By Maurice Patton
COLUMBIA — Jeff Jordan admits the challenges he will face as the new football coach at Zion Christian Academy will be different than any he’s previously faced – but there are always challenges.
“When I was at Franklin Road Academy, we had some low numbers in the middle school program; we had 20 players my first year,” said Jordan, who steps into the role vacated with Brad Lowery’s mid-March resignation after four seasons. “But I’ve seen the other side: We had 90 varsity and 40 freshman players at Ravenwood. That has its struggles as well, figuring out how to manage 130 kids in a Monday practice.
“It’s not something I’m afraid of. I relish the opportunity to build this program, basically from the ground up. All our leaders are behind me on this opportunity to build – the school, the program, everything around it.”
The 36-year-old Jordan is an area native, graduating in 2003 from Page before attending Purdue University. Embarking on his coaching career with two years at the middle school level at FRA, he spent a year at his high school alma mater before moving on to Ravenwood for three seasons. Last year, he served as defensive backs coach at Ensworth.
“This is a chance to build something special and do it at a Christian school where I’m able to talk about my faith and lead young men toward God, do everything for Christ,” Jordan said.
Zion Christian athletics director Derek Boyd pointed to Jordan’s youth and passion as key factors in the decision to bring him aboard.
“We actually interviewed about six guys,” Boyd said. ”After we looked at each person’s resume and their interview, we felt like Jeff was the best fit for us with his being young, being energetic, being passionate about football. He’s been in the private school sector before, and we felt like that was important for our particular hire.
“We felt like we needed somebody younger, willing to build a program. Brad did a great job building a foundation, but we lost nine seniors. Our numbers are kind of low. One of the main things we need to happen is increasing the numbers. We feel like Jeff is very personable; he can relate to kids and get more kids out for our program.”
On the gridiron, Zion’s fortunes have been on the upswing over the past two seasons, with back-to-back four-victory campaigns. However, those rosters were skewed older, and graduations have taken their toll on the program.
“We’ve probably got 16 to 18 kids, with what we have returning and what we see coming from middle school,” Boyd said. “But since January, we’ve been fortunate to add almost 30 kids, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Hopefully some of the kids we can get out of the hallways and on to the team.
“This is not a one-year deal. We realize this is probably a four- or five-year deal, to move our program where it needs to be. But it’s not going to be an easy task. He’s going to have to roll his sleeves up. But he’s got some kids willing to work.”