By Joe McHugh

Pasadena Weekly Contributing Writer

Jordan Genmark Heath has been all around the world chasing his dream of playing football. With hopes of being in the NFL someday, UCLA is giving Genmark Heath the opportunity to shine in the Pac-12.

“When I moved over here, it gave me the opportunity to take my football career to the next level,” said Genmark Heath, who traveled from Sweden to Indiana and California. “My dream was essentially to play high school football, then shifting to college football, then now I have my sights set on the NFL

Hailing from Stockholm, Genmark Heath moved to the United States when he was 14 years old, but his love for football started even before he made it to U.S. soil. Genmark Heath did not know much about football until his cousin asked him if he wanted to play.

“My older cousin wanted to try out for the team that was close to him,” Genmark Heath said. “But he didn’t want to go alone, so he kind of forced me to go with him… and I fell in love with the sport from there.”

Learning football in Sweden, Genmark Heath made do with what he had. He referred to tutorials on YouTube to help him perfect his skills. A true utility player, Genmark Heath played every position he could get his hands on, ranging from quarterback and receiver, to defensive line and safety, and eventually stuck to the defensive side of the ball.

During high school, Genmark Heath only improved — to the point where he was eventually offered a scholarship to a division one program in Notre Dame. Genmark Heath was a member of the Fighting Irish for four years and appeared in 39 games and starting in one in his career in South Bend.

There he faced elite talent in Notre Dame’s offensive line, including two of the NFL’s best linemen in Quenton Nelson and Mike McClinchey. From practicing with these players, Genmark Heath learned what it is like to play the top level of competition.

“Any elite competitor wants to go against the best and that was on opportunity for me to go against the best,” Genmark Heath said. “And even guys we have here, I always try to get my one on one’s with guys like Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown. Those are the type of guys where you can really test yourself.”

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing Genmark Heath to opt out of his senior season. Instead, he pursued a master’s degree in education. After his four years at Notre Dame, it was time for a change.

“I decided for me, going into my last year of eligibility, to look elsewhere,” Genmark Heath said. “I wanted to try to further my education and play ball at the top level.”

With this decision came UCLA. Genmark Heath already had an established relationship with UCLA outside linebackers coach, Don Pellum, and found it to be a great fit. Genmark Heath was a safety throughout high school and wanted to stick with it. But that lasted a short time, as he moved to linebacker with the Fighting Irish, and continued it on into UCLA.

At UCLA Genmark Heath has had a true breakout year. In 10 games in the 2021 season, Genmark Heath has the second-most tackles on the team, with 48, 1.5 sacks, and an interception. He has become a true playmaker for the UCLA defense and hopes to continue that role as the season closes.

“This year, I really feel comfortable at the position,” Genmark Heath said. “I feel dominant. I feel like I can dominate the box and I feel comfortable. I know where I can find space.”

As Senior Day is coming up for the Bruins, Genmark Heath as a lot to reflect on. Starting by playing football in a place where only about 600 other children were playing, moving to the United States, and becoming a star throughout high school, all the way to now becoming a star at one of the top collegiate football programs in the NCAA.

“I’m just blessed to have great people in my life and just blessed to have people that I have crossed roads with. I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to play the game that I love,” Genmark Heath said.