A second chance to make things right

When Jordan Carey pounced on a loose football for a touchdown in Oregon's 31-27 win over Michigan in 2003, life was loving the true freshman from Olympia, Washington. He was playing Division-I football, he was getting a free education, and he was adored by fans all over Duck Nation. But Carey was not experiencing those same triumphs off the field. Instead, it was one miscue after another - fumbling of a different kind.

Carey and Johnny DuRocher - a quarterback from Graham, Washington - both enrolled at Oregon early, so they could play spring football with the chance at playing time in the fall of 2003. Carey got his shot, and all that came with it. "For a young guy coming out of high school, all the freedom, parties and girls was just not something I was used to," he told Scout.com. He also found out about marijuana and alcohol, and the toxic combination it can have on an athlete who thrives on the natural high brought on by adrenaline and competition at the highest levels.

In late September of the following year, THC - the active ingredient in pot - was found in a mandatory drug screening test Jordan took. It was his second drug offense in six months following similar test results the previous spring. Jordan tried to kick it over that summer but failed. Going cold turkey was not the answer.

"I just lost track of the goals that I had," he said.

And that's when Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti lowered the boom, dismissing Carey from the team for his substance abuse. It was the ultimate insult to the injury he was already feeling inside.

Carey, who has always been known as a tough competitor ever since his days at Capital High, vowed to overcome his greatest adversary yet of his young life - himself. "I wanted to get my life together," he said. "I didn't want to think about going to a JC and think about where I was going to play. It was more about getting my life straight and figuring out why I was making the choices I was making when I had such a great opportunity."

He came home and went straight into treatment. But this was no ordinary course of therapy. Alone with his counselor, Carey did something most in his condition would never dream of doing. "We hiked over the Olympic Mountains for 14 days, didn't see anybody," he said. "It was fantastic."

He then came home, set himself up into Alcoholics Anonymous and continued to see his counselor twice a week. "I also went into relapse prevention program through Northwest Resources in Olympia," he said. "Young guys just want to go out and have fun, and you don't really see the piece where it has an effect on people's lives."

While Jordan was relearning how to live life sober, he got his football jones back. Starting in late October, Carey enrolled in Proactive Sports Enhancement in Olympia, a speed-training program, as well as lifting weights at the Powerhouse gym. "I'm stronger and faster than I ever was," he said.

He was ready to give himself a second chance, but would anybody else? Carey started making phone calls to schools that were interested in him out of high school, colleges like Washington State, Washington, Portland State and Montana. "It happens all the time, giving guys another shot if it fits in the right place and time."

DuRocher, who had also left Oregon by this time for personal reasons, was in the same boat. But because he had immediately enrolled in Pierce College, he would have an opportunity to transfer at the same level before spring practice in 2005.

Jordan would not have that same option. In a sense, taking a step down would be the penance he'd pay for a return to college football. It's a trade Carey would make without hesitation. "In a way it's a waste of a scholarship for them (DI schools) this coming year because I would be on their records, but I couldn't play," he said. "For me, I just want to get on the field and play."

So despite overtures from the Montana Grizzlies, Jordan decided this past weekend that he needed to show the State of Oregon that he could get it right. He will sign a letter of intent to play football for Portland State in February. "It's a blessing from God, because a lot of guys never get that chance the first time," he said, unequivocally. He will have three years to play two.

PSU understands Carey's past and they are supporting Jordan in any way they can. "They know exactly where I'm coming from and the goals I've set for football, school and that (addiction)," Jordan said. "It wasn't a big party scene when I went down to visit and they understand where I'm coming from.

"I've got a different attitude about getting my degree now. I look at all of this as a great life lesson I learned and I'm able to move forward from it and be a better person because of it."

And he still gets to play Oregon State next year.

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