May 19, 2010
By Allison Yee
Even with a father who played 13 seasons as a tight end with the Minnesota Vikings, Cameron Jordan paid little attention to football until junior high school.
"My mom didn't want us knowing about the football world," said the senior defensive end. "I didn't even really know my dad was a major football player until the sixth grade. My friends would mention they had seen him play when they were little. I always heard adults talk about my dad, but it didn't really mean much to me."
Jordan grew up participating in a variety of activities, from basketball and soccer to tap dance and piano. "I did everything," he said. "Except football."
When Cameron reached the eighth grade, Steve Jordan, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, decided it was time for his son to play football. Cameron initially resisted, preferring to play basketball instead. "My dad said, `I hate to be that dad, but you're playing football. All I'm asking is that you give me that one year. After the first year you can decide whether or not you're playing football.'"
After spending the majority of his first Pop Warner game on the bench, Jordan decided to commit himself to being a force on the field. He was a starter by the fourth game of the season and has lasted much longer in the game than the one year his father originally asked for.
"I probably would have never thought to play football if he hadn't thrown me in there," said Jordan, who recognizes the tremendous impact his father has on his game. "What advice doesn't he give me?" Jordan asks with a smile. "He's always trying to work on me getting better."
When asked what drew him to Cal out of high school, Cameron had one response, "My father."
A walk-on at Brown, Steve Jordan understood the importance of receiving a quality education in addition to playing football. During the recruiting process, Cameron would mention other schools only to have his father bring up Cal.
Because his father was so adamant about Cameron attending Cal, the two visited Berkeley several times during high school. "He'd take me out and show me the city," said Jordan. "I grew in love with the campus and the people. I've never seen so many different people."
Since arriving in Berkeley, Jordan has enjoyed every aspect of his life. He says the transition to Berkeley was fairly easy, and he quickly realized the academic workload of Cal students. Steve Jordan was able to relate to his son's experience after attending Brown. "By mid-semester of my freshman year, I was burnt out with everything I had to do," said Cameron. "But my father has helped me manage my time. I've gotten a lot better at it."
On the football field, Jordan went from being hesitant newcomer to asserting himself as an impact player, just as he did in his Pop Warner days. "I didn't want to be a true freshman," he said. "I was looking forward to the redshirt year, but I actually got a lot of playing time. I was a third-down defensive end, and that was pretty cool."
Jordan still notes he had a lot to learn during his first season and relied on experienced players such as recent Jacksonville Jaguars first-round selection Tyson Alualu, Mika Kane and Tad Smith to understand plays. "Tyson really took me under his wing," he said.
A starter since midway through his sophomore year, Jordan has learned a lot from playing opposite Alualu and watching him. "I wanted to be like him," he said. "He says what he needs to. Simple words and I always know he's right."
Now that Alualu has completed his college career, Jordan understands his role as a veteran player on the team. "I'm always trying to help the younger guys," he said. "If I can add anything, I'm going to add my two cents. If somebody needs me, I'll always be there."
Alualu has high praise for Jordan's leadership and performance. "He will be a great leader this year," he said. "He's a combination of both vocal and lead by example leadership styles. The biggest part of his game is allowing everyone to feed off him."
During the recently completed spring football practice sessions, Jordan worked hard to become a better overall player. One of his main focuses has been becoming more explosive out of his stance.
He has also enjoyed working with new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast during this training period. Jordan is excited about the new defensive style for the Golden Bears. "We're bringing a lot more blitzes in."
Jordan has embraced Pendergast's coaching style and his relationship with the coach. "We get time with the defensive coordinator every practice now," he said, "While everyone else is doing special teams, we get five to 10 minutes with him. We go over plays and we get what he wants from us."
As his senior year quickly approaches, the legal studies major looks to go out strong both on the field and in the classroom. He looks toward the future and the variety of opportunities that may greet him. "If the opportunity to play football professionally presents itself, I'm definitely going to take it," Jordan said. "But I definitely have to get this degree."
Jordan is interested in a career in criminology, which could lead to becoming a police officer. He also sees graduate school as a possible venture.
If they've watched his actions on the field at all, NFL signal-callers are probably hoping his next move will be chasing down criminals instead of quarterbacks.
But if the past is an indicator of the future, Jordan will probably make time for both.