‘We went crazy every time he touched the ball.’ How Ty Jordan’s deep football roots in Texas led him to Utah

True Buzz Athletics coaches stepped in to help when the Ute running back’s mother died. They are devastated by his accidental death, and are as mystified as everyone else about how it happened.

(Rick Bowmer | AP file photo) In this Dec. 19, 2020, file photo, Utah running back Ty Jordan (22) runs for a score as he eludes a tackle by Washington State linebacker Jahad Woods (13) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Salt Lake City. Jordan was selected as the PAC-12 newcomer of the year. Jordan died this week in Texas.

Before Ty Jordan died on Christmas night from what has initially been ruled as an accidental gunshot wound, his mother, Tiffany Jordan, was sick for a long time.

Diagnosed with lung cancer on Dec. 28, 2018, followed by a bone cancer diagnosis less than two weeks later, the illnesses had gotten to the point of Stage 4 by late 2019 and her health began to deteriorate as 2020 unfolded.

As things worsened in 2020, Jordan went to the coaches and mentors at Dallas-based True Buzz Athletics and asked them to look after her young son after she was gone. Two men from the organization, DeMarquis Brooks and Joey Moss, had already been looking after Jordan, a Mesquite, Texas native, since he came to them as a high school freshman in the spring of 2016.

Moss remembers that spring of 2016. Before True Buzz brought Jordan aboard, Moss met him and his mother at a Denny’s for what could be considered a recruiting pitch. That first meeting left an impression on Moss.

“[Ty] drank five or six root beers in a row, he was just like, ‘I’m hot,’” Moss told The Salt Lake Tribune matter-of-factly during a phone interview. “I remember thinking he was a funny little dude. He wasn’t a joking guy, a jokester, but he had that type of demeanor. Witty, always smiling, seemed like he was always up to something.

“He was a good kid.”

True Buzz is mostly known for its exploits as a 7-on-7 football program that competes nationally from December to June. Brooks calls True Buzz “sort of like the Boy Scouts, but for older kids,” while Moss terms it a “college preparatory organization.” Either way, the kids involved help feed the homeless, engage in charity work, and other various factors to help them grow and mature outside of just football.

Ty Jordan was a graduate, so to speak, of True Buzz Athletics, so when Tiffany Jordan finally succumbed to her illnesses in mid-August, True Buzz was going to keep looking after Ty, who at that point had enrolled at the University of Utah, hoping to make an immediate impact as a highly-recruited freshman running back.

A dazzling debut

Jordan turned 19-years old on Nov. 21, which happened to be the same day as his collegiate debut vs. USC at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Brooks, Moss and one of Jordan’s brothers, A-Jaun Moore, boarded a Salt Lake City-bound flight that weekend in anticipation of both Jordan’s birthday and his first college game.

The Pac-12 ruled out fans at football games during the COVID-19 pandemic, so they drove to Logan, met up with Utah State cornerback Cam Lampkin, another True Buzz alum hailing from Mesquite, and watched Jordan’s debut at a Buffalo Wild Wings. Jordan had 53 all-purpose yards on eight touches in a 33-17 Utes loss.

“We went crazy every time he touched the ball,” Brooks told The Tribune. “Utah lost, but it was a great game. We got right back in the car and drove back to Salt Lake City the same night.”

The next day, Brooks, Moss, and Moore were joined by Jordan and two of his Utes teammates, sophomore cornerback Aaron Lowe and freshman wide receiver Money Parks, at the Dave & Buster’s at The Gateway in Downtown Salt Lake City. Lowe was a high school teammate of Jordan at West Mesquite, while Parks is yet another product of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, having starred at perennial state-championship contender Aledo High School.

That six-hour stay at Dave & Buster’s was the last time Brooks and Moss saw Jordan before his death on Dec. 25.

