Growing up in a military family, Buford’s Donte’ Gordon has learned a lot about self discipline and adaptability. Those qualities have helped the senior defensive end enjoy his finest season to this point as he and the Wolves prepare to welcome White County to Tom Riden Stadium on Friday. (Staff Photo: David Friedlander)
BUFORD — If there’s one thing Donte’ Gordon has learned throughout his young life, it’s how to deal with change.
Growing up in a military family, the Buford senior defensive end learned to adjust quickly to new homes, new schools and new friends.
Having gone through a relatively early growth spurt, the 6-foot, 220-pounder quickly adapted to changing positions when he was still in middle school.
Ever since Gordon entered Buford as a freshman, most aspects of his life have become relatively stable.
And that stability has helped him grow into one of the foundations of the latest edition of one of Georgia’s most rock-solid programs.
“He’s an extremely likable young man, just well-liked by his coaches and teammates,” Wolves coach Jess Simpson said of Gordon. “He’s playing about as good as anyone on our team right now. He’s a blue collar kind of kid who just wants to show up and do his job. He’s fun to be around.”
Gordon’s contributions to the Buford program have risen steadily throughout his career.
After recording nine tackles and a sack as a sophomore on the Wolves’ 2011 Class AA state runner-up team, he enjoyed a break-out season as a junior last year by posting career highs of 35 tackles and nine sacks in helping the Wolves win the Class AAA state title.
And this year, he is on pace to shatter those marks with 28 tackles, including seven tackles for loss, and four sacks already through Buford’s first five games, to go along with a team-best four quarterback hurries, plus 28 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries as a fullback on offense.
“It’s senior year. It’s my last time,” Gordon said. “You’ve got to boost it up. If you have the same (output) from last year, you’re not really improving. So, that’s what I’ve got to do for my team to go to (the) state (championship). Every senior has to play up to this best ability.”
Given the fact he was brought up in a military family, the fact Gordon exhibits that kind of work ethic comes as no surprise to Simpson.
And the ninth-year Wolves head coach believes that background, and the self discipline it also entails, has not only made Gordon easy to coach, but an excellent example to his younger teammates.
“When your best players are the most coachable kids on your team, like guys like Donte’ and (fellow senior) Korie Rogers are, it doesn’t just make your life as a coach easier, it makes your team better,” Simpson said. “They’re so unselfish and such great examples of how to work and how to practice, and it bleeds over into the team. The other kids start saying, ‘Well, if he’s that unselfish, than I have to be, too. Everybody just appreciates and admires him.
“He’s one of those low-maintenance, high-productive players. He’s very competitive. He loves to compete and hates to lose.”
The way Gordon sees it, the most important things he got out of moving around the country, and the world, while his father served in the U.S. Army was being able to handle change, as well as broadening his horizons.
While he was very young at the time, he says he does have a few vivid memories of the two years his family spent in Egypt while his father was stationed there.
“I remember one time we were going to take pictures on a camel,” Gordon recalled. “I was little, so when you’re little, everything looks bigger. We had to get on, and they told me not to look down. I looked down, and I was like, ‘Get me off this thing.’”
Sitting atop a camel notwithstanding, Gordon said adapting to life in one new home or another was never that big of a deal to him.
And now that his family has settled in Gwinnett County for the better part of the last decade since moving from Kentucky, he says he really feels at home in Buford.
“This is my home now, … (but) it wasn’t really that hard,” Gordon said of making new friends when moving someplace new. “Everybody was friendly everywhere we went. Pretty much, we became friends easy. … You just keep moving forward and never take a step back.”
That’s the same attitude Gordon has taken to the football field, even after moving from defensive tackle to defensive end as an eighth-grader.
Considering the quality of defensive linemen who have come through Buford over the years — like former All-State selections Rick Legrant, A.J. Cunningham, Trevor Warbington and Omar Hunter in the last decade alone — it seems like a big set of shoes for him to fill.
However, Gordon says that he not only feels like he is up to the task, he is confident he can make his own mark in Buford history.
“Everybody comes in and wants to become that guy,” Gordon said. “I want to make it so that (younger) kids want to be like me. So, I’ve got to make my own way and become the best defensive player I can at Buford.”
Given his size, another move to linebacker is likely when he moves on to college — he has scholarship offers from Wofford, Charleston Southern and Gardner-Webb, with other programs showing increasing interest.
It’s just one more change Gordon says he’s ready to embrace.
“A lot of (schools) are looking at me for outside linebacker,” Gordon said. “Seventh grade, I used to play (defensive) tackle. Then they moved me to (defensive) end in eighth grade. So, it just helps me (deal) with change.”