While one Hall of Fame snub will finally get his due this year, it’s time for another former Alabama player to get the call as well.
This evening, a wrong will finally be set right. The Alabama and Oakland Raiders legend Kenny Stabler will finally be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. While Stabler’s family, teammates, coaches, and friends are able to see “Snake” finally be immortalized in NFL lore, the man himself is unable to witness it.
It’s unfortunate that the voting committee waited until Stabler’s passing to enshrine him in Canton, but he is finally where he belongs. Sadly, another Alabama legend and NFL star is getting dangerously close to never being enshrined in his lifetime.
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Lee Roy Jordan did not just have a good or a great career in the NFL. He had a legendary career and is more than deserving of being enshrined into the Hall of Fame.
This year, Jordan turned 75 years of age. He grew up in Excel, Alabama where he would play high school football starting as a fullback. He would then play under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at The University of Alabama. Coach Bryant would go on to say in his autobiography “I never had another one like Lee Roy Jordan.” “He would have made every tackle on every pay if they had stayed in bounds,” Bryant would go on to say.
According to my grandfather, who was a student at Alabama when Jordan was there, the students would chant “Lee Roy! Lee Roy!” during games, and that never happened with anyone else.
Jordan was a leader on offense and defense for the Crimson Tide. He would play Middle Linebacker and Center despite being undersized at a listed 6-foot-1 and 215-pounds. Jordan himself would comment he never weighed over 205-pounds. He was a member of the Bear’s first national championship team in 1961 when the Tide went 11-0. The 1961 Alabama defense is arguably the best ever posting six shutouts and only giving up 25 points on the season. In Jordan’s final game during the 1963 Orange Bowl, he recorded 31 tackles in a 17-0 victory over Oklahoma and was named MVP.
The Dallas Cowboys would select Lee Roy Jordan with their first overall pick in the 1963 draft going 6th overall. Jordan would have a 14 year career, all in Dallas, where he would start in 154 games – still a team record. He would win a Super Bowl, make the Pro Bowl 5 times, was named to the AP All-Pro team twice, and was the 1973 NFC Defensive Player of the Year. He would hold the Cowboy’s all-time tackles record for more than 25 years before Darren Woodson reset the mark in 2002. He would also have 32 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries in his career (recording a turnover in every 3.72 games played) to go with three touchdowns.
Jordan was easily one of the top five best Mike Linebackers during his time in the NFL, and he did it while being undersized. The stud of the era, Dick Butkus, measured in at 6-foot-3, 245-pounds. Willie Lanier was 6-foot-1, 245-pounds as well. Despite being anywhere from 30 to 40 pounds lighter than his contemporaries, Lee Roy played at their level and had more than his fair share of production.
There isn’t a definitive reason for why Jordan hasn’t been called to the hall yet. Maybe it has something to do with his feud and Tex Schramm. The former owner of the Cowboys personally kept Jordan out of the team’s Ring of Honor due to a contract dispute before the 1973 season where Jordan walked off the practice field until new owner, Jerry Jones, inducted him. It’s possible that getting little to no backing from his club for his first 13 years of retirement played a part. Perhaps his lack of All-Pro selections plays a role. While Jack Lambert and Willie Lanier made the team eight times, Lee Roy did only twice. Finally, Jordan was not selected to the 1970’s All Decade team, but that’s never been a make or break standard for a player.
There is no denying what Jordan meant to the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL. He led Tom Landry’s Doomsday Defense in Dallas. He would help lead his team to three Super Bowl appearances and one win. His career transcends generations. There was a time where people would know who you were talking about by just saying “Lee Roy”. I was born in 1990 and didn’t even attend my first game in Bryant-Denny until 2001, but I knew who Lee Roy Jordan was growing up. I’ve always said Jordan is my favorite player I never had the opportunity to see play.
Jordan’s work ethic and hard-nosed style of play allowed him to perform at a very high level every time he put on his helmet. As Coach Landry put it, “because of his competitiveness, he was able to play the game and play it well.” Jordan demanded a lot out of himself and his leadership demanded a lot of those around him.
Lee Roy Jordan’s football career speaks for itself. It is high time that the Hall of Fame recognize him and give him his gold jacket.