COLLEGE PARK -- Returning to Maryland next fall to make a celebrated run for the Heisman Trophy seemed like a simple decision last January for LaMont Jordan.
But that was before Jordan began hearing many of his friends telling him he should have grabbed the NFL riches this spring as a junior who was the hottest running back in the nation over the final six games of 1999.
"It made me rethink my decision twice and then again," said the 5-foot-11, 216-pound triple threat who rolled up 1,101 yards in those last six games. "I've felt sometimes that I made the wrong decision because of some personal things I was feeling. I know I'm taking a big risk because of the injury factor. I probably could have been a first- or second-round pick this year, and that is a lot of money to pass up."
Not even Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne could match the torrid Jordan down the stretch. Dayne accumulated 1,061 yards in Wisconsin's final six games.
Jordan, 21, said he didn't know how much he would have commanded this spring as a late first-round or early second-round selection, but he most likely would have pulled down in the neighborhood of $6 million for a three-year contract.
With the NFL draft coming up in two weeks, that kind of financial speculation is probably what has Jordan wondering again if he did the right thing.
After all, Jordan said this week he is "poor" and doesn't have time to work for any income.
"I never knew my father, and I hate asking my mother for money," he said. "The only car I have is my mother's Oldsmobile, which I can use on weekends. I don't even know what year [the car] is. I just know it's my mom's Oldsmobile."
The nation's fifth-leading rusher last season with 1,632 yards said he has "been in a period lately where I'm just mad because I don't have the money to buy the things I don't have. I've just been poor, but I don't mean to say I'm that poor. I could go to mom, but I don't like doing that."
Jordan said he would rather try to persevere without money for one more year.
The Forestville, Md., native believes he will be one of the top five picks in the draft next season if he isn't injured and "that will make the wait worthwhile. I don't mean to sound greedy, but nine chances out of 10, I should go real high next year."
That would most likely raise the stakes to the $16 million-to-$20 million range for a three- or four-year contract.
Even though Jordan is being held out of spring practice this year to concentrate on his studies and remain eligible for a Heisman run in 2000, there is a chance he would become academically ineligible. That would open up the NFL's supplemental draft in early July.
"Right now I don't see that happening," said Jordan. "But there is a supplemental draft, and there could be some changes because of that."
Vince Casey, an NFL spokesman, said yesterday that the league has a personnel department that determines if a junior is eligible for the supplemental draft. "They have to study your records and see if there are extenuating circumstances," said Casey.
Savage, of the Ravens, said yesterday that the two primary reasons a junior could qualify for the supplemental draft is to "flunk out of school or graduate after the declaration for the regular draft is over."
Terps coach Ron Vanderlinden said yesterday the prospect of the supplemental draft for Jordan "is never completely out of my mind. But right now I see LaMont making the grade academically and I'm happy he made a mature decision to stay for a fourth year. He didn't listen to people on the streets talking. The people in the know around the NFL say the statistics have proved that the players who stay in college a fourth year fare much better."
Said Jordan: "The Heisman is the big thing right now. I'm starting to get excited now that I see all the cards and season ticket things the school is using to promote me. When I get past all the talk about money, this seems like the right thing to do for me. I want to leave here with the respect of my teammates and give Maryland fans something to remember. I want them to say I was there when LaMont Jordan did this or that."
Some of Jordan's teammates have questioned his effort.
"LaMont is the most important player on the team and not having him for spring ball kind of affects the team," senior fullback Matt Kalapinski said yesterday. "Everybody seems upset because of the work ethic thing. At first, we didn't think it was fair. But now we're beginning to live with it and understand it. I believe LaMont could be an even better player than he is if he worked hard every day in practice. Hopefully that will happen next season. He showed how great he could be late last season when he improved his work routine."
Junior wide receiver Guilian Gary was the first Maryland player to criticize Jordan three weeks ago when the players learned he would not be at spring practice.