North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.
Randy Jordan was a sprinter, not a hurdler. But considering all the obstacles he was forced to clear during the early part of his life and athletic career, he might very well have missed his calling.
The adversity began the day he was born when his mother was turned away from the hospital, forcing her to deliver her son at home in rural Manson. Jordan’s aunt helped bring him into the world because he arrived before emergency medical personnel could get there.
Life didn’t get any easier after his father left during his formative years, creating a financial hardship the family was never completely able to overcome. Then, just as he was starting high school, his mother died of a stroke at just 34 years old, leaving him and two siblings to fend for themselves.
One of the few things Jordan had going for him in those days was his athletic ability, especially his speed.
He excelled as a sprinter at Warren County High School, winning six outdoor state championships and setting state records in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes. His time of 21.20 seconds in the 200 at the 1987 state meet is still the NCHSAA record for 3A schools. Jordan was just as fast on the football team, posting a time of 4.2 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
“If I break away on a long run and I get to the 50, you can start playing the fight song, ’cause it’s over,” Jordan told Lee Pace, now of GoHeels.com, in 1991. “That’s not being cocky. I just have faith in my speed.”
His speed was good enough to earn him a scholarship to North Carolina, but because he didn’t have the grades to be eligible as a freshman, he had to sit out the year, After finally clearing that hurdle, Jordan went on to run for 1,134 yards and nine touchdowns for coach Mack Brown’s Tar Heels while sharing the backfield with Natrone Means.
Despite going undrafted, he played nine seasons in the NFL. He holds the distinction of having scored the first touchdown in Jacksonville Jaguars history and was the special teams captain for the Oakland Raiders team that played in Super Bowl XXXVII.
In 2001, Jordan was named the winner of the NFL’s Unsung Hero Award and the Ed Block Courage Award. He now serves as the running backs coach for the soon-to-be-renamed NFL franchise in Washington.