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Michael Jordan is Special: 'I’m me and I love football'
By Patrick Murphy

 

COLUMBUS – Michael Jordan is special. He is the first freshman to start on the offensive line for the Buckeyes since 1994. Back then it was Orlando Pace, a two-time Lombardi Award winner and recent inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jordan is also the second true freshman offensive lineman head coach Urban Meyer has started in his 15-year coaching career.

“It’s always the goal to start,” Jordan said. “I think if anytime a person comes into college, they should always want to start; to have that competitive spirit and want to start, because if you don’t then why are you here?”

To him, it’s that simple.

“It was drive,” Jordan’s father said. “In his mind, he sees a goal and that’s it. He’s going to try and get it no matter what it takes.”

Drive and determination are common traits in college football players, but to understand what makes him truly special, you have to get to know a little about him.

* * * * *

Michael Jordan is special. Not the basketball player, although he is too. Michael Jordan is a football player, as he’ll tell you.

“I play football,” he said. “My name’s Michael Jordan. Everybody’s always expected me to play basketball. I’m 6-foot-7, they’re like, ‘Why don’t you play basketball?'… I’m not Michael Jordan. I’m not a basketball player. I’m me and I love football.”

It would be easy for Jordan to accept the comparisons his name brings. Although he has a different body type, he is an inch taller then the former Chicago Bulls star and like Mike, a remarkable athlete.

Instead, Jordan’s name represents something completely different. “It drives me because it’s my family name,” he said. “I was named after my dad. His middle name is Michael so he gave me that as my first name. So it drives me to be the best I can so I can put on for my family.”

Jordan's family isn't large, but it is important to his success. His father, Kevin Michael, who goes by his middle name, was his offensive line coach growing up, and his younger brother, who has his father's first name, is a budding young safety. Jordan's mother, Jacquie, put time aside to make sure all of her children, including daughter Aaliyah, were at each activity as they grew up.

The Jordan Family photo from JCPenney during Michael's senior year of high school
 

Family ties don’t just wrap around the immediate members of the Jordan family. On hotel check-in day at Ohio State, Michael wore a shirt given to him by his grandmother, who couldn’t make the trip to Columbus with them.

Faith was also important in forming Jordan into a special individual. Born Michael Donovan Alexander Jordan, each part of his name has a distinct meaning within Christian beliefs. According to his father, the name Michael refers to the leader of God’s army and means ‘Who is like God.’ Donovan translates as ‘Dark warrior,’ ‘Chieftain’ or ‘Strong fighter.’ Alexander literally means ‘Defender or protector of mankind.’

“We knew he would be strong, so we wanted him to use his gifts to protect those who could not protect themselves.

“It’s what you believe and what you think you can carry. We make each other represent Christ at all times. We have a family mission statement, a family motto that’s throughout the house that we taught the children that we want to be evidence of God in love.“

Through his name, Michael Donovan Alexander Jordan carries the weight of both his family and his faith.

His name has nothing to do with a basketball player.

* * * * *

Michael Jordan is special. Not just on the football field, but in other sports as well.

Aside from football, he used his size on the wrestling mat, his strength in track, and his athleticism in Taekwondo. Just as he did on the football field, Jordan outshone more than just his peers in his other athletic ventures.

Jordan Sr. said, “Probably his best accomplishment is scoring once against one of his [Taekwondo] grandmasters.”

As a 12-year old, Jordan was already too big to spar with kids his age. Instead, he went against the adults in the class, sometimes members of the army, just to keep an even playing field.

When the adults would not show up for class, Jordan would spar with the grandmaster. Earning his black belt was impressive, but scoring a point, one clean hit, registered more.

“One time in his whole three years there he scored and it was his most proud moment,” according to Jordan Sr. “I said, ‘How many times did the grandmaster score on you. He said, ‘Oh, about 1,000 but that’s not the point, Dad. I got one in!’”

Michael Jordan wrestling as a sophomore in high school
Photo courtesy of Michael Vasilnek, Plymouth Sports
 

He excelled in the sports he played, but by high school it was too much. Not for Jordan - who would have enjoyed continuing the different sports, as well as playing the drums in band - but for his father.

