COLUMBUS – Ohio State freshman offensive lineman Michael Jordan explained it calmly and without the weariness that might be expected after repeating the story his whole life.
His name comes from his father and is not a tribute to the basketball legend, he said. It’s about family, not fame.
“It’s my dad’s middle name so he gave me that as my first name,” Jordan said.
For most freshman offensive linemen at a Power Five conference school like Ohio State, there is a better chance of standing out for sharing a famous name than there is of becoming a starter.
But like the other Michael Jordan, the 6-7, 310-pound freshman has soared above the crowd since he enrolled early at OSU last spring.
Jordan began to get time with the first team line early in spring practice. And while coach Urban Meyer has not named him a starter, he appears close to becoming the first true freshman offensive line starter for Meyer since Maurkice Pouncey at Florida in 2007.
Meyer said on Monday that Jordan is leading Demetrius Knox in the competition to start at left guard.
Center Pat Elflein said he noticed last spring Jordan had “that nastiness” which good offensive linemen have.
“The kid is special. He’s a quiet kid, doesn’t really say much. But when the pads come on he’s a whole different dude,” Elflein said. “He will come after you and try to take you out. What’s special about him is how he gets after people.”
Jordan says he arrived at Ohio State with big goals but not necessarily big expectations. Sometimes he even surprised himself.
“When I first got here the guy I spent the most time with was (freshman offensive lineman) Tyler Gerald. I used to tell him every day after practice how surprised I was that I was driving out people that are in college who are expected to start this year,” he said.
Even if success might have come earlier than he expected, he viewed himself as competing for a starting spot right away.
“That is always the goal, to start. I think if there’s any time a person comes into college they should always want to start and have that competitive spirit because if you don’t, why be here?” Jordan said.
Jordan went to Plymouth High School in Canton, Mich., around 20 miles from the University of Michigan. But he spent several years growing up in Cincinnati and felt more connected to Ohio than Michigan.
Not surprisingly, his teammates noticed his name as soon as he got to Ohio State.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett told him he couldn’t call him Michael Jordan until he proved himself.
“I called him Marcus Jordan. I had to change his name. I was like, ‘You’re named after a legend. That’s a lot to live up to. But I call him Mike Jordan now. He’s a gritty young guy who I think is going to help us out on the offensive line. I think he definitely is going to be able to help us out.
“That was just something I was messing with him about,” Barrett said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.