Growing up, Tommy Jordan was a fan of the University of Florida football team. These days, he remains a fan, and therein lies his frustration.
Jordan, a two-time All-State selection while playing offensive and defensive tackle at Ridgefield High, has had to prematurely end his collegiate career at Florida due to continuing shoulder problems that led to three surgeries for torn labrums. As a medical hardship, Jordan will stay at the school and receive his scholarship money but will not count toward Florida’s allotment of athletic scholarships.
“It’s been an emotional time for me, but I’m coming to terms with it,” said Jordan, a 6’5, 291-pound redshirt freshman at Florida. “I just have to make the best of it. I’m going to stay at Florida and graduate. Everyone here has been supportive, and I love the school and the area. But in terms of playing football, it’s time to move on.”
Jordan had the second labrum surgery on his left shoulder in October 2011 and was given a medical redshirt for his freshman season at Florida. He returned to practice briefly last summer, but further pain resulted in an MRI that yielded worrisome findings.
“There’s another tear, and there’s also no cartilage left. It’s basically bone on bone,” said Jordan. “The doctors at Florida said it was in my best interest not to play anymore. They also told me that I should probably look into a shoulder replacement down the line.”
Following two labrum surgeries (one on each shoulder) shortly after his senior season at Ridgefield High in the fall of 2010, Jordan thought his shoulder troubles were over. College coaches were not concerned either, as Jordan’s combination of size, skill and athleticism (he also played on the RHS boys basketball team) made him a sought-after recruit.
Despite interest from many prominent programs, Jordan’s decision to sign with Florida was not surprising: He was already a Gators’ fan and had relatives near the college. Jordan was so eager to get a head start that he even graduated one semester early at RHS in order to enroll at Florida and begin classes and football conditioning in January 2011.
The idyllic route encountered unexpected twists and turns, though. Urban Meyer, Florida’s head coach at the time, announced his resignation on Dec. 8, 2010, setting off a string of departures that included offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, the assistant coach who had recruited Jordan as an offensive tackle and befriended Jordan and his family.
Initially, Jordan followed through with his plan, enrolling at Florida and heading to Gainesville in January. But after just a few days the confusion got to him and Jordan returned to Ridgefield, fueling speculation that he would rescind his verbal commitment and look for another school. Those hypotheses proved inaccurate, however, as Jordan signed his National Letter of Intent with Florida in February 2011.
As a freshman, Jordan participated in summer camp and was part of the Florida scout team early in the 2011 season, earning the scout team’s defensive player of the week award ahead of a game against Tennessee. But he did not appear in any regular-season contests before his season ended early due to shoulder surgery that sidelined Jordan though spring practice in 2012.
“I worked hard at the rehab and really felt good heading into last summer,” he said. “But about a week into summer camp in August we were doing a drill and I raised my left arm and my shoulder popped out.”
Jordan then had the MRI that revealed the severity of the situation.
“I kept thinking it would be better after every surgery and rehab,” said Jordan. “But, unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. It’s now at the point where I have to consider my quality of life beyond football. It doesn’t make any sense for me to keep trying to play. That’s the reality of the situation.”