PROVO — During BYU's memorable upset of Oklahoma in last year's season-opener, outside linebacker Jordan Pendleton suffered an agonizing shoulder injury.
But that didn't keep him out of the lineup. Pendleton played the rest of the 2009 campaign in pain.
"It was a grind. It was a long season," the 6-foot-2, 239-pound junior said. "But I made it though. I'm happy I did."
Not only did Pendleton play, he played extremely well.
The Bingham High product recorded 52 tackles (30 solo), six tackles-for-loss for minus-36 yards, three sacks, three pass breakups, five quarterback hurries, an interception, and he returned a fumble for a touchdown.
But he was far from satisfied.
"I wasn't able to be as physical as I wanted to be, obviously. That was one of the most frustrating things," he said. "There were some plays I had to compromise because of my shoulder. But really, it was about putting the shoulder aside. Once the adrenaline gets going, you kick into a different gear. I didn't want to sit. I had to play through the pain."
Not long after the Cougars defeated Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl at the end of the season, Pendleton underwent surgery on his shoulder. During fall camp, he has seen very little "live" action as a precautionary measure.
But Pendleton said he will be ready to play once the season opens on Sept. 4 against Washington.
"I should be full-go by the first game. I feel pretty good. Pretty sore, but I'll be all right," he said. "It shouldn't be too difficult to get used to hitting. When we start preparing for Washington this week, I'll start to practice more, and I'll be ready to play. I'll have a week-and-a-half to get into that mode before the game."
Outside linebackers coach Nick Howell was impressed with Pendleton's performance last season.
"Jordan Pendleton's tough," he said. "He played the whole season injured. He's one of our best-conditioned athletes. He's a leader in the weight room. He's doing everything possible to be as strong as he possibly can. He's about there. He's on his way. He's tough-minded and he wants to win. He wants to help the team win as much as he can."
Pendleton spent his first couple of years at BYU as a safety. But once he was moved to outside linebacker during the spring of 2009, Pendleton looked, and felt, right at home.
"The coverage was natural," he said. "The tough thing was being on the line, rushing the quarterback. That's something I had never done before. But once I got used to it, it was an easy transition. I love the position. Playing linebacker, you hit someone on every play, no matter what. If you don't like hitting, you can't play this position."
"Jordan's smart and has a very athletic body. He's a very well-conditioned athlete," Howell said. "He loves football and wants to be the best he can be. He switched over to linebacker because he wanted to help his team out. That's what happened. And he had a great season."
One of those who helped Pendleton with the transition from safety to linebacker is the New York Giants' Bryan Kehl, who starred at outside linebacker at BYU from 2005-07.
"Bryan would come here during the summer and work out," Pendleton said. "We watched film together. I watched him and (former Cougar David) Nixon to see what they did right and wrong and learn from their big plays and from their mistakes. It's good to be able to watch guys who had really good careers here."
As the only returning starting linebacker in BYU's 3-4 alignment, Pendleton is one of the veterans on the Cougar defense.
"I've got to step up and be a leader this year," he said. "But our other linebackers, Shane Hunter and Brandon Ogletree, have experience. They've been on missions. They're older than me. I teach players who play my position, but the inside linebackers know what they're doing."18 comments on this story
As demonstrated during fall camp, BYU's outside linebackers are fast and athletic. A couple of them have made their mark during camp with Pendleton sitting out of practice — junior Jameson Frazier and freshman Kyle Van Noy.
"They're doing a great job," Pendleton said. "Kyle's getting better and better every day. Jameson's flying around, making plays. They're doing some really good things. They're trying hard and having fun. As long as you're having fun, everything else falls into place."
This season, Pendleton is hoping to stay healthy — and have fun wreaking havoc on opposing offenses.