Big Dreams Feat. Jordan Norwood
I first met Jordan when I was 18 years old. We both were selected as WRs to play in the PSFCA East-West All-Star Game. If you’re familiar with Pennsylvania high school football, or even Ohio, you know the Big 33 Football Classic was what Keith Jackson would call, “The Granddaddy of ‘em all!” Well….that letter never came for us, but the East-West game was the next best thing. If I could say one thing about Jordan, the kid was smooth! I don’t know, there was just something about watching him play football that he made look so effortless.
After we parted ways that summer in Altoona, PA, Jordan went on to have huge success at Pennsylvania State University. Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lion, and the iconic blue and white jerseys were something Jordan was very familiar with. After all, he went to State College Area High School, a whopping 3.6 miles from famous Beaver Stadium. His senior year, Penn State finished 8th in the AP/Coaches Poll. A not-to-shabby 11-2 season that ended with playing USC in the Rose Bowl. It was later that year Jordan burst on to the NFL scene in 2009 as undrafted free agent (UFA) for the Cleveland Browns. Read any bio on him and it uses terms like “brief stint” and “bounced around,” but when you have faith in God’s plan like Jordan does he felt he was always exactly where he was supposed to be.
After being out of football for a whole season, Jordan landed in Denver, Colorado. Just when things were finally looking up, he tore his ACL during training camp (don’t feel bad for the guy just yet). He persevered to end up catching passes from future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, win a Super Bowl, and set a record for the longest punt return in Super Bowl history. Not bad for a guy that weighed 150 lbs. (with all of his equipment on too) when I met him. If you try and talk to Jordan about the best part of his NFL career, he would heartily tell how it lead him to his amazing wife and two beautiful children. I think anyone would agree.
Enjoy the interview!
I’ve had the opportunity to run out on to the field on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons. You, however, have done both, and added Sunday afternoons. Be honest, which did you enjoy the most out of all 3, and why?
I'd say, on a weekly basis, there was something about running out of the tunnel at Beaver Stadium that nothing can quite live up to. To have 30,000+ of the student body rooting you on, and some of my best friends and closest family at each game was surreal. That said, if we are going on a case by case basis, running out of the tunnel for Super Bowl 50 in 2016 was certainly the pinnacle of my football career.
You went from playing on the Cleveland Browns to catching passes from Peyton Manning. Tell me what that transition was like, and what did you learn from the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time)?
The transition from Cleveland to Denver was long! Stay with me for a second: I played in two games in Cleveland during the 2012 season before being put on Injured Reserve for a mid foot sprain. The next season, 2013, I was cut from the Browns after several hamstring injuries. I quickly signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was just as quickly cut from that roster. I found myself out of football for the entire 2013 season. My agent managed to get me a tryout with the Denver Broncos and they invited me to training camp in 2014, where I play well, just start to get reps with the first team (including QB, Peyton Manning) before I tore my ACL in the third week of training camp. Surgery, another missed season, and a lot of physical therapy got me ready for the 2015, which by that time I had little certainty I'd make the team--I had played in two football games in the past three seasons.
Anyhow, finally getting the opportunity to be a part of a team was incredible by itself. But, to catch my first pass in three years from the Peyton Manning, and playing along side Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas was a true blessing.
You hold a Super Bowl record for the long punt-return (61 yards) in Super Bowl history. Other than that play, what stands out as your favorite play in the NFL?
My personal favorite punt return from that same season came against the Pittsburgh Steelers late in the 2015 season. It was a short punt, too short for me to run up and catch. The Steelers punt coverage team, touched the ball down but didn't pick it up, which I saw as an opportunity to scoop the ball and try and score. Not many people know this rule, but if the punt coverage team touches the ball before the punt return team, then the punt return team can pick up the ball and try to return it without any risk of losing possession (i.e. if I would have fumbled and the Steelers recovered, we would have maintained possession). All of that said, I snuck over, picked up the ball, and ran for a touchdown (6o yards or so)--only to be called back in a penalty by my Broncos teammates on the sideline coming on the field too early!
You’re about to turn 31, you’re basically starting a new chapter. So the question now is…what do you want to be when you grow up?
A photographer! I recently announced my retirement and I am looking forward to making my photography hobby into a profession, alongside my wife, Aleah. We are also into some real estate investments here in Denver and are excited about our growing family. We currently have two kids, Franni and Isaiah.
In your retirement letter you mention some tough times. Talk about your ability and what helped you to leave those moments at the stadium and come home to your family?
I certainly went through some trying times, like we all do. I was fortunate to be able to lean on my family and wife, specifically. She pointed me back to the Word of God, which is the foundation of our marriage and of all that I do. As difficult as times got when I wasn't playing well on the football field, or times when I was playing well but was thinking I was 'the man', my relationship with Jesus always points me back to Him in due time.
Tuesdays are typically off days in the NFL, what was that day all about for you?
As of recently that day was one I spent with my family and newborn daughter. I would also find opportunities to volunteer in the city of Denver--I got plugged in with a great organization called the Denver Dream Center, who does amazing work with families and incarcerated men in the Denver area.
I know you love Oreos! What was the most Oreos you ever ate in one sitting? (And how many glasses of milk did you need?)
I've probably at twenty Oreos in one sitting. Two 16oz glasses of milk got the job done. Never again.
If you could go back and have dinner with yourself as a senior at Penn State, what would you say to your younger self?
"Take your relationship with Jesus seriously and enjoy college life, because the real world is tough!"
Which team had the worst locker room and stadium in the NFL? San Diego Chargers
Who is your favorite NFL player to watch? CJ Anderson
When was the last time you wore your Super Bowl ring? To a speaking engagement at a church a couple months ago.
If you go to a game this year at Sports Authority Field what's the first thing you’re gonna order? French Fries