Shelby Jordan, WU graduate and NFL player, passes away

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Photo by Shelby Jordan courtesy of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Shelby Jordan, a Washington University graduate who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 11 years, died September 9. Both the College Football Hall of Fame and the New England Patriots broke the news Testify published on Friday.

Jordan was born in St. Louis in 1952 and graduated from East St. Louis High School in 1969. That same year, Jordan began his college football career. From 1969 to 1972, Jordan led the WashU football team in tackles as a linebacker.

After being drafted by the Houston Oliers during training camp in 1973 and then ruled out by the Houston Oliers, Jordan switched to the offensive tackle position for the New England Patriots in 1975. He played for the Patriots for seven seasons, starting in 87 games and playing in 95.

In 1983, Jordan signed a four-year contract with the Los Angeles Raiders and was with the team in the 1984 Superbowl XVIII win over the Washington Football Team. Jordan retired in 1986 and received the honor of being elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2013; He was the first WashU graduate to receive this award since Harvey Jablonski in 1978.

According to Larry Kindbom, the former WashU head football coach who served in the position from 1989 to 2019, Jordan frequently recalled his years at university and revealed that despite his illustrious professional career, his “greatest lessons were right here at Francis Field .

Shelby Jordan at Francis Alumni Field while he was an athlete at the university. Photo courtesy of Larry Kindbom.

“He gave back to the university because he felt like the university had given him something,” Kindbom said. The coach named Gloria White, Bill Danforth and Mark Wrighton as some of the university staff who have had a major impact on Jordan.

Since the day Kindbom took his place at the school, he has said he has seen firsthand the positive impact Jordan has had on both the campus and the morale of the football team.

Kindbom said that over the years Jordan would come to campus to connect with the football players and since Jordan was a valued alum his advice was well received.

“[He] was instrumental in getting started [the players’] Mindset,” Kindbom said. Jordan was able to provide the kind of motivation that Kindbom says helped take the 2016 team from two losses to winning the rest of the season’s games.

Jordan played at WashU during the national fight for racial equality in higher education, and Kindbom said Jordan’s identity as a black male on the team was important to generations of football players that came after him.

“Shelby came at a time when WashU didn’t have a strong population of people of color,” Kindbom said. “His impact was more than the fact that he went into the NFL. shelby”[broke] floor here at Washington University.”

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