Books hang like a cloud over Maryland's Jordan

Vanderlinden, Terps on edge over status of standout running back

College Football

July 27, 2000|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Maryland football coach Ron Vanderlinden sighed heavily last night as he headed to Frederick to speak to another Terps football boosters group and answer the usual barrage of questions about LaMont Jordan, his academically troubled, Heisman Trophy candidate.

"I knew that LaMont would be a summer school student when he came here," Vanderlinden said. "I would estimate that 30 percent of all college football players are in summer school."

But this summer was supposed to be different for the 5-foot-11, 220-pound running back, who was named one of the top five preseason Heisman candidates by Street & Smith's magazine and is only one of three preseason, consensus first-team All-Americans chosen by eight major publications.

He was supposed to catch up on his grades by not participating in spring practice and then spend the entire summer working out to get in prime condition for an all-out run at the Heisman.

Great idea. Poor execution.

Jordan lost another battle with the books in the spring and he's going right down to the mid-August wire in summer school.

"It could go either way," Vanderlinden said. "I'd say it's 50-50. We have to be prepared to play with or without him. What else can we do?"

Vanderlinden has shut off Jordan from interviews this summer, saying there is no use in beating the Heisman drums until "we know for sure if he'll be with us."

When Vanderlinden was asked about the millions of dollars the Terps would lose if Jordan doesn't make what would be the most celebrated Heisman run in school history, he said: "I don't look at it that way. This whole thing is part of the job. I have to believe we'll be OK with or without him. We have two guys ready to go if LaMont is not back. We have Bruce Perry [a 5-9, 185-pound sophomore], who came out of spring drills as No. 1, and a junior college recruit, Chris Downs [5-8, 190], out of Valley Forge, Pa."

But neither one of them was the leading NCAA Division 1-A rusher in the country over the final six games last season (1,101 yards). Not even Heisman winner Ron Dayne could match Jordan down the stretch, as Dayne ran for 1,061 yards in his last six games.

That outstanding finish got the nation's attention, prompting Street & Smith's to place Jordan alongside Purdue quarterback Drew Brees, Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick, Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke and Texas Christian running back LaDainian Tomlinson as the top five Heisman candidates.

The other two consensus All-Americans are Michigan offensive lineman Steve Hutchinson and Wisconsin defensive back Jamar Fletcher.

And how is Jordan spending his summer when he isn't in school? He's working as a sports intern at Washington-area radio station WTEM-AM, cutting tape and running errands. No on-air time now for this high-profile athlete.

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