EVERETT — Long before Kyler Gordon became a top college prospect, the Archbishop Murphy football star was showcasing his athletic flair on the dance floor.
Gordon, introduced to dancing by his mother at age 5, spent much of his childhood as a competitive dancer. He participated in national competitions and trained six days per week in a wide variety of disciplines such as hip-hop, contemporary, ballet, jazz and lyrical.
He even spent five seasons dancing at Seattle Storm basketball games as part of the Storm Dance Troupe.
Gordon’s athletic pursuits are different these days, after taking up football around age 10 and ultimately losing interest in dance.
Yet Gordon said his dancing background still comes into play on the gridiron, where the two-way standout displays his elite athleticism with leaping catches, blazing speed and silky smooth agility at both cornerback and wide receiver.
“I feel like it’s helped me out a lot with my balance, my leaping ability, how I’m able to control my body when I’m going up for a pass — just a bunch of things,” he said.
Gordon, a four-star recruit, is ranked by Scout.com as the top senior cornerback in the state and the third-best senior regardless of position.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever coached an athlete that is smoother in his movements,” Wildcats coach Jerry Jensen said of the highly sought-after prospect, whose next-level talent will be key this fall as Archbishop Murphy takes aim at a second consecutive Class 2A state title.
“He’s just graceful when he moves,” Jensen said. “It’s so fluid and his bursts are quick — his hips are extremely loose. On top of all that, he’s a very smart kid that understands the game. So you throw all of that together, and it’s a pretty special package.”
Gordon has landed college offers from 10 Football Bowl Subdivision programs — Notre Dame, Nebraska, Texas Christian, Washington, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Utah, Arizona and California.
The 6-foot, 190-pound playmaker is being recruited primarily as a cornerback, but said some schools have talked to him about possibly playing a bit on offense as well. Gordon said he plans to announce his commitment either midway through or at the end of the season.
“Wherever he chooses to go, he’s going to have success and it’s going to be the right decision,” Jensen said.
Gordon is coming off a sensational junior season last fall, when he accounted for 17 total touchdowns in nine games while helping Archbishop Murphy claim the program’s first-ever 2A state crown.
Gordon was a dynamic threat on offense, where he glided past defensive backs with blistering speed and carved up opposing defenses with spectacular elusiveness. He led the team with 26 receptions for 802 yards, averaging an eye-popping 30.8 yards per catch. And he hauled in 12 touchdowns passes, seven of which came from 50-plus yards out.
“You know (that if) you get the ball to him, he’s going to do things with it,” Jensen said.
But it’s primarily his play on the other side of the ball that has attracted the eyes of big-time college programs. Gordon, who intercepted four passes last season and returned two for touchdowns, is a lockdown cornerback with elite coverage ability.
“He has really loose hips, so he’s able to change direction quickly,” Jensen said. “(And) his close when the ball is in the air is world-class. … When he puts his foot in the ground and decides to go somewhere, that burst that he has is special.”
“Unbelievable,” Archbishop Murphy defensive coordinator Josh Jansen said of Gordon’s closing speed. “His ability to close on the football — whether it’s a run play and he’s coming downhill, or he’s getting to a ball in the air — is pretty impressive.”
Along with his speed and lockdown coverage skills, Gordon regularly dishes out the types of hard hits typically seen from safeties and linebackers.
“He’ll put his shoulder into you and let you know he was there,” Jensen said. “I think (what) sets him apart from a lot of the great cover guys — the high-school kids that I’ve seen — is that he’s going to come down and thump you, too.”
Gordon’s exceptional talent affords the Wildcats a tremendous luxury on defense.
“It enables us to do stuff that we maybe otherwise wouldn’t do, because we can afford to put Kyler out on an island and say, ‘Go take away that team’s best player,’” Jansen said. “And then we can have a numbers advantage in other parts on the field.”
Gordon has polished his football technique in recent years through training with Bellevue-based Ford Sports Performance.
He also credits his older cousin, Paki, a Bay Area-based personal trainer, for helping develop his explosiveness.
During the summers prior to his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons, Gordon traveled to Oakland, California, for month-long training sessions with his cousin. Their daily workouts included weightlifting and speed training that incorporated hills, sleds and resistance bands.
Gordon said the training between his sophomore and junior years made a significant impact.
“One thing I really wanted to change was the speed that I play at and my running technique,” Gordon said. “It was something that really bothered me, because I knew I could be a whole lot faster.
“(We) just worked on all these different speed things on the track and on hills — working on acceleration and bursts,” Gordon added. “I feel like he was one of the main reasons why I got a lot faster.”
Jensen said he believes Gordon’s unique talent and athleticism will translate well to the college game.
“The things he can do on the football field — people are going to notice,” Jensen said. “His high-school skills are going to transition to the college level extremely well, and it’s going to be really exciting to see over the course of the next few years.”
But first, Gordon is focused on a strong finish to his Wildcats career.
“(I’m striving) to be the best I can be, do everything I can do for my team … and give it my all for my one last high-school season,” Gordon said.