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'I knew what progress was' - Football letterman Bill Jordan returns to Auburn after 50 years away
Former Auburn football player Bill Jordan, with wife, Lee, returned for Homecoming, his first visit in 50 years.
Oct. 21, 2016

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - The Auburn Bill Jordan rediscovered during Homecoming is a far cry from the Auburn he knew as a student.

“It was amazing walking down there, how much everything had changed,” Jordan said. “I walked past the old Graves Center cabins, and it’s a museum piece. And I told Lee (Bill’s wife), ‘That’s where I lived from 1956 to ’60.’

“Coach Gene Lorendo had the cabin next to mine, and he knew I was in engineering, so he always bed-checked my cabin last, because he knew there might be some struggling engineering student in there studying way past bed check.”

A former football player who graduated in 1960 and had not been back to campus in 50 years, Jordan returned to watch Auburn defeat Louisiana-Monroe, and take a stroll down memory lane.

“We just walked around there and kept saying, ‘Wow,’ all day long,” he said.

The Friday before Homecoming, Jordan visited the Athletics complex.

“All of a sudden Jay Jacobs comes out. He’s busier than anybody I know. He came by and introduced himself. Got a picture with him,” Jordan said.

<em> Bill and Lee Jordan, with Auburn Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs.</em>
Bill and Lee Jordan, with Auburn Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs.

Auburn’s Director of Athletics had never met Jordan before, but they shared a bond as football lettermen. Jacobs’ 1983 Tigers were Auburn’s first SEC champs since 1957, Jordan’s sophomore season.

“You walk in there, and you feel like, ‘Hey, I haven’t been gone but an hour,’” Jordan said. “When I came back this time, I knew what progress was.”

After leaving Auburn, Jordan earned a master’s and a PhD in business. He traveled the world as a field engineer, amassing an estimated 2.7 million miles on airline flights. He enjoyed a second career running maintenance and operations for a school district in northern California.

On weekends, Jordan officiated college football and women’s basketball, leaving little time for reunions.

“Finally I said, ‘We’re going to go back. We’ve got to see Auburn at least one time,’” Bill told his wife.

The visit brought back memories from 60 years ago, when Jordan arrived at Auburn from Roanoke, Alabama, to play for Coach Shug Jordan.

“The first thing he said to us. ‘I don’t care if you ever walk on the field and play a game. If you come out here and practice hard, and give me your all, you’ll stay on scholarship no matter what happens,’” Jordan said. “I think he graduated a lot of fine individuals who maybe didn’t turn out to be All-Americans. But he graduated a lot of good people because of that policy.

<em> Known as Billy during his playing days, Jordan played halfback for Auburn from 1956-59.</em>
Known as Billy during his playing days, Jordan played halfback for Auburn from 1956-59.

“We had some magnificent players in those days,” Jordan said. “I’m just lucky I got to play some. You couldn’t ask for a better coaching staff. They weren’t liked. They pushed hard. But you never walked off a field thinking that you hadn’t given it your best.”

Bill took Lee to Toomer’s for lunch and lemonade, the same place Jordan and his teammates retreated to for post-practice refreshment all those years ago.

“We were just overwhelmed. The Auburn Family is something that I hadn’t experienced, but I tell you it was really just absolutely awesome, the treatment we got. And the things that we saw,” he said.

“Thomas Wolfe said, ‘You can’t go home again.’ But I tell you, if you do return after 50 years, and you see what it’s like, and you compare it to what it was, you get a warm feeling of, ‘Boy, they darn well prepared you for the journey you’re about to experience when you left,’ because it was really, really unbelievable to us.”

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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