So much has happened in the last two years of Robert Jordan's life.
As high school sophomore, Jordan was dealing with the death of his father due to lung cancer and the notorious Englewood neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. Jordan's grades had slipped, and his future felt opaque.
"Shootings every other day, a lot of gang activity," Jordan said of the community in which he lived. "My mom just wouldn't let me go outside a lot because she knew it was bad out there and she wanted me to be safe."
Football coaches at the Woodlawn Campus of the University of Chicago Charter School, where Jordan was a student, helped cut through the haze. Defensive coordinator Joe Bibbs, in particular, was a positive influence.
"Some of the coaches there really helped me," Jordan said. "They gave me a new perspective on the world and what I should expect from it in order to get what I want."
Jordan's mother, Arthelia Buick, also persisted. The better life she wanted for her children, which contributed to her placement of Jordan in a charter school, led to a career advancement at Northern Trust. Along with it came a move to Arizona, where Jordan enrolled for his junior year at Mesquite High School in Gilbert.
"It's a way better environment," Jordan said. "It's much safer, I get more exposure, everyone wants to succeed out here."
Jordan played wide receiver and linebacker on varsity as a freshman and sophomore, but he wasn't getting recruited. That changed at Mesquite, where the 6-foot-3, 196 pound defensive end had 50 tackles and nine sacks last season.
Hawaii and Wyoming showed interest. South Dakota State offered a scholarship, Jordan's first. Then, Arizona State followed suit, his first major conference offer.
"I'm extremely happy," Jordan said. "It feels great that [ASU] would take me. First I told my mom and I was kind of a little antsy to tell all my friends and stuff. They were very supportive, telling me congrats and everything."
In a way he didn't anticipate, the ASU offer felt validating to Jordan, a tangible marker of his potential.
"I didn't think I was that much of an impact player in order to receive an offer from such a big school," Jordan said. "I feel like I'm just as good as the guy next to me and we just try to win games. I never thought of how good I actually was."
Jordan visited ASU in March and Mesquite had Sun Devil coaches on its campus during the spring evaluation period. That moved the recruitment forward, and the biggest step came during high school action last week at ASU.
"I was at their big man challenge and the (ASU) coach saw me go in the one-on-one drills," Jordan said. "He talked to my coach and my coach said he'd offered me as long as I keep my grades up and do well in school."
Jordan is taking extra courses to get his core grade point average up because of a self-professed desire to avoid having to go the community college route. He said he's doing well in school and working on being as positive and supportive as he can be, while also having a consistently great effort.
He's also working on letting his mom know how much her efforts mean to him in his pursuit of a better future.
"Well, she does mean a lot to me," Jordan said. "Even though I don't show it as much as I should, deep down I really love her because of everything she's done to help me. Without her, I probably wouldn't be in the situation that I'm in right now. All the things she tells me that I don't like to hear, I end up having to do it because she knows what's best for me and I know that she's just trying to help me out."