Utah running back Ty Jordan (22) carries the ball against Oregon State during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

‘I lost all my air when I found out’

The visit was followed by the 5-foot-7 dynamo turning into an absolute force of nature over the final three games of Utah’s pandemic-fueled five-game season. During that stretch, all Utah wins, Jordan rushed for 468 yards and six touchdowns. For the season, he rushed for 597 yards and the six touchdowns, plus 126 receiving yards on 11 catches on his way to being named Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and the league’s Newcomer of the Year by the Associated Press.

“I lost all my air when I found out,” Brooks said.

Added Moss: “I was leaving a family Christmas party when I got a text from his aunt around midnight. It wasn’t until 2 a.m. that night I found out that Ty had passed.”

After an initial police investigation on the scene in the 1100 block of Avenue B in Denton, Jordan’s death is believed to be accidental. The medical examiner in Tarrant County has ruled that Jordan died via a gunshot wound to the abdomen, but the official cause of death is still pending. A Tarrant County public relations official told The Tribune this past week that the medical examiner may not rule on the cause of death until roughly 90 days have passed, depending on the status of the investigation.

Reached by phone last week, the Denton Police Department detective assigned to Jordan’s case, David Bearden, told The Tribune that the investigation remains open. That is the reason why The Tribune’s open-records request for an incident report for Jordan’s case has not yet been filled. Per the Texas Attorney General, the City of Denton has 10 business days to respond to The Tribune’s request, but that timeline can be extended if the case remains open beyond the 10 business days.

Until Denton PD comes up with an incident report, there are going to be questions.

Moss and Brooks both spoke with Jordan on Christmas Eve. Those conversations centered around a problem with Jordan’s car that needed to be dealt with. One of those calls ended with Jordan and Brooks planning to meet up on Sunday, but that of course never came to fruition.

Neither Moss, nor Brooks know where or who Jordan spent Christmas Eve with. Neither man was able to say why, on Christmas night, Jordan was in Denton, which is approximately 35 miles southeast, through the heart of the DFW metroplex, from the address the Tarrant County M.E. lists for Jordan in Dallas.

As for how Jordan came in possession of a gun, Moss contends that Jordan was not alone and that it wasn’t his gun. That, along with whatever conjecture there is floating around, will remain just that, at least until Bearden and Denton PD release an incident report.

“He wasn’t involved with guns, he didn’t carry guns, that is not who he was,” said Moss, who is listed as a member of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department on True Buzz Athletic’s website. “He wasn’t involved with guns, but somebody had one that night. He may have picked it up without understanding proper gun etiquette.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A small memorial in honor of Utah running back Ty Jordan, who died in a reported accidental gunshot wound on Christmas night, takes shape outside the Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center on the University of Utah campus on Monday, Dec. 28, 2020.

A glimpse of something big

Both Brooks and Moss estimate the number of Division I recruits to come through True Buzz since 2014 at around 200. They’re not shocked by anything, and they know a four-star recruit, a five-star recruit, a potential impact player at the Power Five level when they see one.

Despite whatever physical limitations Jordan had to overcome with his height, both men will say now that they thought they were watching something special when Jordan first arrived. That notion was only furthered as his high school career continued and a slew of Power Five programs came calling.

Moss says USC was heavily considered, but Jordan committed to Texas early in his senior year. Utah flipped Jordan less than three months later, with his relationship with Utes running backs coach Kiel McDonald viewed across the No. 1 reason why.

McDonald was not made available by the Utah athletic department for an interview. Jordan’s aunt, Takka Jordan, did not respond to multiple interview requests, nor did Jordan’s high school coach at West Mesquite, Jeff Neill.

After his recruitment, after the big freshman season, after his death, Jordan’s football legend has been solidified, and it will only grow as time passes. Legitimate what-ifs will permeate, a sense of emptiness sure to hang over the program for months, if not years.

That is how significant Jordan’s impact was in five games across just one season.

“His legacy was already cemented in high school football in the state of Texas, his legend in college football was to be determined,” Moss said. “This year was a glimpse. He was going to be a three-year guy, an NFL Draft pick. His early impact was bigger than expected, but we’ll never know what it could have been.”