Jordan is tuning up for long run as Terp Freshman has speed, and better days ahead

October 02, 1997|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Wait until they see The Full Monty.

No, the topic isn't the first-run motion picture. Rather, it's LaMont Jordan, the Maryland freshman whose potential is more impressive than the performance he staged in Philadelphia last week.

Jordan broke Maryland's freshman record for rushing with 135 yards in the Terps' victory over Temple. He won't start against Duke at Byrd Stadium Saturday, but it still seems to be happening a little too fast for an 18-year-old who four months ago was on the track team at Suitland High in Prince George's County.

He just broke records for yards and carries that Steve Atkins set in 1975, but Jordan isn't 100 percent physically, and he's not completely comfortable with the rigors of his position.

"What you've got to know about LaMont is that right now, his cup is half full," Terps running backs coach Mike Locksley said.

How will Jordan get better?

Wait until he is healthy.

Jordan missed a week of practice in August with a sprained ankle. Shortly after he provided the Terps' lone highlight at Florida State with a 44-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, Jordan left the game with a twisted knee and a shin bruise. Last week, he missed some practice after taking a hit in the back.

He is accustomed to playing with pain.

"On my first run of my senior year in high school, my [right] knee was bowled out and I worried that my year was done, but I came back before halftime," Jordan said. "I played all year with torn knee cartilage, but I didn't find out exactly what the injury was until my physical here last month. That's why I wear the brace."

Here's a twist. A concussion is the reason Jordan's playing football. When he was in the eighth grade, he got undercut on a basketball court and landed on his head. He doesn't seem to mind getting creamed by a couple of linebackers with a full head of steam, but Jordan had a phobia about basketball.

Wait until he has learned.

Blocking is something other guys did for Jordan at Suitland. Actually, he doesn't even have an extensive background as a running back. In his one season of rec football, he was a center and cornerback. When he finally tried football at Suitland as a sophomore, he was made into a run-and-shoot quarterback.

"The only reason I got switched was that our running back got moved up," Jordan said. "The varsity needed him at cornerback and flanker. There are days when I say 'Dang, I wish I was still a quarterback.' I love playing quarterback."

Nick Lynch, who had been on the football staff at Eleanor Roosevelt when that Prince George's rival had Ravens wide receiver and Maryland alum Jermaine Lewis, knew how to use Jordan last year, but he got help motivating him.

"When I was being recruited here, Chad Scott was the first person I saw," Jordan said, referring to a Suitland grad who was the first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers out of Maryland last April. "He came to a couple of our games last year. At halftime he would yell at me. 'I know you can run harder than that.'

"Chad's been like a big brother to me."

Wait until he is in shape.

Jordan is 5 feet 11, 220 pounds, and a little too big for his taste. He finally took serious visits to the weight room this summer, but admits that he might have overdone his desire to beef up for the bigger tacklers he would have to shed in college.

"All through summer camp, his plate at dining hall would be piled up," Locksley said. "I told him, 'Keep that up, you'll be a fullback in a year,' but he has the potential to be a bigger guy. He ran track all summer at the weight he came in."

Jordan was the 100-meter champion in Prince George's County, a jurisdiction with a long and proud sprint tradition. He ran the 100 in 10.6 and the 200 in 21.6, and coach Ron Vanderlinden becomes poetic over his acceleration, not to mention his instincts.

While North Carolina grew impatient waiting for Jordan's test scores and Dunbar's Ali Culpepper went off to Syracuse and Sherwood's Tyree Foreman headed to Virginia, Maryland's new staff was elated to get the kid who had converted a barren prep program into one that went 8-2.

Jordan might end up as only the third tailback behind seniors Brian Underwood and Buddy Rodgers this fall, but at the moment he's the Terps' leading rusher and the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Week.

That's a fine review for a less than full Monty.

Pub Date: 10/02/97

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