“I was telling him, son, you’re going to have to make a decision when you get to high school as to what you really want to do. He said, ‘Well of course Dad, football.’ Football was not on the chopping block.”

The other sports were fun, but football was always the passion. It was the one that intertwined with family and while he continued wrestling in high school, it was only to stay in shape for football.

* * * * *

Michael Jordan is special. Not just on the football field, but in the classroom as well.

Academics are important in the Jordan family and in this realm, Michael again stands out. In the eighth grade, Jordan took high school-level classes because he could. Despite his whining, his father made him take International Baccalaureate courses in high school while the rest of the football team skated by, following the regular curriculum.

“I don’t care that your friends get an A in some weak class,” Jordan’s father told him. “If you tell me you get a B in IB chemistry, I’m more impressed by that.”

Jordan (right) and teammate Dylan Thompson (left) with a classmate on Student Appreciation Day last spring
Photo by Dan Harker
 

Jordan did well in his schoolwork and his family expected that to continue. What they didn’t expect was a major decision to change his language class – Jordan took Spanish in seventh and eighth grade. When he came to his parents before freshman year and said he wanted to take Chinese, they were confused.

"Why would you want to do that to yourself and make it harder in life for you," Jordan's father asked him. Business was the answer, he wanted to understand the language for his future.

"Business-wise it makes sense to go with Chinese because that’s the new market," Jordan Sr. told his son. "That’s probably where the future’s going to be and an African-American male who speaks Chinese, it’s got to be a marketable skill somewhere.”

Not many 13-year olds have that kind of foresight, especially when sports are so prominent.

Looking ahead was something Jordan did well, but he did not plan on graduating early to leave for college and begin his football career. Heading into his junior year, Jordan changed his mind, and went to his dad to tell him he thought it would be better to get to college and begin workouts in order to have the best chance to play.

Had he not taken those high school classes in middle school or worked hard in IB courses, graduating early – only the third person to do so from his school system – would not have been possible.

* * * * *

Michael Jordan is special. Any true freshman offensive lineman to start at a major power five school is, but Jordan was not always viewed as special on the field and had to work for what he's achieved.

Despite being a member of the All-USA Today second team by the end of high school, Jordan was only the 14th-ranked offensive tackle per the 247Sports Composite and did not receive his first college offer until just before his junior year.

Michael Jordan on an Ohio State visit with his Pee Wee coach Chuck Hendrix, who also coached OSU QB Stephen Collier
 

The Buckeye staff had a pull on Jordan, his family and even his high school coaches who have since sent their staff to Ohio State for training.

“The way they recruited him was different from everybody else,” Jordan Sr. explained. “They never made promises about, ‘You’re going to start. You’re going to do this. You’re going to do that. You’re going to be great.’ The only thing that they ever told us was that he was going to have a chance.”

Once he enrolled at Ohio State last January, he got that chance. Then it was about accomplishing that goal.

“I think I showed them I’m a hard worker,” Jordan said of his first spring in Columbus. “Whatever I do, I’m always going to do the best that I can possibly do no matter what it is.”

Jordan already had the right attitude instilled in him, and he attached himself to the right people to further that. Fellow offensive linemen Billy Price and Pat Elflein are guys Jordan looked up to; guys that helped show him the way.

* * * * *

Michael Jordan is special. Following his first fall camp, a grueling series of weeks leading into the season where freshmen must prove their merit, Jordan cemented his spot as a starter. Over the course of his first two games on the OSU offensive line, the true freshman helped open holes for 627 rushing yards and keep quarterback J.T. Barrett upright.

With a major game looming this Saturday against Oklahoma, Jordan will be tested. His first start on the road comes in a hostile environment in Norman, but this is what he wanted.

Jordan’s success on the football field is part of what makes him special, but it is only a part. His drive to succeed, his devotion to his family and his faith, his achievements in and out of the classroom -- all of these helped make Michael Jordan the man you see today, a man with many talents, and a man who loves football.

Player profiles relevant to story:
73 - Jordan, Michael
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