Sept. 24, 2001
By Mandie Parrish
Some people have that shock of white-blonde hair as a kid that you just can’t miss it’s so startling. And that hair was what you didn’t miss, when as a kid, Whitey Jordan would scamper to grab the baseball that would pop over the stadium fence near his home in Florence, SC.
Someone would always wonder “Who got that ball?” The general manager of the team would always say, “It’s that white-haired kid again.” The nickname ‘Whitey’ stuck and no one but his Mom calls him by his real name anymore.
Sports have been in Whitey Jordan’s blood ever since then. He played football at Clemson and was a three-year letterwinner under Head Coach Frank Howard. In the 1957 season, he nabbed 12 receptions for 369 yards, and that 30.8 yards per catch figure stood as a single-season record for 30 years. He also played baseball for the Tigers before coach Bill Wilhelm began his legendary career.
After graduating, Jordan decided to go into coaching and coached at Clemson for 14 seasons, including 12 under Howard. He was among the youngest offensive coordinators in the country in the 1960s. He then left and made several stops along the way before returning to his alma mater. During those college years, his coaching rumincluded the Southern Mississippi, SMU, Wake Forest, Florida, North Carolina and then back to Clemson in 1993.
Everywhere he went he was a part of a winning program. At the college level, he coached in 11 bowl games at five different schools. Looking at those schools, one might wonder how he coached among so many Atlantic Coast Conference teams and made it through. “Well,” he said, “You have to remember this, you’d rather beat your friends than your enemies!”
“You see your friends everyday and you see your enemies once a yearŠ and you just hate for them to think they’re better than you are. When I was at Wake (Forest) and (North) Carolina, I wanted to beat Clemson worse than anybody. But when I was back here, I couldn’t wait to beat them!”
Jordan has coached some great football players in the NFL when they were in college. While at SMU, he coached Eric Dickerson. At Florida, he coached Emmit Smith. Both are among the top-five career rushing leaders in NFL history.
“These guys had an incredible work ethic,” Jordan said. “They just played hard all the time. Emmit was a grown man from the first time I saw him.”
Jordan’s specialty is obviously as an offensive coordinator. “My basic philosophy is to be strong running the football and to complement the defense with the offense,” he said. “It’s a team game and our offense has to mesh with our defense. We have got to be a team and complement each other. Basically I tell them I’m coming to work everyday, will give you a day’s work and be the best coach I can be. You come to work everyday and give me the same in return, and we’ll get better a little each day.”
Jordan’s philosophy paid off, his teams were all very successful. The last loosing season he had was in 1976 at Southern Mississippi. This winning season streak includes two years at Wake Forest with Bill Dooley in the 1980s. It is the only occurrence of back-to-back winning seasons for that program in the last 28 years.
At North Carolina, Jordan’s duties were extended to be Mack Brown’s assistant head coach. North Carolina had consecutive 1-10 seasons before Jordan arrived, then won six, seven and nine games with Jordan on the staff. He then returned to Clemson where he had another winning season the first year. He was the offensive coordinator of Clemson’s 9-3 team in 1993, the last Tiger team to finish in the top 25 prior to Tommy Bowden’s 2000 team.
You will notice that Jordan speaks in the present when he talks about his offensive philosophy. That is because he is still coaching. After serving the Tiger program as an administrator under Tommy West, Jordan’s coaching journey was rekindled in NFL Europe. He got a call from his old coaching buddy Gayland Hall, who he had served under at Florida. His team, the Rhein Fire, won the World Bowl in his first year.
“I’ve just been lucky,” Jordan, now 65, said. “I’ve had good people and guys that would work hard. I’ve enjoyed everyday I’ve been out on the football field. I love to go out there everyday and see the players improve from what you’re teaching them. I love going to work Sunday night and making a plan and then seeing it come true the next game Saturday.”
This past winter he was back on the sidelines coaching in the now-defunct XFL, another winning season with the Orlando franchise. “Aside from the crazy promotions they did surrounding the event, the games were good and the players played hard. They looked at it as a way to get to the NFL. Everything we did as far as travel and the way we were treated was first class.”
He has spent the spring and summer in Clemson working on his golf game. And what’s next in his schedule? He just might go back to Europe to work with Hall again. “I will probably coach as long as my health is good.”
“I’ve been in this business for 44 years and I still get excited about every time we play. I enjoy every day I go to the office. I’ve never had a job in 44 years. But right now I’m enjoying playing some golf too. Retirement is going well.” Yeah, if you could call all that coaching “retirement.”
Mandie Parrish is a graduate student from Charlotte, NC and works in the Clemson Sports Information Office.
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