Star freshman running back Ty Jordan has died, days after he was named Pac-12’s offensive newcomer of the year, the University of Utah football team said Saturday. He was 19.
Authorities in Utah and Jordan’s home state, Texas, have not yet released details about the circumstances of his death.
“Words cannot express the devastation and heartache that our team is feeling right now upon learning of the tragic death of our teammate and brother, Ty Jordan,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement.
Whittingham described Jordan as a someone whose infectious personality and smile “made a huge impact on our program in the short time he was with us.”
Jordan, a speedy 5-foot-7, 200-pound player, emerged from a crowded Utah backfield to become the focal point of the team’s offense. He finished the season with 597 yards rushing, 11 catches for 126 yards and six touchdowns.
Jordan came up as a tailback playing in Mesquite, a Dallas suburb, and was a highly touted recruit. He made a seamless transition to the college game, including three straight 100-yard rushing performances to close out the season.
In November 2019, a photo of Jordan and an opposing high school football player went viral. The image shows Jordan and then-Sherman High School player Gage Smith kneeling together in prayer after a game. Smith told NBC’s “TODAY” Show last year that it was “meant for just me and him to have a moment and to pray over his family and for his mom,” who had stage 4 lung and bone cancer.
“It made me cry,” Tiffany, Jordan’s mother, told “TODAY” at the time. “[Smith] didn’t have to do that. The fact that he took the time to pray with Ty for me, that took my breath away.”
Tiffany Jordan died in August, according to a tweet from Ty Jordan.
Utah was one of nearly two dozen major college football teams to decline an opportunity to play a postseason bowl game, instead allowing players who had been in strict Covid-19 protocols for months begin their off-seasons.
Utah Director of Athletics Mark Harlan said in a statementthat he is working with Whittingham “to provide support and resources for our Utah Football family in this extremely difficult time.”
“We are deeply saddened and shocked to learn of Ty Jordan’s passing early this morning and our thoughts and prayers are with those who loved him dearly, including the young men in our football program,” Harlan said. “Our priority is on supporting his family and the student-athletes, coaches and staff in our football program who are so deeply hurting right now.”
The Associated Press contributed.