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September 17, 2008STORRS, Conn. - It was a moment three weeks in the making.
Jordan Todman was smiling and jumping around at Rentschler Field before the first game of his collegiate career on Saturday, trying to soak in the lights, the noise and the atmosphere that escaped him before UConn's season-opener against Hofstra two weeks ago.
His family was in crowd. So, too, were the Cruz family, which had served as his guardians to make his college football dream a reality, and several former high school teammates from Dartmouth (Mass.), including Arthur Fontaine and Justin Mello.
This was it. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound true freshman was about to make his debut after missing the first two games due to a separated shoulder suffered in fall camp.
And then he didn't do what he had done before several of his biggest high school games. Todman didn't throw up on the sidelines.
"It usually happens," Todman said. "But I didn't feel that way."
By the end of the game, it was Virginia - and UConn's nine remaining opponents - who were feeling uneasy. After seeing action sparingly in the first half as a change-of-pace back, Todman made his debut in the world of college football after halftime and ran 48 yards down the sideline to set up a 14-yard touchdown run in the Huskies' 45-10 win over the Cavaliers.
Head coach Randy Edsall smiled wide as Todman walked off the field with his first touchdown in the third quarter. Running back Donald Brown, who had already compiled 206 yards and three touchdowns, was the first player onto the field to offer a hand in congratulations. But Todman took it all in stride, keeping his head down as he retreated to the sidelines and kicker Tony Ciaravino made the extra point.
Being able to score a touchdown in his first game was quite a surprise for Todman, who was expected to miss four to six weeks after suffering the injury in a collision with safety Robert Vaughn in the last week of preseason.
"I couldn't ask for more," he said. "I'm not always going to bring up or live off that touchdown. I just want to keep playing, work hard, have my team still keep winning games and hopefully make it to a big bowl game this year."
Living up to high expectations was what led Todman to UConn in the first place. As the second-leading rusher in Massachusetts high school football history - Todman rushed for 5,083 yards and 70 touchdowns while at Dartmouth - the running back spurred the Indians to an 11-1 record before a defeat by Everett in the Division I Super Bowl last season.
He was, understandably, one of the most highly-recruited players in New England before narrowing his choices to Purdue and UConn, selecting the Huskies because of the proximity to home, his relationship with the coaches and the quality of education. Plus, the chance to play running back - several other schools wanted him as a defensive back, given his size - made the decision that much easier.
"They can say what position they would like me to play; I know what position I'm better off at," Todman said.
He proved that Saturday, though he did admit that, statistics aside, his performance was not as good as he would have liked.
"He did some really good things, stuck his nose in there," Edsall said. "But again, the more he plays, the more comfortable he'll be with some of his reads and running the football."
Whether or not Todman proves able to handle the rigors of being an every-down back remains to be seen. Brown and Andre Dixon, both juniors, will presumably take most of the carries this season and next; redshirt freshmen Robbie Frey and Kelmetrus Wylie also figure to see some time.
That's fine for Todman, who knows he still needs to adapt to the college game. Getting stronger and quicker will help avoid injuries like the one to his shoulder.
"I'm sure here as my career goes on, maybe I'll prove a lot of people wrong that my body size isn't too small to play running back and show them that I'm better off at running back than I am at corner," Todman said.
Zac Boyer, the editor and publisher of UConnReport.com, covers UConn sports for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.