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‘He’s on our mind all the time’: Ty Jordan’s absence still weighs on Utah football program

Jordan died tragically last Christmas night, causing shock, sadness and grief to wash over the program

Utah Utes running back Ty Jordan (22) carries the ball into the end zone for a touchdown during an NCAA football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020.
Utah Utes running back Ty Jordan (22) carries the ball into the end zone for a touchdown during an NCAA football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020.
Yukai Peng, Deseret News

The spirit of Ty Jordan still looms large within Utah’s football program.

As a freshman last season, Jordan burst onto the scene and led the Utes in carries (83), rushing yards (597), rushing touchdowns (6) and all-purpose yards (723) with 11 receptions for 126 yards.

The Mesquite, Texas, native averaged 119.4 rushing yards per game and 7.2 yards per carry and earned Freshman All-American honors.

Jordan died tragically last Christmas night, causing shock, sadness and grief to wash over the program. The team flew to Dallas in early January for a memorial service at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

As the 2021 season approaches, the Utes are constantly reminded of Jordan, his accomplishments, his infectious personality and his work ethic.

Utah is dedicating this year to Jordan.

“We’ve got his jersey hanging up in his locker in our locker room. It’s interesting to see how it brought the team closer in a way that I don’t think anything else could have. Not that you wanted that to happen, but it’s brought a different atmosphere to our facility,” said wide receiver Britain Covey.

“I’m sure they’ll do a moment of silence for him, but I hope they show his highlight film in the stadium, too, so they can have a moment of craziness. If there would have been fans in the stadium last year, they would have loved Ty.”

The university has already set up a scholarship fund in Jordan’s name, and coach Kyle Whittingham said there are other plans to honor him.

“We have some things that we’re going to do this season. We have a scholarship that will be the Ty Jordan Scholarship that will be awarded in fall camp,” Whittingham said. “When I say ‘awarded’ it may be a player already on scholarship, but he’s recognized as the recipient, or maybe a walk-on earns that scholarship.

“It will be the player that best exemplifies Ty, his work ethic, his passion for the game. That’s something we definitely will be honoring him with as well as some others during the season.”

Linebacker Devin Lloyd appreciated the university’s efforts to help the players cope with the loss of Jordan.

“I thought the program, starting with (athletic director) Mark Harlan and the university did a great job of, first, making everybody available to fly out to his funeral. They paid for the whole thing. I thought that was amazing. … For the healing and grieving process, that was amazing by them,” Lloyd said.

“As a team, he’s on our mind all of the time. It’s not something that you forget. He’s definitely going to be with us this season and the rest of our lives. … His locker is completely retired and there are constant highlights of him playing as we walk into the facility. You see him every day.”

Added Covey: “Ty was with us for only six months, and yet such a huge part of his identity was Utah football. If you were to see his funeral, you would have thought he was a Utah football player for 10 years. It was really cool,” Covey said.

“Even more than just Ty is what Ty represents now to the team — just what Utah Football represents as a family. I’m sure many teams feel that way, but we really do. Devin and I have very different backgrounds and we look differently, but that’s my brother.”