UCLA linebacker Jordan Genmark-Heath has embraced change throughout his life, including his arrival to the United States.
“It’s been a journey,” he said. “Who would’ve thought I’d be here, where I am today.”
Genmark-Heath started playing Pop Warner football in Sweden and dreamed of playing high school football after moving to San Diego with his mother and stepfather when he was 14.
“I really didn’t know a lot about college football,” he said. “In Sweden, there were only 600 kids who played football and my dream was to play high school football.”
Rated as a four-star prospect, according to 247sports, while playing safety at Cathedral Catholic, he was recruited early by several college programs, giving the Swedish athlete the opportunity to travel the country to visit different campuses.
UCLA showed interest in the 2017 prospect as a linebacker, but he told the Bruins he was “a safety at heart” and respectfully declined.
Genmark-Heath signed with Notre Dame as a safety but eventually made the switch to linebacker after his freshman season with the encouragement of his coaches due to his style of play.
“I gained about 30 pounds,” Genmark-Heath said about switching positions. “It’s a lot of weight to gain so I had some bad weight and was a bit puffy in the face.
“It took me a while to be confident and comfortable with playing in the box, but this is the position where I belong.”
He officially concluded his time at Notre Dame, missing football practice with the Bruins on Friday, to attend his graduation in South Bend, Indiana.
Genmark-Heath played in 13 games during each of his three seasons with Notre Dame and believes that experience has helped him form a bond with fellow transfer Ale Kaho from Alabama.
“We can relate with what we experienced at those programs and know what it takes to win,” Genmark-Heath said. “We can help lead the way and help bring a new sense of physicality at the linebacker position.”
Linebacker Caleb Johnson has noticed the early impact Genmark-Heath and Kaho have had in their position room.
“They’re picking things up fast,” Johnson said. “We are building a stronger unit. We just have to keep on the gas from start to finish.”
Genmark-Heath will continue his education in Westwood, pursuing a master’s degree in Education and Information Studies.
“Education has always been important to me and one of the reasons I decided to come to UCLA,” he said. “I’ll be able to finish my master’s by the fall and my plan is to declare for the league.”