Nov. 1, 2000
By Dan Bent
As the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., Notre Dame senior JW Jordan celebrated Notre Dame's 45-14 victory over Navy with a very tired smile. The backup center had just played the entire fourth quarter and logged the most extensive playing time of his career.
"It was fun, but it was really tiring," Jordan said of his experience.
"I got my chance to go in and I was really excited and pumped-up, and I just got drained right away."
Even though he has seen limited action in his first three seasons, Jordan's importance to the Irish offensive line should not be underestimated. It was just last year, for example, that the men in the trenches suffered a rash of injuries and several inexperienced linemen were thrust into the starting lineup.
While this year's unit has remained relatively healthy, Jordan understands that he needs to be ready if center Jeff Faine is knocked out of the starting lineup. He also knows that he must bring the same tireless work ethic to practice each day because an injury could happen at any moment.
This past summer during preseason drills, Faine was injured for several days and Jordan practiced with the first unit. Although he had not received extensive reps with the first team, his performance impressed the Notre Dame coaching staff.
"All I did was focus," Jordan said.
"I just realized that I had to pick it up because everyone else was depending on me. That's the same attitude I'd have to take if Jeff went down sometime this year."
This positive attitude has helped Jordan develop into a more than capable reserve. Yet, Jordan did not develop his ability overnight. In contrast to his teammates, Jordan spent a year at prep school before coming to Notre Dame in order to hone his football skills and improve his academic standing.
After a successful high school football career at Brooklyn (N.Y.) Poly Prep, the two-time all-Ivy League selection attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. Despite Notre Dame's challenging curriculum, Jordan indicates the transition from high school to prep school took much more effort than his adjustment to college life.
"High school to prep school was really hard because I was away from home for the first time and the academics were really, really hard," Jordan said.
"Once I got to Notre Dame, I had been away from home for a year so it wasn't too bad."
In addition to the rigorous academics, Jordan encountered a rigid social life to which he never quite adjusted.
"They also had a lot of rules there," Jordan said.
"For example, we had to be in our room each night by 11:00. It was like parietals. We had rector-type people, but they weren't priests. They were just teachers who lived in the dorms. You had to go see the teacher in your dorm, ask permission and tell them exactly how long you were going to be in your room in order to have someone over. Every time I think Notre Dame is kind of strict, I just remember prep school and then it doesn't seem bad here."
During his time at the Phillips Academy, Jordan developed into a physical force along the offensive line. While Jordan received offers from various schools, his decision to attend Notre Dame was easy.
"I came here because playing football for Notre Dame is like playing baseball for the Yankees or playing pro football for the Packers," Jordan said.
"It's just an honor to play at a place with so much tradition. I also came here because of academics. I knew that if I came here, I would be a student-athlete and not just a football player."
Jordan's decision also was easy because his father, Jay, graduated from Notre Dame in 1969 and was a walk-on member of the football team. The elder Jordan currently serves as a member of the University's Board of Trustees and owns Jordan Industries, a company that employs several former Notre Dame students and athletes.
Given his family ties to the University, Jordan has relied on his father's advice and experience to help him succeed at Notre Dame, both on the field and in the classroom.
"My dad always calls with advice," Jordan said.
"Sometimes it's kind of crazy stuff, sometimes it's good advice, but he's been a big help. Basically the two things that he talks about with me are just playing hard in football, and then he talks about academics. With football, though, he just tells me to work as hard as I can and always be ready."
If the past three and a half years are any indication, it looks like JW Jordan embraced that fatherly advice.