The Next Erriyon? This Sprinter From Mississippi Is Driven

* Jordan Anthony at Nike Indoor Nationals in March

Photo Credit: Kyle Brazeil/Milesplit

"I couldn't let it go because I started improving. My coach said, 'Stick it out and continue on the journey with it.'" -- Jordan Anthony

By Ashley Tysiac - MileSplit

    Tylertown, Mississippi bolsters a population of just under 2,000 residents, but here's a fun fact: It's also the home of an elite high school track talent and a Division I college football signee. 

    And for Jordan Anthony, that's quite all right.

    The Tylertown High School senior lives the best of both worlds,  sprinting on the track as one the country's best and brightest athletes, and then lining up on the football field, where his future seems just as promising. 

    He's clocked times on the track this outdoor season that lead the nation and rank among the world's best, including a U.S. No. 1 wind-legal time of 20.52 (+1.6) in the 200m and a 10.17 wind-aided 100m -- his 200m time is currently No. 7 in the World at the senior level and No. 2 for the U20 category.

    He entered the spring season coming off of impressive 60m and 200m championship wins at Nike Indoor Nationals, too, logging the third-fastest 200m time in high school history. 

    On the field, he's a four-star wide receiver with exceptional talent, and he's prepared to make the move to Lexington this summer to suit up for the University of Kentucky. He'll also lace up his sprint spikes for the Wildcats and look to bring home national titles for the track and field program.

    But Anthony didn't immediately burst onto the scene as a national-caliber track and field athlete and wide receiver like his athletic marks and statistics may suggest.

    No, it took time, development and patience as he navigated the demands of a two-sport high school athlete.

    But this growing process created a name not just for himself, but for the small Mississippi community rallying around him.

    "Who would've thought somebody from Tylertown, Mississippi, so little, could be the nation's top sprinter?" Anthony said. "It's just amazing, an amazing journey."

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    The Start Of Something Special

    Anthony began his career much like other young kids, balancing track along with other sports -- he mainly played football, and then spent his off season as a jumps athlete looking to stay physically fit. He didn't truly try his hand at the short sprints until his sophomore year in high school when he was thrown into various 4x100m relay teams.

    When one of Tylertown's sprint athletes went down with an injury, the program's head coach, Myreon Sartin, moved Anthony up to fill the open slot and the jumper took to the blocks to test his short sprint skills.

    His first sprint races didn't immediately translate to national success -- he lost in races to other athletes with more years of experience under their belts.

    But Anthony could hold his own, Sartin saw, and he competed with his more mature competitors in the early phases of 100m and 200m. To Sartin, Anthony's ability to hang with more seasoned sprinters off of limited training meant he had much more potential to tap into.

    "He was keeping up with the guys from 0 to 30 (meters), 0 to 40, 0 to 50," Sartin said. "Then they would separate after that. I was like, 'Wow, this kid, if we get the hang of this stuff, he's going to be good.'"

    Anthony could have left it at that and turned his attention to football, which still mainly served as his prioritized sport at the time. Yet Anthony also saw the potential in himself that Sartin witnessed during his introduction to sprinting.

    "I couldn't let it go because I started improving," he said. "My coach said, 'Stick it out and continue on the journey with it.'"

    Soon enough, with the introduction of more sprint-specific training, Anthony saw great improvement. After the early pandemic months that paused high school athletic events, Anthony returned to competition three inches taller and physically stronger than he was as an underclassman.

    He logged times of 10.21 in the 100m and 20.57 in the 200m during the 2021 outdoor season, which ranked him in the top 10 in the U.S. and turned heads. In one of his biggest races, in May in Boston at the adidas Boost Boston Games, he defeated Jaylen Slade, the IMG junior who reached the U.S. Olympic Trials and turned pro in June. Then he won the 100m at Outdoor Nationals in July. 

    In some ways, his slow-and-steady-and-then-booming resume seems all-too-familiar: It's the blueprint that Erriyon Knighton, an Olympian at 17-years-old in 2021, took last year before becoming the first high school athlete to ever break 20 seconds in the 200m, earning a World U20 record and fourth-place finish in the 200m at the Olympics. 

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    The Pull of Football

    At the same time he saw his track career taking off, Anthony saw his football stock grow more lucrative. In his junior year, Anthony began fielding calls and offers from college coaches across the country.

    He racked up over 20 offers, many from ACC, SEC and major Division I programs.

    In the span of just two years, the young athlete from small Tylertown had become a national prospect in not one but two sports.

    "I was like, 'Yeah, this kid is going to be kind of good. Just needs a little bit more work, but eventually, he's going to be good once he grows and matures,'" Sartin said. "And that's what it was. He grew and matured over the years."

    "He was keeping up with the guys from 0 to 30 (meters), 0 to 40, 0 to 50," Sartin said. "Then they would separate after that. I was like, 'Wow, this kid, if we get the hang of this stuff, he's going to be good.'"

    An aggressive mentality learned from the environment of football combined with a rather detail-oriented sprinter's mindset kept Anthony disciplined and on his toes.

    During football season, he woke up hours before school to fit in workouts, followed with physical rehab sessions and then team practices in the Mississippi heat. A similar grueling schedule followed for track.

    But that was it, or at least that's how Anthony characterized his seemingly rigorous routine.

    For him, a demanding schedule was a normality, and he gleaned enjoyment from it. 

    His talent as a two sport-athlete set him apart from most, but it was his resilience that Sartin said truly made him a one-of-a-kind athlete and person.

    "He's probably one of the mentally strongest kids I've ever coached," Sartin said.

    With that talent and drive, Anthony could see his future go in a variety of directions.

    In just a few months, Anthony will find himself playing in front of thousands on the football field in Lexington.

    But Sartin can also see Anthony racing on the world stage soon enough, perhaps at the World U20 Championships in August, or the next Olympic Games in 2024.

    "He's special enough to make the Olympics and also, if chances go right, to play (football) on Sundays," Sartin said.

    - - -

    What's Next

    Anthony doesn't focus too much on the "what ifs" that lie ahead.

    Sure, he has substantial goals for himself -- he feels confident he can achieve the sub-10 second barrier for the 100m and go sub-20 in the 200m, both of which would rank him alongside the world's best professional sprinters.

    But Anthony knows the experiences that come with both athletic endeavors will be much more important: Years from now, he knows, he'll think of those times more fondly than the times he's clocked or the number of touchdowns he has scored.

    Anthony still relishes the exhilaration of scoring his first varsity touchdown as a sophomore. He vividly remembers the hard track workouts he suffered through with teammates.

    Creating strong bonds with football teammates and meeting competitors on high school track and field's biggest stages have made for some of Anthony's fondest sports memories.

    It's this process-oriented mindset that he credits to his late father, who motivated him to navigate the patient path that eventually led him to two-sport national success.

    Anthony's dad died from COVID-19 last summer prior to his commitment to Kentucky.

    But Anthony, with his tough-as-nails mentality, uses the motivating advice of his late father to continue carrying on.

    "I like going out and creating my own journey and my own footsteps," Anthony said.

    Resiliency has perhaps made him mature beyond his years, in more ways than one.

    Now with many potential avenues ahead of him, Sartin said it will only be a matter of time before we see the driven athlete from Tylertown on the world stage: Whether it be in track, football or both.

    "It's like planting a seed and watching it grow, literally," Sartin said. "It's crazy how he advanced that much."