May 8, 2000
By Rachel Swartz
It's not Texas, but the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and he's laughing. From where Jordan Black is sitting, the future looks pretty bright.
The 6-6, 313-pound left offensive tackle has a lot to look forward to. With the spring semester nearing an end, he'll soon be on a plane home to Dallas, a big grin on his face, happy to be spending some time back in Texas with his family. Black welcomes the opportunity to go home, get away, and reflect on what his football career has been and what paths it may yet take.
"Going home is a recharge for me and something that I enjoy so much," Black said. "As long as I'm home, I'm happy."
Following his 1998 freshman year, which Black spent behind senior offensive tackles Luke Pettigout and Mike Rosenthal on the depth chart, the sophomore looked toward the future. He used the same conditioning and lifting drills as his former teammates, who are now likely starting tackles for the NFL's New York Giants. Black kept visualizing himself as a starter and had the mindset to match. With the Eddie Robinson Kickoff Classic against Kansas on August 28 last season, that visualization ceased to be a dream and became reality. Positive thinking and self-confidence appear to have paid off for him.
Optimistic as Black may be, he's also practical. The initial fascination with snow has worn off, but he's come to accept it and the cold as being part of attending Notre Dame. Not that having to put up with snow is a major sacrifice when you're at Notre Dame, the "only school that has the best of both worlds," as he sees it. The home of the Fighting Irish is the ultimate football school in Black's eyes, with a name bigger than most pro programs. But it is also a place where educational needs are paramount and the future, be that in the NFL or in the business world, always looms on the horizon. For him, it really is a case of "Look at the next 40 years, not just the next four," as coaches tell interested high school seniors.
Black is also realistic. He understands there is a difference between on the field and off the field. He acknowledges the personality differences, admitting that he is aggressive on the field, but choosing to describe himself off the field as a "pretty laid-back, easy-going, funny guy," a description his best friend on the team, fellow sophomore and offensive tackle Sean Mahan agrees with.
The 20-year-old Black is in some ways the average college student, who likes to sleep and watch television in his spare time. At the same time, unlike many of his contemporaries, he has a clear idea of where he'd like to be in 10 years. Not surprisingly, an NFL career is Black's number-one goal, even if when he was younger, he thought he'd grow up to play professional basketball based on his height. Irish head coach Bob Davie has referred to Black as a talent and, in his MSNBC internet column in mid-November, Pat Haden reported that Irish coaches feel Black could be a number-one NFL draft pick by his senior year. Mahan agrees with this assessment:
"Jordan has the talent, size and determination to make it in the pros. In 10 years, he'll be in Dallas, playing for the Cowboys."
Regardless of outside opinions and predictions, Black does not expect to reach the next level without working at it. He analyzes game film to pinpoint flaws in his technique. Given the chance, he'd most like to have dinner with Jacksonville Jaguars left tackle Tony Boselli because he views Boselli as the best tackle in the game, and thinks that he could "give me the most advice" and some pointers on how to get to where Black wants to be in his life.
He is, however, conscious of the risks inherent in playing football. He admits the prospect of a serious injury is scary because there is always the danger that a serious injury could "end your career in a second." He confesses that it is difficult to "put all your eggs in one basket, when it can be taken away so quickly."
Black knows this from experience. His Notre Dame career has been hindered by nagging injuries which have slowed his development. This summer he faces the challenge of re-establishing himself as a leader of the offensive line and the number-one left tackle, following left shoulder surgery in November. The surgery, done to tighten up loose ligaments, tack down some cartilage, and piece together some of the bone that had broken off due to several dislocations, was something Black had been putting off for three years.
Yet even the daunting prospect of coming back from surgery does not faze Black. In a position where many people might look at the trials ahead and give up, Black acknowledges the difficulty in starting over when "there are 100 people on the team that want a spot, and only 22 [spots] available." He also parallels his current position to where he was in high school, "in the way that I worked myself up from the bottom."
In fact, the man who was a Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools 4A All-State lineman on both offensive and defensive sides of the ball his junior year feels that his best athletic moment is yet to come. Coming out of tiny private Dallas Christian High School, there were doubters who did not think that Black could start as a second-year player. He proved his doubters wrong-earning the starting left tackle spot during the '99 spring football season and earning a monogram during the '99 season. Many might be content to rest with these accomplishments, but not Black. He feels the '99 season was somewhat of a personal disappointment, that he did not play to his full capability. He wants to continue to meet-and exceed expectations, to get mentally tougher and to continue to start for the Irish.
The future does not scare him, although he does think about what it may hold. As much as he desires the chance to play football professionally, if that is not to be, the psychology and computer applications major is willing to shift into an advertising career. The positive benefits of football-the highly developed work ethic, the ability to work and think under pressure-will certainly transfer into any field he should choose. Surprisingly, when asked where he sees himself in 10 years, before he mentions anything about a football career or otherwise, he grins into the sun and openly says that he sees himself as a husband and a father.
At a crossroads in his life, he looks to the past for advice, and the future for motivation. If his past accomplishments are any indication, his future on the field certainly looks bright. He feels regardless of what happens to him, he'll come out on top. At a stage in life when so many people are unsure of themselves and their lives, Jordan Black looks to the future and smiles.