Thursday, February 20

K.J.: Destination unknown


K.J.: Destination unknown

Will fate permit Kevin Jordan to be the best receiver in UCLA
football history?

Due to a production error, the following article ran
incompletely in the sports section on Thursday, Oct. 13. The Bruin
regrets the error.

By Randy Satterburg

Daily Bruin Staff

He must be aware of the irony of the situation.

Wide receiver Kevin Jordan is putting up All-American-type
numbers in this, his junior season with the UCLA football team.

Through six games this year, Jordan has 40 receptions for 611
yards, numbers which exceed those of J.J. Stokes at the same point
last season.

His average of 101.9 receiving yards per game is the third-best
in the nation and leads the Pac-10. On top of that, Jordan is on a
pace that would make him the Bruins’ all-time leading receiver in
career receptions and receiving yards at the completion of his
senior season.

Does this sound vaguely familiar to anyone? It should.

The UCLA football team is no stranger to receivers having
outstanding junior years. But is it a blessing or a curse?

It all started back in 1991, when Sean LaChapelle burst onto the
scene in his third year of action with the Bruins. His 73 catches,
1,181 receiving yards, and 11 touchdowns amounted to the best
single-season performance ever by a UCLA wide receiver.

With a similar ­ if not better ­ senior year,
LaChapelle could have broken all of the UCLA career receiving
records, and in the process, put them so far out of sight that
nobody would ever threaten them.

It didn’t quite happen that way.

Instead, LaChapelle was slowed for most of the year by fractured
ribs, which allowed him to start in only six of 11 games and held
him to a single touchdown catch.

But LaChapelle passed the torch of unfulfilled expectations to
Stokes, who was immediately anointed as the next great UCLA
receiver. With his 17 touchdowns, 82 catches and 1,181 receiving
yards in 1993, Stokes eclipsed every one of LaChapelle’s single
season receiving marks ­ and was on pace to shatter virtually
all of UCLA’s career records.

Everyone expected Stokes to use this, his senior year, to become
the Hank Aaron of UCLA receivers ­ someone whose records
nobody would dare think about challenging.

UCLA fans ­ and Stokes for that matter ­ need not be
reminded how this fairy-tale story evolved into a haunting
nightmare when a thigh bruise rendered useless any speculation
about the great things he could have accomplished this year.

Stokes’ story represents everything that could go drastically
wrong and did ­ a season so maliciously construed that it
exceeds the bounds of cruel and unusual punishment.

This year, just like Stokes ­ and LaChapelle before that
­ Jordan has laid a foundation for his future as a junior. But
after witnessing firsthand the way injuries can turn expectations
on their head, Jordan must wonder at times whether that foundation
sits atop a fault line.

"Injuries are just a part of the game, they can happen at any
time whether its your junior year or senior year," Jordan says.
"Unfortunately you can see a pattern with Sean and J.J, but that’s
just the way things happened to them. I really cannot worry about
that (happening to me)."

As an active member of the Christian fellowship group Athletes
In Action, Jordan brings a unique perspective to the debate about
God’s role in determining the path one’s life follows.

Despite the fact that football has always been an integral part
of his life, Jordan credits a higher source for his involvement in
the sport.

"(Football) is just something I do because God gave me the
ability to play," he says. "It’s up to Him whether He wants me to
continue to play."

In fact, according to Jordan, his calling in life may lie
somewhere else altogether.

"If I get a serious career ending-injury, then I’ll know that it
was just not meant for me to play football," Jordan says. "I don’t
have control over what happens to me day in and day out. Some
people think they do. But I have to humble myself and say that
Kevin Jordan only has a certain amount of control over his
life."

But this begs the question of what Stokes and LaChapelle did
wrong to deserve such a fate. Did God not want them to be the best
receiver ever to play at UCLA?

"I’m not saying that God did this to get back at J.J. (or Sean)
for anything," said Jordan. "I’m the type of person who believes
that everything happens for a reason. J.J is hurt for a reason. I
don’t know what that reason is, and J.J. probably doesn’t know what
the reason is, but there is a reason for it."

Still, it is an unusual twist of fate that one person’s
misfortune can open the door for another’s success.

Jordan finds difficulty in knowing that every one of his
accomplishments on the field at UCLA will be compared to those of
his good friend off the field, J.J. Stokes. If Jordan goes on for
the successful senior season that has eluded his predecessors, it
would be Stokes’ records he breaks ­ Stokes’ legacy upon which
he infringes.

"It would be kind of bittersweet, because going through the time
when J.J and Sean were here, I wasn’t the man. I’ve done things in
my own quiet way," Jordan says. "If anything like that happens, it
would be nice, but it doesn’t really mean that much to a certain
degree."

Knowing what he does about the unpredictability of life, and
especially football, does Kevin Jordan dare think that he can be
the one to break the string of bad luck that has tripped up two of
the best UCLA wide receivers in history.

"Well, I hope so," Jordan says. "I plan on coming back to have a
good senior year and do whatever I can to help the team. But then
again, you never know."

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