Humble and respected, Liberty’s Josh Gordon is a quiet success

January 6, 2012

By Sarah Gerdes

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Deep-seated sports passion has family ties for football, track star

Josh Gordon, a standout athlete in track and football, Eagle Scout, honor student and brother, identified himself as a competitor at a young age.

Gordon and his father were attending a University of Washington football game and Josh pointed to the field.

Josh Gordon

“Someday, I’m going to make a touchdown there,” Josh told his father.

Now 17 and attending his final year at Liberty High School, Gordon is working hard to make good on that promise. He’s the leading receiver for King County in 3A football, and if football doesn’t work out, Gordon will look to track and field. As a junior, he won first place at state in the long jump and 1,600 relay, adding to the second-place medal he earned as a sophomore.

One would think his success might change his personality, or make him susceptible to the culture of boastful talking.

Not Gordon.

“Josh is the most humble kid you will meet,” said Mike Smith, the boys coach for track and field at Liberty. “He wants to be on the relay, not just individual sports, and if someone needs help, he’s the first one to jump in, taking time out of his own practice.”

It’s a trait that has won him the respect and admiration of his teammates on both fields of play, said Steve Valach, Liberty football coach.

“When we were down 21 and four in with Juanita, we had seconds on the clock. Josh caught the ball and ran it back for the game-winning touchdown,” Valach said

No jumping up and down. No grandstanding.

“He didn’t say a word,” Valach said.


One of the crowd

Gordon’s drive is self-motivated, according to Valach and his parents, though some of his athletic prowess is inherited. His father has been an athlete his entire life, and his mother was a three-time state champion in swimming events who still holds several school records.

“I used to tease my mom that I was going to get more medals than her,” Gordon said, recounting how often he watched her old swimming videos to see how she handled herself.

Her quiet, determined demeanor and grace under pressure influenced him as he progressed in his sports.

That’s the type of leadership others in the community have come to expect from the young man who spent his summer drumming up school supplies for the Seattle Children’s Home. He placed posters around the community, collaborated with his football team and the owners of a swimming pool in Seattle to collect supplies. By the end of summer, he’d met his goal of providing enough supplies for every student, as well as raising about $500.

“Here’s a kid that gets up at five every morning, goes to his seminary before school, gets his Eagle Scout and never says a word of any of it,” Smith said. “He just does it.”

That type of demeanor has endeared him to other players, Smith said, “who look up to Josh and follow his example.”

Gordon deflects the praise, putting it back on his parents and his mentors at school.

“One of the best things coach Valach taught me is that high school football lasts three years, but the lessons we learn in football can be used for life. That’s real world,” Gordon said. “Sometimes, no matter how hard you train or practice, sometimes it’s just not going to be enough.”

His parents and coaches don’t complain about him lacking motivation. They worry he’s not enjoying the moment because he’s so focused on “doing it all.”

“I call him my border collie,” Smith said. “He’s always herding. The hardest thing for him to do is sit still and be patient. When the practice is over and everyone is gone, Josh is still on the field, wanting to do more and learn more. I have to tell him to go home.”

Gordon hasn’t let his focus on athletics detract from academics or service work in the community. He holds a 3.5 grade point average and recently submitted the forms for his Eagle Scout award. This balanced scorecard has made Gordon a viable candidate for scholarships. He is being recruited by several universities, including the University of Washington and Brigham Young University.

For now, Gordon’s plans are modest.

“Keep training,” he said. “Keep studying.”

Sarah Gerdes, who wrote this article, is a freelance writer.


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