By Ross Jones, FOXSports.com
At this year’s NFL Rookie Symposium, players were given a first-hand account of what can derail a career. The lessons learned have begun to sink into their minds.
One reality came to life as players learned that former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested, imprisoned and charged with first-degree murder.
Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan was jarred and saddened.
“It was tough,” Jordan said about the Hernandez news. “Obviously, they talked to us about the gun situation at the Rookie Symposium. Tank [Johnson] came and sat down with us and it’s a serious situation. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you can harm yourself or somebody else.
“Personally, I just feel bad for the guy. He’s my age. So, I can see the where it straddles the line between him being young and not knowing right from wrong. So, it’s tough. I’m praying for him and his family.”
The 6-foot-6, 255-pound defensive end was selected No. 3 overall, but Jordan has overcome numerous hurdles.
From a young age, Jordan had to grow up fast. A family divorce separated his mother and father. That put Jordan, the eldest of the children, in a spot to help raise his younger brother and sister. Luckily, he had family willing to help. Jordan and his siblings soon moved to Arizona, where they lived with his aunt and grandmother.
“I guess you could say that things slowed down for us and we were able to focus on a lot of things that are more important like school, sports and friends,” Jordan remembers. “My surroundings were a lot more positive. Everything started to fall into place.”
Jordan starred in three sports at Chandler High School (Chandler, Ariz.), but one day following an impressive performance on the football field, his life would change forever at just the age of 17.
He and his friends were siphoning gasoline out of an old car using a vacuum. Jordan pulled the plug and in an instant was on fire. He was rushed to a nearby burn center, where he it was determined that he had third-degree burns on over 40 percent of his body.
“Everything happened so fast. I didn’t know what was going to happen next,” Jordan said. “I knew that everything was going to change from here. I was conscious, but I had so much rage inside that I would put myself in that situation.”
Several of the schools that showed interest in Jordan prior to the accident stopped recruiting him. It was tough, but he wouldn’t give up. One school showed unwavering loyalty while Jordan recovered.
Oregon continued to call and text Jordan and when the impact player finally healed, the Ducks held a visit for him, which would seal the deal in a sense.
Years later, Jordan looks back at the incident as a pivotal moment in his life.
“It made me a stronger person. It made me realize that everything that was given to me was a blessing and that I need to maximize every day.”
The NFL Rookie Symposium aims to teach the players on such matters. People get dealt adverse situations, but it’s how you respond what really matters. This past week, the incoming rookies listened to speeches from players who had success in the league as well as people who have made mistakes when they’ve been given a great opportunity.
“We got to hear from both sides and we took a lot of notes and take everything in because we might not get that type of opportunity again,” Jordan said.
The players also heard stories from former NBA basketball player Chris Herren, who dealt with his own types of issues after a collegiate career and brief stint in the NBA. A drug addiction would derail his career, but today with clear eyes, Herren’s words carry weight.
“I heard Chris [Herren] tell his story before. He told it at the University of Oregon, but honestly it was an eye-opener to even hear it again. It touched me just as much.
“That’s a tough story to tell for any man, but it needed to be told because there’s a lot of people who feel like that these things won’t happen to you.”
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