Two-sport standout Jordan shares faith with Hickory campers

Cody Dalton
Sports Editor

A rare two-sport professional athlete, Brian Jordan’s path to the top of the ranks in football and baseball has been filled with many struggles, the testing of his faith and life lessons learned.

The former Atlanta Brave and Atlanta Falcon shared his message and stories of both sports and faith Wednesday during the 27th Annual Barkley Baseball School at Kiwanis Field in Hickory.

“It’s always my passion to work with kids,give them hope and also give them the realities of playing the game of baseball and learning the game of baseball,” Jordan said.“You have to stay patient and positive through the game of baseball. This is my first time in Hickory, and Matt Barkley has been trying to get me to come down for the last two years. Finally, we connected to where I wasn’t either covering a Braves game or doing camps. I made it work this year. I always promised him I’d make it work one of these years.”

Jordan is a big fan of Barkley’s camps, which emphasize physical attributes like hitting and fielding, but also teach character traits off the field.

The camp’s motto is “Play Hard, Pray Hard.”

“I’m a believer in Christ,and I know the message that Matt Barkley preaches here,”Jordan said.“It’s about Christ, and it’s about learning and playing the game of baseball and enjoying the game of baseball. It’s a great game. I think all kids should experience it at some point in their lives.To be here and talk to the kids not only about their Christian life, but about my experiences in baseball and my experiences growing up is what I enjoy doing.”

At 6 years old, Jordan told campers Wednesday that he dreamed of being the most successful two-sport professional athlete in history.

“I started dreaming big, and I wanted to be different,” he said.“I didn’t want to play one professional sport. I wanted to play two professional sports.”

After graduating from Milford Mill High School (Md.) and attending the University of Richmond (Va.), Jordan started having a lot of success on the collegiate baseball and football fields,which caught the attention of professional scouts.

Jordan was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals during his junior year of college baseball,and he was poised to do the same in the NFL as a top-ranked safety, but a broken left leg suffered on the football field during the Senior Bowl nearly ended his chances of playing either sport.

“Imagine all your life you’ve been dreaming of becoming a two-sport professional athlete,and it’s right there in front of you,” he said.“All of a sudden, this major setback happens. As I was laying on the ground, all I could think about was that my dreams were over.”

After surgery to repair both injuries, Jordan received a pep talk from his mother, who shared Jordan’s favorite bible verse as a child — Philippians 4:13, which reads “I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me.”

“That’s when I knew my dreams were not over," Jordan said. “I got up from there in the cast and crutches, went down to the NFL Combine and every doctor that looked at my leg said I wouldn’t make it.They said my injury was too severe. If I didn’t have God first in my life,I would have believed them, but the fact that I had God first in my life, I knew it wasn’t over.”

Over coming several more obstacles, including being cut before training camp with the Buffalo Bills, Jordan eventually landed with both the MLB’s Cardinals and NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, playing both professional football and baseball from 1989-91.

After achieving his childhood dream, Jordan believes that young athletes should play multiple sports for many reasons.

“For one, you become a better athlete, but you are always hungry to get back to that sport,” he said.“You are never going to burn out on one sport. With travel ball going year-round,kids burn out.I’ve always stressed playing at least one more sport and keeping your options open. We know how hard it is to get into college. If you’re athletic enough to play two sports, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get a scholarship in one of those sports. You should keep your options open at all times. To me, it makes you a better athlete and keeps you hungry to play that sport.”

Despite encouraging this practice, Jordan thinks the days of the two-sport professional athlete are over.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see another two-sport athlete on the professional athlete,and it’s a shame,”he said.“You just can’t do it as a quarterback.I can’t tell you the amount of time that quarterbacks have to spend in the classroom learning the system and learning the plays. I don’t think NFL teams will allow a quarterback to go off and play baseball during the baseball season and think that you can be great on the football field. I think it’s impossible if you ask me.”

Jordan finished his football career in 1992, signing a bonus with the Cardinals to exclusively play baseball.

He’d play seven seasons with St. Louis, five with the Atlanta Braves, two with the L.A. Dodgers and one with the Texas Rangers before his playing career in baseball ended in 2006.

“Without God, I would have never been in the position that I was in,” Jordan said of his career. “It was not easy being a professional athlete.You’re going to have obstacles in your life and have adversity,but if you trust and believe, you can overcome anything.”

Jordan is enjoying life after his playing career, working with the Brian Jordan Foundation and operating both GameFace Camps and Game Face Apparel.

Currently a broadcaster for FOX SportsSouth, Jordan also enjoys covering and watching his former team as they head down the stretch this summer.

“I think the Braves have done outstanding,” he said.“They are 35-36 and lost 3-1 to the Nationals on Tuesday night, but they are right there in the thick of things. They continue to get better. They have an exciting team. Last year, we sat around and watched all the strikeouts. It was home run or bust,but this year,it’s fun to watch these guys manufacture runs and keep it exciting.I think this team in the second half is going to pick t up and be very competitive. I wouldn’t be surprised if (General Manager) John Hart makes a couple more moves to improve this ball club.”

Before ending his speech, answering questions and signing autographs for the campers at the Barkley Baseball School on Wednesday,Jordan had one final message for the youngsters in attendance.

“You’re going to have adversity in your life,” he said. “You’re going to have obstacles and people who will tell you that you can’t do it. If you get three hits out of 10 at bats, you become a Hall of Famer if you make it to the Major Leagues. Don’t throw your helmet and get mad because you have another at bat.You have to be mentally tough.”