Jordan sure isn't anonymous threat; All-purpose play makes national name for Terp

THE BALTIMORE SUN

COLLEGE PARK -- LaMont Jordan is loving every minute of his new-found football fame at Maryland.

The junior running back's eyes light up at the sudden All-America talk.

He thrives on the triple-threat tag.

He is excited about being among the nation's leaders in scoring, all-purpose yards and rushing.

The 5-foot-11, 220-pound standout enjoys being a role model for the children around Byrd Stadium who follow him after home games and ask for autographs.

"I'm a kid at heart," Jordan said. "I like to wrestle and play around with little kids. I even wrestle with my teammates.

"You have to enjoy life while you can. You keep your youth by getting around young kids and molding them to become better people."

And most of all, he loves the cameras and winning.

"I really think my quality in life is to be a football player and be on TV," Jordan said. "Not because of what it will do for me but because of what I'll be able to do for kids and what I'll be able to do for the community as a whole. I want to make a big difference in this community."

Jordan says he is totally at ease in front of a television camera.

"It's just something I think was naturally given to me," he said. "I want to be a sportscaster like Howie Long and Ronnie Lott [on Fox NFL Sunday] or Johnny Holliday [Maryland play-by-play announcer]. Anything where I can be around football. Of course, I want to play in the NFL first."

Jordan is majoring in communications and says, "I want to see what classes I have to take to prepare for sportscasting."

He is the first to admit that having a sportscaster's mentality and being a high-profile running back in the tight-lipped world of major college football doesn't always mix easily.

For instance, Jordan said openly over the summer on media day, "I'm a little overweight and not in top shape because I ate too much pizza and didn't work hard enough in the summer. I was too busy going to class."

When Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden asked Jordan why he made those comments when they could only make him look bad, Jordan just smiled.

Vanderlinden said he understood. "LaMont is a communications major and loves to talk. I just told him to be careful what he says."

There have been other bumps in the road between coach and player, like a clash over Jordan's precarious academic standing this past spring and summer and past disagreements over work habits.

Vanderlinden said he didn't start Jordan against Temple in the season opener because of "academics," and last year the coach held his top runner out of the opener against James Madison. Vanderlinden didn't believe Jordan had worked hard enough to fully recover from a foot injury.

However, Jordan and Vanderlinden still have a lot of respect for each other.

Both of them share the same goal, which is an immense desire to put Maryland on the football map again.

Jordan said, "Coming in here, I truly believed Maryland had the athletes to get the job done, but there was always something missing. I guess now we have what was missing. We have the players, the coaching staff, the will and the desire. We want to put Maryland back on the map."

Entering today's 1 p.m. Atlantic Coast Conference game against Clemson (2-3, 2-1) at Byrd Stadium, Maryland (4-1, 1-1) seems headed in the right direction, and Jordan is the tour guide.

Much of the country is finally discovering just how multi-talented Jordan is. They are still talking about him down in Winston-Salem, N.C., where he made some incredible moves on a 70-yard touchdown pass reception from Calvin McCall in a 17-14 victory over Wake Forest.

The Deacons marveled over the way Jordan navigated the final 50 yards of that run to the end zone.

"I've never seen a big back of Jordan's dimensions accelerate as quickly as he did," said Wake Forest linebacker Dustin Lyman. "He was stopping and starting during the first 30 yards and then our ACC sprinter, cornerback Reggie Austin, tried to chase him down the final 20 yards and didn't catch him until the goal line."

"Teams will look for me" Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said of his team's hopes of stopping Jordan tomorrow: "You've got to have tremendous pursuit. We're going to have to get a lot of hats [helmets] on him. We're going to have to go find him."

That is just what Jordan is expecting to happen.

"After that play [70-yarder], teams are going to look for me," he said. "But all that does is open up our wide receivers more. Either way, it will help the team."

So just what about this All-America talk?

"I would like to be an All-American," Jordan said. "Being a triple threat has All-America status but I have to get my rushing yards up. Throwing passes and catching them is a lot of fun but it's extra-curricular. I'm a running back. My first duty is to run the ball. That's what they gave me my scholarship for."

He is third in rushing in the ACC and 22nd in the nation with 106.2 yards a game. He is tied for 12th in the country in scoring with 9.6 points a game, and 21st in the nation in all-purpose yards with a 144 average.

Jordan has caught 13 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown and completed two of two passes for 60 yards and one touchdown. The 13 receptions tie him with Guilian Gary for the team lead.

Jordan believes he can improve his rushing stats a lot by being a little more disciplined.

"I'm so anxious to get through the line that I've missed some cuts this year," he said. "I've missed more than I've wanted. That's just me trying to make a play. Especially against Georgia Tech when we needed to make big plays."

Overall, Jordan insists he is off to a slow start.

"I've seen the tapes and been thinking I look a little slow on some of my runs compared to the two touchdown runs at North Carolina last year," he said. "But I've been that way since I've been here. I always get faster over the last five games of the season. I'm trying to lose 10 pounds now to get down to 210."

When asked to compare himself in style to a current NFL running back, Jordan said, "I'd have to put two people together. Terrell Davis has the cuts and Jamal Anderson is a big brutal back. I'm a combination of both and you have to add a little [John] Elway in there, too. I've also been told I have good vision, so I have to accept that."

Vanderlinden said, "LaMont will be a special player if he continues to work hard. Last Saturday was an indication of what he is capable of."

And there's more.

"I consider myself a pressure person on and off the field," Jordan said. "I think it [improving his grades last summer] shows the kind of character I have. I step up at a big time. Like in the Wake Forest game when we needed a big play."

Terps today

Opponent: Clemson

Time: 1 p.m.

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park , TV/Radio: None/WBAL (1090 AM), WTTR (1470 AM)

Line: Maryland by 1

Triple threat

Maryland's LaMont Jordan has shown he's more than a runner during his college career. How he's fared as a runner -- and receiver and passer:

1999 (5 games)

Rushing

Att. Yds. Avg. TD LG

106, 531, 5.0, 7, 50

Receiving

Rec. Yds. Avg. TD LG

13, 189, 14.5, 1, 70

Passing

Att. Cmp. Int. Yds. TD LG

2, 2, 0, 60, 1, 60

1998 (10 games)

Rushing

Att. Yds. Avg. TD LG

169, 906, 5.4, 6, 50

Receiving

Rec. Yds. Avg. TD LG

14, 87, 6.2, 0, 13

Passing

Att. Cmp. Int. Yds. TD LG

2, 2, 0, 83, 1, 68

1997 (11 games)

Rushing

Att. Yds. Avg. TD LG

159, 689, 4.3, 3, 44

Receiving

Rec. Yds. Avg. TD LG

22, 155, 7.1, 0, 22

Passing

Att. Cmp. Int. Yds. TD LG

1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0

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