For most of the nearly two decades since LaMont Jordan played at Maryland, the school’s all-time leading rusher spent more time following the women’s basketball team than the football team.
It wasn’t that Jordan had left College Park trying to forget having played on four straight losing teams from 1997 to 2000. Jordan was embraced by all three coaches that followed Ron Vanderlinden — Ralph Friedgen, Randy Edsall and DJ Durkin.
“From the time, even when I was playing [in the NFL] when Coach Friedgen was here, all the coaches who’ve been here have been great to me, they’ve given me the freedom to come around and talk to the guys,” Jordan said Thursday.
"When I’m around, I’m around for the guys because I know what it’s like to be a player. Also just making sure that I keep my distance and not step on anybody’s toes. … It definitely feels good to spend more time in the facility that I spent most of my college hours in.”
Jordan was simply a fan of women’s basketball, dating to when Chris Weller coached the Terps. The more success the Terps had under Brenda Frese, who followed Weller in 2002, and the more time he had in the offseason and after his nine-year NFL career ended, the bigger a fan Jordan became.
“I’ve always gone to the [women's] games. I’ve traveled with the team,” Jordan said. “That’s my opportunity to be a fan, especially being a professional athlete being with a team that I followed and I liked. Yell at the referees and not get fined for it. It’s a great feeling.”
Now Jordan is more involved with the football team than he’s ever been. He still talks to the players, and after serving as an analyst part-time last season, Jordan will be talking about them this year in the role of radio analyst.
After serving as one of two analysts for the last four home games a year ago with Tim Strachan, Jordan will assume full-time analyst duties Saturday when the Terps open the season against No. 23 Texas at FedEx Field. Jordan replaces Strachan, who stepped down after 22 seasons on the broadcast.
Jordan calls the opportunity “a dream come true,” and said “it’s hard to put into words.”
A series of events indicate some of the discord and strain building in the University of Maryland athletics department up to — and beyond — June 13, the day football player Jordan McNair died after suffering heatstroke during a team conditioning test.
Asked if this new role will change the way he looks at the game, Jordan said, “It doesn’t change things at all. Before I was a college athlete, before I was a high school athlete, before I was a professional athlete, I was just a fan of football. My perspective doesn’t change. I’m really excited to work with Johnny [Holliday], the voice of Maryland.
“Last year being in the booth with Johnny and being with Tim, and being the first time doing it, both those guys did a great job of making me feel comfortable. I learned a lot from Tim, just studying him. I’m excited for the opportunity to give the listeners some details you may not hear [from others]. Talking about offensive line, talking about the blocking schemes, but also just giving them some in-depth information that typically you wouldn’t hear.”
This is an interesting time for Jordan, who holds the school record for career rushing yards (4,147), single-season rushing (1,632 in 1999) and single-game rushing (306 against Virginia, also in 1999), to be back following the team as an analyst.
Since the local media has only been allowed to watch the first 30 minutes of a couple of practices and has not been able to speak to Terps players since preseason workouts began, with Durkin on administrative leave since Aug. 11, Jordan is one of a few people outside the team to get an idea of what the 2018 season could portend for Maryland.
“Texas is going to come in here with a chip on their shoulder knowing what happened last year. I’m sure they’ll be looking for some revenge,” Jordan said, alluding to Maryland’s 51-41 win over the then-No. 23 Longhorns as four-touchdown underdogs. “We lost six guys on defense that got signed by NFL teams. We’re looking to see which guys will step to take their place.”
From an individual standpoint, Jordan is intrigued by junior defensive end Byron Cowart, an Auburn transfer and once the No. 1 high school prospect in the country. Jordan wants to see ”the [Southeastern Conference] flavor he brings to the Terrapins and this conference.”
Jordan added he’s also excited to see running back Ty Johnson, “and which one of these wide receivers will step up … and the fact that we have an offensive line that has been here for a while, I’m really excited for this game.”
Whether he’s been sworn to secrecy by interim coach Matt Canada, who has yet to name his starting quarterback, or is not sure who’ll line up under center to start the game, Jordan said he believes the Terps are well-stocked at quarterback with redshirt freshman Kasim Hill, redshirt sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome and junior Max Bortenschlager, who wound up starting eight games last season when the other two suffered torn ACLs.
“We just have wait and see, that’s what it pretty much comes down to,” Jordan said. "I’m sure at the start of the game, everyone will see who the Maryland quarterback is. I know that all three guys … Max did a great job of stepping in last year. You’ve got two guys who were ahead of him coming into last year. Those guys are coming back from injury. A lot of questions are going to get answered here on Saturday.”
What will also be scrutinized is how Maryland responds in its first game since offensive lineman Jordan McNair’s death June 13, two weeks after he suffered during a team conditioning test.
“This is the way I see life,” Jordan said. “No matter whether a tragedy happens or blessings fall your way, it creates change. … This is the one thing I know about football players, I know about athletes, I definitely know this about the game of football: You’re always looking for something to motivate you. Right now the Terps have something to motivate them.”
In November, Jordan will be one of nine inducted in the school’s athletics Hall of Fame. Jordan, who was also selected to the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018, was at Gossett Team House watching tape with Johnson and junior running back Jake Funk when. And as was planned, the announcement was posted on Facebook to surprise him.
“It came from the middle of nowhere, the way they did it, it shocked the hell out of me," Jordan said, “I was in full-coach mode mentoring those guys. It’s a great feeling. I’m still trying to digest it all. To know that I’m going into a Hall of Fame … I walked past that wall [where the members’ photos hang] and I kept looking up there and looking up there. To know that my picture is going to be up there is a wonderful feeling.”