Matthew Jordan is down to his final few weeks as a Georgia Tech student. The former Yellow Jackets quarterback completed his final classes this week as a graduate student in the school of industrial and systems engineering.
All that remains is his final project, which he’ll complete through an internship with Georgia-Pacific. On Wednesday morning, between bites of a breakfast sandwich at Thumps Up Diner in Midtown, Jordan looked back on his time at Tech. He did so with fondness and appreciation and not a trace of bitterness. A foot injury robbed him of his chance at a two-year run as Tech’s starting quarterback, but Jordan held a broader perspective.
“People ask me all the time, ‘If you could do it over again, would you go to Georgia Tech, even though what happened?’” Jordan said. “Yeah, I wouldn’t change anything at all. That was one of my main reasons coming here – to get a good education. I came here and I got two (degrees), so I’m really ecstatic about that. I wouldn’t change anything.”
When most Tech fans last saw Jordan, he was being helped off the field at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium on Oct. 28 of last year. Subbing for starter TaQuon Marshall, Jordan re-aggravated a tear of the Lisfranc ligament in his right foot, an injury he first suffered in spring practice in April 2017 that opened the door for Marshall to win the starting quarterback job and relegate Jordan to the No. 2 job.
Jordan said that about a week later, he came to the conclusion that, even with a season of eligibility remaining, his career was over. He prayed, spoke to his father and ultimately made the decision with a cost-benefit analysis. He already had come to the realization he wasn’t going to the NFL, so his playing career already had a clear end point. On track for a master’s degree in supply-chain engineering, he could rehab a second time, but recognized that the ligament might tear again.
“I think it was just the best decision,” he said.
Not long after, he found himself in the office of coach Paul Johnson, telling him that he wanted to be added to the list for Senior Day.
“He was really supportive of my decision, always has been,” Jordan said. “He just said, ‘I don’t blame you for it. You’re graduating. You’re going to want to play with your kids, your grandkids some day hopefully.’”
Going into last year’s spring practice, Jordan was the leader in the competition to succeed Justin Thomas, but the ligament tear halfway through the spring cleared the way for Marshall, whose grip on the job only strengthened through preseason practice and the season.
“I was happy for him,” Jordan said. “You see guys putting in all this work. I don’t want to be that negative Nancy-type guy. You know, ‘Oh, that should be me.’ I was coming into camp, I wasn’t quite ready. TaQuon kept progressing and progressing. I was right there in his corner the whole time.”
Jordan acknowledged that it was frustrating not to be able to lead the team as he had hoped.
“I think everybody has that thought,” he said, “but I was raised to not be that kind of person, to be envious and jealous of others.”
Jordan has relied on his maturity and faith to accept the outcome. Having dealt with a more severe setback as a child, being diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes at the age of 11, probably helped, too.
“It’s just some things happen for a reason, and some things aren’t meant to be,” he said.
He is excited for what lies ahead. He has a couple of job opportunities after the internship. His foot injury has healed, and his body is healthy. He essentially is through with 4-1/2 years of grueling classwork. He recently rewarded himself for graduating by purchasing a black GMC Sierra pickup. While he has enjoyed his time in Atlanta, the country boy from Alabama is ready to get back to his roots. (His internship will be at a paper mill in Alabama.)
“People told me all about the traffic, so many people,” he said, his country twang ever present. “I was, ‘Whatever.’ I didn’t really know; I’d never been. That first semester, when I got here: ‘Yeah, this is a lot.’”
He’ll leave with fond memories, such as winning the 2014 Orange Bowl, playing Boston College in Ireland in 2016 (his first trip out of the country) and leading the Jackets to an upset win later that season over then-No. 18 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.. He has kept his jersey, wristbands and towel from the game.
“I will never forget, when the (Orange Bowl) was over, they did the (postgame on-field trophy presentation),” he said. “Like 10 minutes later, it was New Year’s and fireworks start coming. ‘Wow, they timed that up perfectly.’”
There likely will be no pyrotechnic displays when he designs more efficient solutions for supply chains. His fellow employees probably won’t mob him and stadiums won’t erupt when he provides his employer with cost-saving measures for inventory and warehousing processes. That’s OK.
Perhaps there’s something to be said for a supply-chain engineer reaching the job market a year ahead of schedule.
“It’s something exciting,” he said. “I think I’m ready for it, for sure.”