The last time Cameron Jordan was part of an NFL family, he was 5 years old. The memories have mostly faded since 1994, but some remain vivid from the days of tagging along into the Vikings' locker room behind his dad, longtime tight end Steve Jordan.
Cam was awed by the spectacle and size of it all -- the loud music, grown men bouncing around the place as if it were a kindergarten playground. There were bright lights, the bustle of postgame electricity after a win and the stillness of a somber Church service following a loss. There were larger-than-life men tossing Cam and his brother around like ragamuffin kids.
"I remember thinking, what the heck's going on?" Jordan said. "Going to the training facility, the locker room, playing with 300-pound guys, it was strange. I remember it being so grand and amazing."
The next time Jordan steps into an NFL locker room, he will be carrying with him grand and amazing potential. The former Cal defensive end stands 6-foot-4, carries a well-chiseled 280 pounds and has been vaulting up draft boards as much because of how he carries himself as for the talent he brings with him.
In an offseason when NFL headlines hardly are promising and hopeful, Jordan has proved to be both. He has impressed with carefully honed skills and maturity that should make him every NFL general manager's safe bet.
From the time Jordan first began making a national draft splash at the Senior Bowl, through the combine and Cal's pro day, he has done as much as any player to secure a first-round call.
Every year before the draft, players are picked apart and dissected, questioned, interviewed, X-rayed and tested again. Jordan has welcomed every test. In fact, he's encouraged it. At the Senior Bowl, he worked at end and linebacker. At the combine, when one NFL executive tried to catch Jordan off-guard by asking, "Are you a dog or a cat?" ... Jordan didn't blink. He answered, "I'm a dog. I chase things."
At Cal's pro day, he did drills as a 3-4 end, a 4-3 end, a linebacker and inside backer, then kiddingly offered to do defensive back drills.
"I feel I have nothing to hide and nothing to worry about, so it's never bothered me that you go through so much before the draft," Jordan said. "If they need to X-ray something, go ahead and do it. If they need to ask me a question, ask it. I legitimately have nothing to hide. If being [a mature person] helps me in the draft, I'm grateful for it. I know I work hard."
Jordan credits his father, but more so for what he learned from off the field than on.
"Just growing up and being around him and trying to be like him, you understand about family and you understand how hard he worked to get where he is," Jordan said of Steve, who is a vice president at an engineering firm. "When he played, he worked hard. When he works now, most people go 9-to-5. He usually goes 9-to-7, but still values family. It's just an unbelievable work ethic. It's so natural for me to keep it pushing and trying to get better."
Steve Jordan, one of the Vikings' greatest and most popular players, always made time to coach his sons and daughter in soccer, basketball, football. "Whether it was music, sports or education, we always found it important to help and volunteer," said Steve, who also volunteered as a high school football assistant coach. "That's how we always wanted to do it in our family."
On the field, outside of the family gene pool, Cam credits his quick, strong hands to always wrestling with his father. He credits his ability to play multiple places on the field to always playing multiple sports. As for his growth into a first-round pick, Jordan has played behind exceptional players, including ex-Cal Bear Tyson Alualu, the Jaguars' 2010 first-round pick.
"Probably at the end of my sophomore year, when I got honorable mention Pac-10 honors, I realized I might be able to play [in the NFL]," Cam said. "I knew I was a pretty good athlete. I always was pretty good in high school and I got a scholarship, but it didn't really click. There always was another player in front of me. I feel like I really grew into a better player and I'm still trying everyday."
Said Steve Jordan: "I thought when I saw him as a junior [at Cal] that he could get to the NFL. But there were so many things that could happen ... injuries, even coaching staff changes. But I thought he was going to be a really good player because I knew what his body was going to evolve into."
Jordan's rise on draft charts has some wondering if his dad's team, the Vikings, even will get a chance to draft him. He has visited Detroit and Buffalo, among others, and is expected to go in the top 15 in the draft.
No matter where he ends up going, of course, he knows family will be nearby and supporting him. It always has.