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Gordon Monson: The death of Utah running back Ty Jordan is a cruel punch to the gut

Utah football weeps. Not because the elusive, powerful back was on his way to becoming a great player, rather because he was, to the Utes, already a brother.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah running back Ty Jordan (22) runs the ball for the Utes, in PAC-12 football acton between Utah Utes and Washington State Cougars at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020.

Life is so often cruel.

Death almost always is.

Too, too cruel.

Especially when it comes to the young.

Utah running back Ty Jordan, just 19 years old, with so much ahead of him, with a hundred miles of green turf ahead of him, with the world ahead of him, dies from what has been reported to be an accidental gunshot wound on Christmas night, his existence and his promise so suddenly, so shockingly taken from him, from his family and friends, from his teammates, from all of us.

And Utah football weeps.

Not because the elusive, powerful back was on his way to becoming a great player, rather because he was, to the Utes, already a brother.

There are so many questions to ask, but none of the answers will soothe anyone’s pain.

The headline — “Utah freshman running back sensation Ty Jordan killed Friday night in a Dallas suburb” — knocked everyone over the head like a swinging baseball bat, and it so tragically replaced all the headlines that now will never be written about Jordan, the ones heralding the yards he would have gained, the touchdowns he would have scored, the games he would have won. The future he would have had.

This much was clear: Ty Jordan was on a wide open road toward stardom.

Utah has a reputation for finding and developing great running backs, from Jamal Anderson to Zack Moss, and a couple of fistfuls in between.

And Jordan was next up.

He was up.

He already had announced his arrival this season in just a few games, gaining 597 yards, scoring six touchdowns, and showing flashes of brilliance en route to those numbers. He was so good that he prompted a couple of quality running backs in the Utes’ fold to transfer. They may have had all kinds of potential themselves, but when they saw what Jordan was capable of, at such a young age, in practice and in games … well, they recognized what was real — that as long as Ty was on the scene, they weren’t going to start ahead of him.

He was so good.

He had that kind of rare talent.

A famous football coach, now a head coach in the SEC, known for mentoring great quarterbacks, once attempted to delineate the differences between developing great quarterbacks and great running backs.

“You can coach up quarterbacks, you know, guide them and teach them, help them understand what to look for and how to read defenses and recognize situations,” he said. “Running backs? You let running backs run.”

That’s what Jordan did in his first year at Utah.

He ran.

In a mere five games, the 5-foot-7, 200-pound back was handed the ball 83 times, averaging just shy of 120 yards per game, also averaging 7.2 yards a carry, including a 66-yarder, his longest gain of the season. In his first two games, Jordan got 32 and 97 yards, and after that, he exploded for 167, 147 and 154. He also garnered ample yards receiving, finishing with 723 all-purpose yards.

He was the Pac-12 offensive freshman of the year.

Here’s the unvarnished truth: All of this was just the beginning. Jordan was on his way to more than doubling those numbers in each of the next two “normal” seasons, probably far exceeding even that. And there’s significance to the number two — because pro scouts would have been all over him, waiting for him to become eligible for the NFL draft, and likely tempting him to leave school before his senior year.

If he had stayed at Utah, he very well could have become the school’s all-time rushing leader.

That’s easy to say now that it will never happen, what with feelings tender and tragedy hanging so thick.

But it was easy to see, too.

There was no fluke to what he was achieving.

Now all there is for the Utes to do is to remember a seedling that was sprouting like a launched rocket, to hold in memory promise that will never be fulfilled because of a horrible accident.

“Words cannot express the devastation and heartache that our team is feeling right now upon learning of the tragic death of our teammate and brother Ty Jordan,” Kyle Whittingham said. “Ty’s personality and smile were infectious and he made a huge impact on our program in the short time he was with us. He leaves an indelible mark on each of us and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. From the bottom of our hearts, all of us in the Utah football family want to say, we love you Ty and may you rest in peace.”

Too, too cruel death is.

Especially when it comes to the young.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.

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