NFL: Raiders: In A Rush

By Panos Pappas
Updated: January 12, 2006

SPAIN—In March of 2005, the Silver and Black made a giant step by signing one of the NFL’s most sought-after free agents, RB LaMont Jordan. Jordan packed his determination and will to win, and brought those qualities with him to Oakland. In 2005, Jordan became the first Raiders player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since Tyrone Wheatley accomplished the feat in 2000. Jordan ended the campaign with 1,025 yards on the ground, and finished second on the team with 70 receptions out of the backfield.

Growing up in Suitland, Maryland, Jordan’s passion for sports came at an early age. Competing and excelling in basketball, baseball, swimming, and track, Jordan’s original passion was a sport that did not even have organized leagues in his city – volleyball. Jordan reached high school and with no volleyball leagues around, he needed to find a sport which he could play during the fall. He decided to play football and tried out for the team at the beginning of his freshman year, but he was promptly cut.

After being cut from the team, Jordan’s morale and self-esteem had become very low. Having previously struggled in school, the ninth-grader was on the verge of heading towards a destructive path.

“I didn’t care about school before I got to high school and at that time of my life I just didn’t think anybody cared,” Jordan reflected. “I was pretty much falling down a bad path.” Fortunately for Jordan, someone did care, and helped him realize the importance of school and discipline.

“The person who changed my life the most was my ninth-grade government teacher, Mr. Robertson,” he said. “I got to high school and he would stay after school with me even though I didn’t need help and would go over certain things with me. Once I learned the lesson of the week, I would go ahead and learn the next week. He would always show me that he cared.”

After a couple of years of playing baseball for his high school, Jordan knew that he had developed into a good athlete, but did not know if his skills were good enough to earn him a college scholarship. By the beginning of his junior year, he began to think what he was going to do if sports didn’t work out for him.

“The NFL has always been my dream, but when I first thought about college, I wanted to be a math teacher,” said the 5’10″, 230-pounder. “My first major was math education. Before all the big schools came, I took a black college tour. I was going to go to North Carolina Central, try to play ball down there, and get my education.”

It was during his junior year of high school when LaMont Jordan developed into one of the state’s elite athletes. By the beginning of his senior year, his physical and mental development were clearly above and beyond most high school athletes. His ability to avoid opposing defenders, catch the ball out of the backfield, along with his tremendous get-away speed, earned Jordan several football scholarship offers from large college football programs. Wanting to be close to his family, friends, and hometown, Jordan accepted a scholarship at the University of Maryland.

At Maryland, Jordan set every major rushing record for the Terrapins. He finished his collegiate career as the school’s all-time leading rusher with 4,147 yards, and held school records for most rushing attempts (807), 100-yard rushing games (18), total plays from scrimmage (888), and total yards from scrimmage (4,980). After earning first-team All-ACC and second-team All-American honors as a junior, it was clear that an NFL career was a possibility for Jordan. It became a reality after his senior year, where he rushed for 11 touchdowns and was a semi-finalist for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation’s best collegiate running back.

During the 2001 NFL Draft, the New York Jets selected Jordan with their second-round pick (49th overall). With an established running back in Curtis Martin ahead of him on the depth chart, Jordan spent much of the next four years trying to make the most out of limited carries and playing on special teams. Although frustrated at times, Jordan’s patience and ability to learn the game by watching and observing allowed him to get a better understanding of the game.

“I knew I had to be patient and that I would get my chance, but the hardest thing was knowing what I was capable of doing on the field and not being able to show it,” he said. Knowing that his opportunity would come to be an every down player, Jordan maximized his limited role in 2004 by leading the NFL with 5.15 average yards per carry.

When Jordan became a free agent at the end of the 2004 season, he knew right away that The Oakland Raiders would be the place for him to get that chance to become a star. Having the opportunity to play in front of the Raider Nation, and play for an organization with a winning tradition such as the Raiders, the decision was made with ease.

“The fans create such an atmosphere that you want to go out there and play for the Oakland fans. They are die-hards,” said Jordan, who finished second on the team in receptions in addition to leading the squad in rushing yards. “I tell people all the time, You have never been to a professional football game until you’ve been to a game in Oakland.’ I had a few of my friends come out here; I had my mom come out here for the home opener, and they absolutely loved it.”

For the first time in Jordan’s professional career, he knows that he is the unquestioned starting running back for an NFL team. Knowing that he will have a tremendous amount of attention on his every move, his discipline and work habits have helped him make the adjustment from reserve to starter with relative ease.

“It’s a different mindset because I know that I’m going to play,” he said. “I knew coming in with the big contract and all the newspapers’ hype, people will be watching closely what I do. It is different from that standpoint. I knew I had to do a lot more hills, a lot more steps.”

As impressive as LaMont Jordan is on the field, his actions off the field are of equal strength. His involvement in the community has been apparent from a young age. “I’ve always loved working with kids, even when I was growing up as a kid. I wanted to work with younger kids, mainly in sports,” said Jordan. “In high school, I did a bunch of community things working with kids and I’ve always wanted to help.”

Jordan also displays his appreciation for our country’s military by wearing traditional combat fatigues before and after every game. “That’s just me showing my support for the troops,” he explained. “I actually want to try and raise money for a hospital back home. I want to give back to the troops and raise money for those soldiers that might have been wounded, might have lost limbs in the war, and who might not have the money to pay for it.” Now that the 2005 season is in the books, LaMont Jordan looks to use his arsenal of abilities to help return the Silver and Black to the ranks of the NFL elite. Both he and his teammates seek and expect that the Raiders’ return to glory is coming. Whether it is scoring game-winning touchdowns, or helping his community, Jordan’s commitment to his teammates and The Raider Nation should give Raider fans plenty of reasons to smile.