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‘He was just a special young man.’ Late Utah freshman running back Ty Jordan’s life celebrated in Texas.

Ute coach Kyle Whittingham, staff members and many Utah players attend funeral, which was held at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

(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.

Earlier this week, Ty Jordan’s funeral was moved to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, a switch that had been in the works, but needed to clear several logistical hurdles before being OK’d.

As services unfolded at the home of the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday, the scene felt quite apropos given Jordan’s early success as a Ute. His casket lay on the 50-yard line, Jordan dressed in his Utes football uniform. To the left of the casket, a framed No. 22 Utah jersey, and a block ‘U’ logo. To the right of the casket, a bevy of flowers.

Jordan died on Christmas night in Denton, Texas, in what authorities have determined was an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Utes running backs coach Kiel McDonald, widely credited with flipping Jordan’s recruiting commitment from in-state University of Texas to Utah, said a few words, followed by Corey McDonald, one of Jordan’s early high school coaches and mentors.

Another childhood mentor, DeMarquis Brooks, said a few words, followed by Jordan’s sister, Seriniti Parsons, and his aunt, Lerlean Johnson. At that point, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was asked to step up to one of two podiums set up near Jordan’s casket.

Whittingham predictably gave an eloquent speech.

“As the head coach of a football team, you really have 120 adopted sons,” Whittingham said. “You care for them like your sons. You love them, you hurt when they hurt, and it’s just a special bond, and that’s probably the reason I’ve been in this business for so long, the relationship with these young men, and you end up loving them all. Some of them take longer to connect with more than others.

“I connected with Ty on Day 1.”

(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.

Whittingham told a story of Jordan’s first practice, asking the three-star running back essentially what name he preferred to go by. Jordan explained that his full first name is Ty-Coreous, but that some people call him Ty-Ty. Whittingham rolled with it.

“From that day forward, he was always Ty-Ty Jordan to me. Like has been said by everyone that has been up here, the smile, the infectious personality, the sparkle in his eyes, he was just a special young man.”

During Utah athletic director Mark Harlan’s time to speak, after offering a terrific anecdote about how Jordan was the “mayor of the residence hall” because he was social and seemingly knew everyone, he presented Jordan’s family with a certificate of academic achievement. Jordan, as Whittingham noted, held better than a 3.0 GPA during his time at Utah.

Harlan also noted that Utah’s teams moving forward will wear a patch honoring Jordan.

Whittingham and Harlan were part of a Utah contingency in Texas on Wednesday morning that included the football coaching staff as well as what an athletic department spokesperson termed a “large number” of players. Some of those players traveled via a chartered flight from Salt Lake City, while others traveled from their homes elsewhere.

The football team is not currently all in one place given the academic calendar is between semesters.


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