He has always carried with him two reputations. One has caused doors to open; the other caused doors to close.
What will it be this year? Will this be the season Leander Jordan uses his great physical skills -- his size and stunning athletic ability -- to establish a career in the NFL? Or will his reputation for being a bit on the immature side cost him what could his best and final chance at a professional football career?
"I just want to play football. I just want to line up on Sundays and play a whole year," the Jaguars offensive lineman said following this morning's "passing camp" practice at Alltel Stadium.
Jordan is one of those special cases; 6-4, 321 pounds of power and athletic grace. Drafted to play guard, Jordan is big enough and athletic enough that he now finds himself at left tackle on a Jaguars offensive line desperately seeking depth.
"It's whatever they want me to do. Hopefully, there are no spots etched in stone," Jordan said. "I've been in this league for four years and I just want to play."
It was certainly intended he would play. Carolina drafted him in the third round out of Indiana University of Pa., a Division II program that's turned out a handful of NFL players, including New Orleans Saints head coach Jim Haslett. Jordan was expected to be a fixture at guard for Carolina, but it didn't turn out that way.
"He was a small-school guy and his numbers at the combine were exceptional. He dazzled them at the combine and they rolled the dice on him. But he wasn't exposed to a lot of things guys at big schools are and I think it set him back," Jaguars offensive line coach Paul Boudreau said of Jordan, who Boudreau coached at Carolina for two years.
"I developed a track record early. My first year, I goofed off early so I was behind everybody in my class. That's been following me. I have to show people I want it," Jordan said. "It's always been like this for me. I've always had a track record, until I prove it to somebody."
Jordan may be proving it to Boudreau this spring.
"When we let him go, I said this is probably the best thing that could happen to you. They drafted you and because of that you're considered a bust. I thought it was the best thing for him because it gave him a second chance," Boudreau said.
Jordan got that second chance when the Jaguars signed him a month into last season. He spent the rest of the year observing the high-discipline ways of Tom Coughlin.
"I think he's grown up a little bit and he thinks football is important. The last two mini-camps and in this passing camp, I've seen a different guy," Boudreau said.
Jordan's life has been loaded with instability. As an inner-city youth in Pittsburgh, Jordan attended three high schools and didn't begin playing football until his senior year.
In the NFL, Jordan is on his fourth head coach. He's had four offensive coordinators (Bill Musgrave twice) and three offensive line coaches (Boudreau twice).
"Seifert didn't like me at all," Jordan said of George Seifert, the former Carolina head coach who drafted Jordan in 2000. "I got into a fight with (defensive end Mike) Rucker and Seifert said, 'Leander, that's a thousand dollars.' He told me, 'That's the reason you're not starting.'"
But Jordan didn't understand. "I grew up in the streets. There's a lot of anger in me. You're not going to let somebody punk you in practice," Jordan said.
Now, Jordan says he understands. "That's way behind me," he said.
He wants to return to the most stable and productive days of his life, when he had the same coach and played in the same system for four years at IUP. During that time, he emerged as a raw kid with just one year of high school football behind him, to a first-day, NFL draft choice.
"I just roll with the punches. My first year was rough. My second year, I thought I beat the guy out for a position. My third year, I thought this was definitely the year for me, then I get cut," Jordan said. "Nothing is more important to me now than football. I'm doing a whole lot extra this year."