Tiffany Jordan succumbed to lung and bone cancer in mid-August, mere months before her son, Ty Jordan, introduced himself as a force of nature as a University of Utah running back.
His interactions with the media this fall always came back to his mother, specifically how he wanted to make her proud. It took Jordan all of five games as a true freshman to do that.
The shame of it all is that there will be no more opportunities to add to what he has already accomplished.
Jordan, 19, has died, the University of Utah confirmed Saturday. He was the victim of an apparent accident, a self-inflicted gunshot wound, that occurred Friday night.
A media spokesman for the Denton (Texas) Police Department told The Salt Lake Tribune on Saturday morning that the original call went out Christmas night at 9:38 p.m. CST. Officers responded to the 1100 block of Avenue B in Denton. Upon arrival, officers found a single gunshot victim, who was transported to Denton Regional Medical Center.
After a preliminary investigation, it is believed the gun was accidentally discharged. The victim was later pronounced deceased at the hospital.
Denton police would not release the name of the deceased. The same spokesman told The Tribune that the job of releasing the name falls to the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office, but it had not done so as of 3 p.m. MST.
“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,” Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement. “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.”
Jordan’s relationship with his mother and her plight with cancer drew national attention in November 2019 when, as a senior at West Mesquite High School, he came together with Sherman High School’s Gage Smith to say a prayer for his mother. The prayer came moments after Sherman defeated West Mesquite, 56-27.
The photos of Jordan and Smith praying together were sent to Ty’s aunt, Take Jordan, who posted them on Facebook, where they received 100,000 likes, which caught the attention of the national media, including NBC’s “Today,” which ran a feature on the prayer and the meaning behind it.
Jordan exploded on the college football scene this fall, rushing for 597 yards and six touchdowns on 83 carries across five games. Over the last three games of Utah’s shortened season, Jordan rushed for 468 yards and all six of the touchdowns.
On Tuesday, Jordan was named All-Pac-12 second team, in addition to Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, marking the second straight season the Utes picked up a major annual award from the Pac-12. Zack Moss, now a rookie running back with the Buffalo Bills, was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2019.
“We are deeply saddened and shocked to learn of Ty Jordan’s passing early this morning and our thoughts and prayers are with those who loved him dearly, including the young men in our football program,” Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said. “Our priority is on supporting his family and the student-athletes, coaches and staff in our football program who are so deeply hurting right now. Coach Whittingham and I are working closely to provide support and resources for our Utah Football family in this extremely difficult time.”
Jordan’s last game with the Utes, just over a week ago, now becomes unforgettable. The freshman rushed for 154 yards on 22 carries and scored three touchdowns to help lead the Utes back from an early three-TD deficit to a 45-28 victory over Washington State at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“Man I miss you Ty but, I know nothing I can say or do will bring you back back because if I could I would. Lord knows I would,” Utah running backs coach Kiel McDonald tweeted. “Love you boy. I am thankful that God allowed me to coach you and have you in my life. I am blessed for our countless hours, days and months together.”