school, Dylan is expected to be high on Notre Dame’s wish list. He and Jordan could play both sports together during the 2026-27 academic year, which is why Quincy and Kristen are looking to buy a small home near campus. Jordan said Dylan is better than he was at the same age, and boasts more length, at 5-foot-11, to complement his quickness.

“We had it in high school for a year, and being able to have it again here at this special place, it’s just unreal,” Jordan said. “We’ll definitely butt heads a bit, as all brothers do, but it will be really fun.”

Faison ranks fourth on the team in both goals (19) and points (27). Notre Dame Athletics

NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL welcomed Jordan as a walk-on, but the plan wasn’t to play him, at least not right away, because his scholarship would convert to football and count against the team’s limit. Quincy had heard some buzz that Jordan would ultimately land a football scholarship, but perhaps not until 2025.

“We came into the season with no expectations,” Quincy said.

“I thought I’d probably be on the bench,” Jordan added.

But wide receiver injuries began to mount. Faison’s behind-the-scenes performance also made it increasingly more difficult to keep him out on Saturdays.

“We had an extra scholarship, but that was the last-case scenario,” Freeman said. “Then, we had some wideouts go down, and he was making too many plays in practice. We had to play him.”

Faison made his first career start the following week against USC, as Notre Dame crushed its rival 48-20. He recorded multiple receptions in six of the seven games he played and had 12 in the final three contests, hauling in a touchdown in each.

Some of his biggest plays came in the Sun Bowl against Oregon State, including a 33-yard sideline route early in the second half, where Faison beat airtight coverage to come down with quarterback Steve Angeli’s pass.

“Coming in here with the goal of playing is the main thing, and then once you play, it’s like, ‘Now I’ve got to keep it rolling,'” Faison said. “Once you get it rolling, the confidence comes and then, with the confidence, that’s where you really see gains develop.”

A procrastinator during high school, Faison still must break old habits to navigate a unique and busy schedule. But he has dutifully followed the plans both teams laid out for him, and communicated with the staffs about potential conflicts. He still finds some downtime to nap or play games.

Corrigan has seen many students become overwhelmed with the academic and athletic demands of one sport, much less two. But Faison has never lost the “quiet confidence” that he could perform in both sports. Freeman said he wants to support Faison’s future goals, whether or not they include football.

“I don’t know why he couldn’t keep doing this,” Corrigan said. “We have to protect him and his body, make sure he is getting enough rest over the course of the year.”

Faison’s immediate goal, one reinforced by Notre Dame’s lacrosse veterans, is to chase another championship. After another short break, he’ll switch back into football mode.

“He’s laid a solid foundation in his first year here, and we’ve got high expectations going into Year 2,” Freeman said. “He’s handling two different sports and all those demands.”

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