METAIRIE, La. — The night Cameron Jordan found out he had been selected to his third Pro Bowl, one of his first comments was, “Halfway to my dad.”
Steve Jordan set an awfully high standard as a six-time Pro Bowl tight end for the Minnesota Vikings from 1982-1994. But on Sunday, he’ll be the proud papa who is probably apologizing to fans around him in Minnesota’s U.S. Bank Stadium for the way his 6-foot-4, 287-pound son is wreaking havoc on his former team.
Cam has been a great player in the NFL for a while now, but he went into monster mode for the New Orleans Saints this season, being named a first-team All-Pro for the first time with 13 sacks and 11-12 pass defenses. He reached yet another level in last week’s 31-26 wild-card win over the Carolina Panthers, in which he secured the victory by manhandling two blockers in the final minute and forcing an intentional grounding penalty by Cam Newton.
“I’m thrilled for him,” Steve said. “My wife and I always pray for our kids, and as a parent you just want your kids in a position where they can flourish. And he’s so competitive …
“I’m excited for him because having been a former player, of course, and having played in some playoff games and knowing the intensity of it, it’s just awesome that my son, who enjoys that competition, is gonna have an opportunity to experience that.”
Steve joked that people keep asking him which team he is going to root for, and his first response is “Everybody.” But he acknowledges that “blood is thicker than water.”
Cam is in no way conflicted. “I want to destroy them just the same,” Cam said. “There’s gonna be an offensive lineman I want to destroy. There’s gonna be a running back I want to destroy. There’s gonna be a quarterback that I have to destroy.”
Cam only vaguely remembers growing up in Minnesota until the age of 6, when his dad retired and the family moved to Arizona.
“I like to say, ‘I was born in Minnesota … but my first kiss was in Arizona,’” Cam said. “I learned how to drive in Arizona.”
He does have fond (but fuzzy) memories of the north country, though.
“I’m not gonna lie to you: My memories of that young childhood are sort of in and out,” he said. “I think I made it out of first grade. … I remember jumping in some leaves, getting so cold outside. We got locked out of a car, being at an away game or something where it was snowing, and I was miserable and I was like, ‘I hate football.’
“But at the same time, those games that you watch and you get to go into the locker room, like, ‘Hey, these are my dad’s co-workers,’ and they turned out to be legends. You talk about Chris Doleman, you talk about Joey Browner, Darrin Nelsons of the game. …
“But afterwards, you grow up, and you get drafted by the Saints, and you know, this is my team. This is my family. This is what I’m fighting for.”
Steve said times were different back before free agency, when teammates stayed together longer and families “grew up together.” Doleman absolutely remembers young Cam running around in the locker room and hanging out at family get-togethers. The Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end said he is “Uncle Chris” to Cam and his brother and sister. Doleman said he and Cam text maybe four or five times per season.
“I look at Cam, and I’m so proud of him, to watch him get upfield and make plays happen. … He’s grown up to be quite the guy, quite the man,” Doleman said. “All the families of former Vikings players know him personally, people who have been working in the front office forever. It makes us all proud. The same thing with Larry Fitzgerald [son of a longtime Minnesota sportswriter]. It makes us all proud to see those guys grow up and be the second generation.”
When asked if that means Cam would be forgiven for leading the Saints to a win, Doleman said, “Well, I don’t know about that. … But I will be very proud of him because he’s doing his job.”
Cam not only looks up to his father but also readily admits that Steve basically forced him into this football thing. Cam wanted to play basketball before Steve insisted that his son give football a try because he could tell what kind of body shape his son was developing.
Cam, who refers to himself as a laid-back, Cal-Berkeley type of dude, eventually decided to start trying a little harder at football when he realized how good he was.
But that personality hasn’t taken a back seat. As dominant as Cam has been on the field, he has started to earn just as much renown for his fun-loving, sarcastic off-field personality.
Maybe it’s because Steve and the kids always loved the WWE growing up, and much to the chagrin of Cam’s mom, Anita, they often turned the living room into a wrestling wring.
Cam, who has never been shy about providing possible bulletin-board material for the opponent, commonly refers to offensive linemen as “speedbumps.”
He took his longtime war of words with Newton to a new level this week when he sent the quarterback a bottle of Jordan-brand wine to thank him for the Saints’ three-game sweep of Carolina this season.
“I got a good chuckle out of it. He probably won’t open it,” the younger Jordan said. “At the end of the day, I think we played a helluva game against Cam Newton, which is one of the top quarterbacks in our league. But I was having a little fun, so, you know, whatever. There’s a lot of people who don’t want people to smile these days. PC stuff.”
Steve said his son “has a personality — needless to say.”
“I was pretty jovial and could get goofy on occasion and that sort of the thing. But he’s full-on most of the time,” said Steve, who was just as quick to credit Cam for developing into a team leader who has let the rest of the locker room know that as much fun as they’re having, they need to realize the next game is only bigger.
“He’s just a fun-loving guy. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, doesn’t take life too seriously,” Steve said. “But this game of football, particularly now, he’s definitely taking that serious.”
Cam acknowledged that his dad tries to get him to tone it down sometimes and asks him if he has “thought of the ramifications.”
But Cam says, “No, I haven’t.”
“I shot my shot and said what I said and had to back it up. At 28, I’m in my physical prime, so at this point, I just feel like I can back it up,” said Cam, who said it’s “winning” that allows him to be that way.
“I love everything about this team. I love everything about what we’ve been able to accomplish so far,” Cam said. “But we have higher, loftier goals. So to have every opportunity, this is something that I always want to cherish and I always want to remember.
“So when it comes to having fun, [it’s the] spoils of war.”