I was at Venice High that night in 2000, standing not far away from where it happened.
Charles Gordon ran a route to the corner of the end zone, as he had done hundreds of times before, and waited for a pass from Santa Monica High quarterback James Cooper.
On this occasion, however, Gordon suffered a broken ankle. His season would be over, but not his career.
As every Viking fan knows. Gordon recovered and was a key player the next season, when Samohi won the CIF championship. And then he went to Kansas, where he redshirted one season, then became a sensation.
Gordon caught 57 passes for 768 yards in his first collegiate season, both records for a Kansas freshman. He also returned punts, including one that went for an 82-yard touchdown.
Then something quite interesting happened. Kansas had other good receivers but few quality cornerbacks, so Gordon began playing defense.
“I’m pretty comfortable at cornerback,’’ said Gordon. “I know where I’m supposed to be. I just want to win.’’
The need was such that Gordon played primarily on defense last season, intercepted seven passes, made 57 tackles and was named a third team All-American.
With his junior season upcoming Gordon has been selected to many pre-season All-American teams.
“He’s an all-around great player,’’ said Kansas linebacker Banks Floodman.
Gordon is 5-foot-11, 170 pounds and a versatile athlete. He played baseball at Samohi and considered playing the sport at Kansas but decided to concentrate on football.
Kansas’ football team has struggled in recent seasons. The 2004 record was 4-7 but Coach Mark Mangino was encouraged by Big 12 Conference wins over arch rivals Kansas State and Missouri.
Mangino has put a lot of thought into where Gordon plays and says:
“He’s a big-time player on either side of the ball and will do whatever you ask.’’
Quarterback Adam Baumann likes it when Gordon plays offense.
“He’s by far the best player I’ve ever had as a teammate,’’ said Baumann. “He understands the game very well.’’
While Gordon continued his football career, Cooper took a different route in athletics. He went to Loyola Marymount to concentrate on baseball, became a three-year starter as an outfielder and recently was drafted in the ninth round by the New York Yankees. Cooper has signed and is playing with the Staten Island Yankees.
Both players are under 6-feet tall, and the lack of size was a handicap as they looked to their football futures. Gordon didn’t receive many scholarship offers and Cooper, considered to be an undersized quarterback, received even less consideration and decided to focus on baseball.When Kansas begins its’ football season Sept. 3 a lot of Gordon’s friends in Santa Monica will be following his impressive progress.