NEW ORLEANS — Jordan Jefferson is returning home, albeit in a different uniform.
Jefferson, the former LSU quarterback who led the Tigers in four bowl games from 2008-11, is scheduled to start Friday night against the New Orleans VooDoo. Jefferson is in his first season with the Pittsburgh Power of the Arena Football League.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Cox 4 in New Orleans and WRNO-FM, 99.5.
Jefferson, who declined to be interviewed by The Advocate, will have at least one former teammate chasing him around the New Orleans Arena for an in-game hug of sorts.
“It’s good to get a chance to play against a guy that you watched grow into a tremendous player,” said VooDoo defensive lineman Marlon Favorite, who was a senior at LSU during Jefferson’s freshman season.
“I used to tell him, ‘I see you got your swag up!’ Just seeing him develop as a player is a great deal.”
Jefferson’s development helped players like Wyrick Smothers, his former high school teammate at Destrehan.
“It was fun to see him have success at LSU and all that he’s experienced,” said Smothers, now a star quarterback at the University of Central Arkansas.
“With him coming from the same program, same school, it made me know I could do it.”
This game marks Jefferson’s first appearance in New Orleans since the 2012 BCS Championship Game against Alabama in the Louisiana Superdome.
LSU lost 21-0, with much of the blame — fair or not — falling to Jefferson, whose impact was minimized to 53 yards passing and an interception and 15 rushing yards.
Three months later, he went undrafted by the NFL, but was signed by the Tampa Bay Bucs, only to be released four days later.
The league offers Jefferson an opportunity to improve many of the passing shortcomings that led draft scouts and analysts to discount his collegiate success as an invalid gauge of an NFL future.
And he’s getting it. The Power, like the rest of the league, throws the ball more than 90 percent of the time. Jefferson, though, is adjusting from a lot of shotgun and play-action under center at LSU to a different offense, complete with smaller windows to throw to receivers.
“Every time he gets under center, that’s more valuable time for him to get better,” Pittsburgh Power coach Derek Stingley said of Jefferson.
Like many players, his adjustment to the AFL is taking time. In three games, Jefferson has passed for 506 yards, completing 53.3 of his passes, with eight touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s also been sacked 12 times. Jefferson has also rushed for 96 yards and one score.
During last week’s 45-14 loss to the Chicago Fire, Jefferson accounted for one TD pass.
Overall, the Power rank last in the league in scoring (27.3 points per game) and total offense (213.7 yards per game).
Stingley said Jefferson has done a good job of getting the ball to receivers. What he wants Jefferson to improve on is leading them with his passes and anticipating their routes, allowing them greater opportunities to run after the catch.
“This is an opportunity for him to show his arm strength and accuracy,” said Stingley, who lives in Baton Rouge in the offseason. “
The VooDoo defense is allowing 56.3 points per game, as well as 275.3 yards a game, both middle of the road in the league.
By all accounts, Jefferson hopes the NFL is watching his progress.
On Twitter, he wrote about his latest stop in a football journey from Destrehan to Pittsburgh. Two of his recent tweets:
“God gave me strength and allowed me to be patient.”
“Have what it takes. All I need is a opportunity!!”