Buford Jordan headed to Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame
The Iota “two step” was fashionable in Southwest Louisiana in the early 1980s.
It was the touchdown signature of McNeese State tailback Buford Jordan and he entered into a long striding, high knee kick each time he scored during his four-year career with the Cowboys.
And, he scored often.
Ernie Duplechin, his first collegiate coach, made the call.
“I started it the first game he played,” the coach said.
“We were playing at West Texas State. Our tailback was Theron McClendon but he was injured during the game and we sent in our backup, Tony Burlingame.
“Tony was a hard worker but things weren’t going good so I told Ted (offensive coordinator Brevelle) to send Buford in. Ted didn’t want to because he didn’t think that Buford (in his freshman year) was ready.
“But, he sent him in. If I remember right, Buford carried the ball six straight times, and scored.”
The Cowboys won the game, went on to a 10-1 Southland Conference championship winning record and met up with Southern Miss in the Independence Bowl.
Jordan, even though he ranked behind McClendon and quarterback Stephen Starring on the team in rushing totals, earned conference rookie of the year honors, setting the tone for three more outstanding seasons with the Cowboys.
And the “Iota two-step” caught on.
He became McNeese’s and the Louisiana all-time leading rusher and it wasn’t easy, sharing tailback duties with McClendon for another year and then being injured in his senior year and missing several games while brother Simon filled in.
Jordan would go on to become a first-round draft choice in the old USFL — New Orleans Breakers and then Portland Breakers — and then play seven seasons with the New Orleans Saints as a starting fullback, becoming one of the team’s most popular players.
But it was those nights at Cowboy Stadium in Lake Charles when his magic as a running back made him one of the best in the nation that his star shined the best.
His Louisiana-rooted career, with great success at each level, has earned him induction in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches Saturday, June 25.
He left McNeese with the Louisiana collegiate all-time rushing record, a mark that would remain his until broken by LSU’s Kevin Faulk in the late 1990s.
Jordan carried the football 763 times for 4,156 yards for the Cowboys, an average of 5.5 yards every time he handled the ball. He still ranks in the top five on the Louisiana all-time rushing list.
He would score 45 touchdowns and one two-point conversion for 272 points and he would amass 4,888 all-purpose yards.
“What I am reminded of when we talk about Buford’s football career here,” said former McNeese assistant coach Hubert Boales, who also served as Jordan’s head coach in his junior year, “is that Iota two-step.
“Like Coach Dup said, it got started there in West Texas when he scored with someone nipping at his heels and he began high stepping to get out of the way. It just went on from there.
“You knew what you were going to get from Buford on the practice field and in a game. It was going to be his all. He was a team player from the start and he would do whatever the coaches wanted him to do.”
Daryl Burckel, who was a teammate at McNeese and is now a professor in the accounting, finance and economics department at the university, said, “He was very humble and he worked very hard. He was a competitor in everything he did”»on the practice field, in the weight room, in the games on Saturday.
“He was always ready to play and he made the best of it”»here at McNeese and as a pro player.”
Having to platoon at tailback his first two seasons wasn’t the easiest way for Jordan to pile up the more than 4,000 yards rushing he did in his career with the Cowboys.
That first year, McClendon ran for 1,272 yards, quarterback Stephen Starring picked up 974 and Jordan got 766 as the Cowboys ranked among the nation’s leaders with a 295.3 yards per game average.
His sophomore season Jordan ran for 1,267 yards, as a junior he collected 1,116 yards and as a senior despite missing three games and parts of a fourth he rushed for 1,007 yards.
When he wrapped up his career, not only did he hold the school career record for yards rushing but he also had his name stamped on those for rushing attempts (763), touchdowns rushing (44), total touchdowns (45), points scored (272) and all-purpose yards (4,888).
“Like Coach Bum Phillips used to say,” said current McNeese defensive coordinator Lark Hebert, who blocked for Jordan in college, “he may not be in a class by himself but it doesn’t take long to call roll.
“I don’t know that I can recall any one particular game but I do remember the plays that he made and all the great hits. He was one of a kind but he was always Buford. He didn’t think of himself as being a celebrity or any different from any of the players on the team.
“He was always positive and he just had that energy that everyone feeds off. He was always about the team.”
Hebert, who played in the offensive line for the Cowboys, was part of an event that hasn’t happened on the field often in McNeese history.
Following Jordan’s final game with the Cowboys when he had rushed for enough yardage to become the all-time McNeese and Louisiana collegiate leader — in 1983 on the road against a Lamar University team — Hebert and Ivy Woods, another offensive lineman and now a Louisiana State trooper, put Jordan on their shoulders and carried him off the field.
“I can remember thinking ‘Wow’ back then,” said Jordan. “That was really something.”
He still ranks as one of the more decorated players in McNeese history”».all-America recognition (Associated Press), four time all-Southland Conference, twice all-Louisiana, SLC and Louisiana Player of the Year, twice SLC rushing leader, Louisiana amateur athlete of the year and twice McNeese team MVP.
As a tailback his strength was his speed and his power. His single game rushing high was 208 yards on 25 carries against then Northeast Louisiana (now UL Monroe) and he had 10 other games in which he rushed for more than 135 yards.
His road to McNeese tells a lot about the man.
“I had a lot of schools recruiting me and they told me a lot of things. Coach Tate (former Cowboy assistant and later head coach Tommy) was always truthful to me. And, then when I met Coach Duplechin he told me that he knew that I could play four years of college ball but he couldn’t guarantee me anything.”
The Cowboys had a returning star at tailback — McClendon — and Jordan would have to make his way — something that he also did in the pro ranks.
He started not with the Saints, but with the New Orleans Breakers in the new USFL. He played two seasons (the team moved to Portland for the second year) and rushed for over 1,000 yards each time, 1,276 yards in 1984 when he was the league’s fourth-leading rusher behind Joe Cribbs, Kelvin Bryant and Herschel Walker.
“I signed my contract on Friday, January 13 and that has been my lucky number since,” he said.
When the USFL folded, the NFL held a special draft and Jordan was picked by the Green Bay Packers. He spent a couple of weeks there, was released and signed as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints.
“It was an opportunity for me and I was going to make the best of it. I just wanted to play.”
The Saints had drafted four tailbacks that year (Dalton Hilliard and Ruben Mayes among them) and since he was the biggest of the group, Jordan was shifted to fullback.
“It really didn’t matter. Just tell me what I had to do,” he said.
With that attitude it’s no wonder he became one of the team’s most popular players.
“Anytime anything came up involving the Saints with the public, I was there,” he said. “I really enjoy meeting and visiting with people.”
He was with the Saints in the Jim Mora era, played on the squad’s first winning team and was the starting fullback when the Saints made their first playoff appearance (1987) and won their first division title (1991). He was also a special teams standout.
When he got the chance he made the most of his rushing attempts, compiling 687 career yards on 184 attempts while blocking for Hilliard and Mayes, two of the team’s leading all-time rushers.
“That was Buford,” said Hebert. “Here he had been a first round draft choice as a tailback and he moved to fullback to help his team.”
At 30 years of age, Jordan retired from the game and went into coaching. He led the Louisiana Bayou Beast to the 1998 Indoor Professional Football League arena title and also coached the New Orleans Thunder in the Regional Football League in 1999 and later the Lafayette Roughriders.
Since 2002 he’s been in the personal training profession, bringing fitness programs to the young people of the state.
“I had a great football career,” he said, still possessing the physique that made him one of the most talented running backs in the state’s history. “It’s all been good.”
Can he still do that “Iota two-step?”
You bet, on any given Saturday or Sunday.