"I think my first year I was the second leading receiver on the team, but after that during my sophomore and junior years I was the leading receiver at UTEP," said Leslie. "I was able to break a few records and I was on pace to set a few more. I had a great time at UTEP and my sophomore year was really big for me. We kind of slimmed down the new offense this past year [in the passing game] and that was disappointing."
With a "slimmed down" passing attack under new UTEP head football coach Sean Kugler, Leslie still produced. He caught 44 passes for 612 yards put upped his touchdown total by one with seven as a preseason Biletnikoff Award Watch List honoree. He'll now bring his pass-catching skills to BYU where he will be coached by the man who first recruited him to UTEP.
"You know, Coach Holliday went to BYU and what I realized is I want to try something else and transfer," said Leslie. "Coach Holliday was one of the first people I wanted to talk to once I made that decision, so I went into the head coach's [Coach Kugler] office and we had a talk. He was really adamant about me not leaving, but once he realized I was going to look for something else he signed my release."
"I felt strongly about [transferring] because I felt I could achieve so much more given the direction they were going with their offense. Once he [Coach Kugler] signed my release I was able to talk to [other] coaches. I then spoke with Coach Holliday; he was the first coach that I talked to. I asked him how their receiver situation was and how they were looking for next year and if they would be interested [in me transferring there]. Once he got that call from me he was excited."
Leslie was recruited to UTEP by Guy Holliday when Holliday was the Wide Receivers Coach in El Paso. It is clear that the relationship between Holliday and Leslie goes much deeper than just x's and o's.
"He taught me a lot and was a great coach to me when I was at UTEP. He was the man behind my success and I know without him I wouldn't be the player I am today. I talked to him, and I always knew that BYU was a great school, and knowing that Coach Holliday was there, [it was a place that held] my interest. I talked to coach Mendenhall and the rest of the coaching staff and it just seemed like a great fit, especially with all the receivers leaving. Being a bigger receiver, I wanted to come in and make a big splash and I knew I had the ability to do it. I know that at BYU I'll have the opportunity to succeed."
BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall mentioned during his National Letter of Intent press conference on Wednesday that Leslie was the stepson of Coach Holliday. While the two might be close in many ways, Leslie cleared up that the two are not related.
"No, I just think Coach Mendenhall just misunderstood me and Coach Holliday's relationship," said Leslie with a chuckle. "I'm just really close to him and he was the one that recruited me. I've known Coach Holliday for four years now and he's been a great coach to me. When you're coached by a guy like him you create a great bond with him because you work with him every day. He was always there for me even when I had surgery. He's just a great guy and someone I want to be around."
While Coach Holliday might not be related to Leslie he is a mentor and father figure to Leslie, whose own father passed away. Leslie did keep tabs on him when he was away at BYU, and, having at one time faced BYU, the two will now team up as members of the BYU Cougars.
"Actually a few times I kept tabs on him because we played some of the same opponents," said Leslie. "When BYU would play those teams I would watch the film of BYU, so I would watch BYU's offense and look at their receivers and see Taysom Hill and Cody Hoffman being just so explosive. "
Leslie was on the UTEP squad that faced BYU in the 2010 New Mexico Bowl and recalled that experience.
"My redshirt freshman year, I wasn't playing at the time, UTEP actually played BYU in a bowl game. Coach Holliday and I talked about when we played BYU my freshman year. It's kind of funny because we both played against BYU that year and now we're both going to be together at BYU. It's kind of funny [how that happened]."
The one aspect about coming to BYU that Leslie is most excited about is meeting his new teammates and getting familiar with the BYU experience. He feels he has a lot of add to the program but knows nothing is guaranteed by Coach Holliday.
"I'm looking forward to becoming familiar with the team," Leslie said. "This is going to be something new, so I want to become familiar with the team and all the players. That's something I'm looking forward to, because BYU is a unique place to be. One of the hardest things to do is establish timing between receiver and quarterback. I'm really excited about getting up there and getting [to work] with Taysom [Hill] and the other players to get more comfortable with the offense. I think it's going to be exciting and I can't wait."
He has one year to get it right and that's exactly what Leslie plans to do. While he has accomplished much at UTEP he feels he has yet to accomplish everything and hopes he can reach those personal goals at BYU.
"I know I'm coming in with a lot of experience having played division one football for a few years now at UTEP," he said. "I want to come to BYU level headed. I mean, I've accomplished a few things but it's nowhere near what I feel I wanted to accomplish. I still haven't had a 1,000 yard season even though I have led the nation in catches [before]. You know, I want more than that. I want to go undefeated, 10-2 or 11-1 and go to a bowl game. I haven't played in a bowl game since while I played at UTEP and that's something I want to experience."
Leslie knows that he will have to earn every rep he gets in Provo.
"I'm going to come to BYU and work hard. I know nothing is given there and everything is earned, so I have to work hard and earn everything I get from Coach Holliday because he gives nothing. You have to work hard and earn it, so I'm going to work hard over the summer with Taysom to get on the same page."
While coming to BYU for the football experience under current Guy Holliday is the primary reason Leslie's reason for transferring, he will also be enrolled at BYU working on a graduate degree. Leslie is set to graduate with an engineering degree from UTEP this spring and he'll then enroll in graduate courses at BYU.
