Alabama football has had significantly more winning seasons than losing campaigns. Some people forget that when Bear Bryant was named head coach in December of 1957, the Crimson Tide were coming off a 4-24-2 stretch from 1955 to 1957.
One of Bryant's early stars, who helped bring a national championship back to Tuscaloosa in the early 1960s, was Lee Roy Jordan.
A native of Excel in southwestern Alabama, Jordan played football and basketball in high school. After Auburn withdrew a scholarship offer, he signed with Alabama. At the time, freshman were prohibited from playing on the varsity squad, so Jordan did not start playing until his sophomore year in 1960.
The turnaround from the disastrous mid-1950s seasons was underway. After a 5-4 record in his first season, Bryant posted a 7-2-2 mark in 1959. Playing linebacker and center in 1960, Jordan was in the middle of a dominating Crimson Tide defense. Alabama only allowed 56 points and recorded five shutouts during the 8-1-2 season. Jordan finished the campaign by earning MVP honors at the Bluebonnet Bowl, a game that ended in a 3-3 tie against Texas.
As impressive as the Alabama defense was in 1960, it was better during the next two seasons. In 1961 Jordan, who earned the first of two All-Southeastern Conference selections, led a defense that only allowed 25 points with six shutouts. North Carolina State's seven points were the most allowed in a game by the Crimson Tide. After Alabama's 10-3 win over ninth-ranked Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, the 11-0 Crimson Tide claimed their sixth national championship and first under Bryant.
Jordan and the Alabama defense continued to dominate in 1962. The Crimson Tide only allowed 39 points en route to a 10-1 regular season record. The only loss was a 7-6 setback to Georgia Tech. Alabama received an invitation to the Orange Bowl against Bud Wilkinson's perennial power the Oklahoma Sooners. Jordan ended up making his last appearance in an Alabama uniform a game to remember.
Playing in front of more than 73,000 people, including president John F. Kennedy, Jordan turned the momentum in the favor of the Crimson Tide in the first quarter. He forced two Oklahoma fumbles inside the Alabama 10-yard line, while Joe Namath led the offense in the Crimson Tide's 17-0 victory. Meanwhile, Jordan single-handedly stymied the Sooners offense. His 31 tackles set an Alabama bowl game record and earned Jordan Orange Bowl MVP honors.
After being named a consensus All-American at center in 1962 and his dominating Orange Bowl performance, Jordan was the sixth overall selection by Dallas, in the 1963 NFL Draft. During his 14-year career with the Cowboys doomsday defense, Jordan was a five-time Pro Bowl and two-time All-Pro selection. He helped lead Dallas to a 24-3 win over Miami in Super Bowl VI, and he is still second all-time in team history with 743 solo tackles.
Jordan received numerous honors for his college and professional accomplishments. In 1980, he was selected to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Three years later in 1983, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. In 1990, he was the seventh player selected to the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor. Jordan was also named to the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame and received the NCAA Silver Anniversary Linebacker Award.
After his football career, Jordan transferred his success to the business world. He is currently president of the Lee Roy Jordan Redwood Lumber Company, one of the largest supplies of specialty woods in eight states.
Whether at Alabama, the Dallas Cowboys, or the business world, Lee Roy Jordan has proven to be a champion in all areas of his life.