"It's been difficult but I'll be graduating in electrical engineering this year from UTEP," said Leslie. "I never thought I would finish it but now I see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's kind of exciting and I'm glad I did it. When I'm at BYU I'm going to take Executive MPA (Masters in Public Administration) classes in that field and see how that works out for me. It has nothing to do with the electrical engineering field but has more to do with leadership and stuff like that. I talked to some of the academic advisors at BYU and they said this would be a great master's program for me, so right now it's just about filling out the applications for that."
Coach Holliday was reunited with Leslie last weekend when he picked up Travis, Travis' mother and Travis' grandparents- who also attended the official visit weekend- at the airport. The weekend was a time for all to become reacquainted.
"It was great [that] he picked me up from the airport," Leslie said. "I got to talk with him and it was just great to see him. My mom and family knew him from before so they all got to catch up again. It was just great. He showed me around the campus and we spent some time together. I just can't wait to get back out there again."
Once Leslie's mother and grandparents realized their son and grandson was going to BYU and would be in the care of Coach Holliday, he had their full support.
"They were really supportive of my decision, especially my mom and grandfather," said Leslie. "They had a chance to speak with Coach Holliday and they felt like it was the best place for me. They were really excited about it. When I was thinking of transferring they gave me their opinions but said it was ultimately my choice. Once I made the decision to [seek] a release and then transfer I told them that I was interested in BYU. Once I told them that they just started running with it. It was something they wanted for me too."
"I'm the kind of person that when I make a commitment I want to stay with it. I have been here at UTEP for four years, and now that the offense is more run-oriented I want the chance to be successful in my way. I'm graduating so I feel like I've kept my end of bargain, but now I want to go out and reach my big play potential that I feel I have. I respect UTEP and I'm sure they're going to have a great year next year, but I know now at BYU I can reach new heights and achieve my full potential."
Leslie was among the many recruits that visited BYU last weekend for their official recruiting trip. Mingling with the caliber of young men that would be his teammates confirmed to Leslie that his decision to come to BYU was the right one.
"You know, I got a chance to bond with a few of the recruits coming in and you can see they type of kids they are," said Leslie. "You can see the morals and the passion they have. You're coming to a team where specific things are a priority and they're not worried about outside influences and distractions. They're determined to stay on track and have the right morals and a desire to win, especially me. I'm going to be a senior and I want to win. I've got one chance at this. I'm coming to a team full of players not involved with things that distract off the field. The guys that I hung out with where all similar in that they're focused on football and education and doing what's right, and that's a great situation for me to be stepping into given I have one year to get things right."
The Utah weather was a surprise to him but not the only surprise. Leslie was pleasantly surprised by the environment of both BYU and the surrounding communities
"Well of course the weather was different," Leslie said with a chuckle. "I'm from Texas and in Utah it gets a lot colder so I'll have to get used to that. Other than that BYU is beautiful and Utah [the state] is beautiful. I walked around campus and went around the mountains [on a snowmobile] and got a chance to experience some of that. BYU is a nice place and of course they have a perfect coaching staff. I talked to every coach and they're all just great men. You can see it in their eyes they're ready to win. You can see the fire in their eyes when they talk to their players and interact with them. They're a special coaching staff."
Leslie's eyes were opened wide as soon as word of his transfer reached the ears of BYU fans. They reached out to him on social media and it touched Leslie.
"Then you have BYU's fans. You see the type of fans BYU has and it's not even close. I watched a video about the fans and it really just hit me deep to see the support the fans give the players. I can't wait to play in front of them and in front of the 64,000 fans [at LaVell Edwards Stadium], to hear them cheer for the team I'm playing for. Yesterday I saw the excitement from the fans and could see the support they give. All the love they were giving me hit me deep and it made me know that I made the right decision. I could see the excitement in them and I can't wait till next season to make the fans proud."
BYU could have invested a scholarship on a receiver that would be at BYU longer than just one year. The decision to extend a scholarship on a one year transfer in Leslie was worth it to both Coach Holliday and Coach Mendenhall. Leslie is grateful to both of them for giving him the chance at living the BYU experience.
"I respect Coach Mendenhall a lot and I'm grateful for him," said Leslie. "I got a chance to sit down with him a few times, and we were able to talk like men and express how we were feeling. We talked about what we saw next year and what we saw for me. You can just see he is a great guy and he has great morals and respects people. He's the kind of coach I know I can go and talk to him about anything. I'm excited to play for him next year."
The ultimate payback Leslie feels he can give to Coach Holliday is to come to BYU, work hard, be an example, and perform to the best of his ability to let his success vindicate their decision to offer him a scholarship.
"I just want to thank Coach Holliday for talking to Coach Mendenhall into giving me this chance," Leslie said. "I just want to go out next year and prove him and Coach Mendenhall right next year. I think that would be the best way for me to thank them, so that's what I'm going to do when it's all said and done. Until then, all I can really say is how grateful I am for Coach Holliday and for Coach Mendenhall for all they've done for me."
Welcome to the BYU family, Jordan Leslie.