TE Jordan ushered in the Metrodome era

Tight end Steve Jordan was a symbol of change when he was drafted in 1982. It was the first year of playing in the Metrodome and his speed at tight end helped with the transition to the newer, faster surface.

When the Vikings went from Metropolitan Stadium to the Metrodome, most of the players that had carried the franchise through the 1970s were gone – names like Tarkenton, Page, Eller, Marshall, Krause, Tingelhoff, Yary, Foreman, Rashad and Siemon.

The group of Vikings that were the core of the franchise were younger players who had been drafted by Bud Grant to be backups that would replace a legend and their time would start. Tight end Steve Jordan was a member of the first post-Met Stadium draft class. He didn't know the pain and suffering players went through in December and January outside in Bloomington. He was coming to a new building and, despite having an architectural background, saw the Metrodome as an impressive facility.

"We had some very good memories," Jordan said. "I actually remember the grandeur of it in '82. That was my first year and the stadium was brand new. I didn't have that perspective on the Old Met. Hearing some of their stories, I was happy that I came to the Vikings when I did because it sounded horrible."

Jordan, an Ivy Leaguer from Brown University, was a seventh-round pick that was selected by the Vikings based on his athleticism. He felt the team might not have been as interested in him had they still been playing outside. But with his speed and combination of wide receiver skills and tight end strength, he seemed like a logical fit with the new-look Vikings of the early 1980s.

"It changed the team we became because we were on an indoor surface and speed was needed," Jordan said. "When you look at the successes we had on defense during that period with Dole (Chris Doleman), (Keith) Millard and Johnny Randle, that was based on speed. I'm not saying we couldn't play fast in outdoor weather, but being in the Dome certainly had implications on the players we brought in."

Jordan was a bit ahead of his time when he arrived in the NFL and the Vikings took immediate advantage of his skill set. Long before tight ends were 100-reception types in the modern game, Jordan was making a splash and opening eyes that tight ends didn't have to be glorified offensive linemen. Over his 13 seasons, he had 6,307 yards receiving and 26 touchdowns. He averaged 12.7 yards per catch.

"There weren't a lot of tight ends at the time that could really get downfield running deep seams and corners like we were doing with the Vikings," Jordan said. "It was at a time when the athleticism of tight ends was geared to making us blockers. The H-back hybrid guy was coming into play – a third-down receiver who could block if needed. But, with me, they noticed that I could run and make plays 20 or 30 yards down the field. Once teams realized that there were athletic tight ends out there, it changed the way offense was played. They started looking for basketball players who played football. You look at guys like Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski or Kyle Rudolph. Those guys can make plays like wide receivers and their teams have found ways to get them into mismatches to take advantage of."

Of all the memories Jordan has of his years with the Vikings, one that he would just as soon forget – as would his teammates – was the 1984 debacle under Les Steckel, which came in Jordan's third season.

With Bud Grant hanging up his whistle after the 1983 season, the Vikings promoted the former Marine and his style of coaching was, to say the least, brutal. Jordan thrived in the system only due to his athleticism, but his teammates were dropping like flies around him and many looked forward to games because they were less bruising than practices.

"Les is a great guy, but he admitted that he took a little too much of a lead from his military days," Jordan said. "His notion was that we had to work harder. When guys started getting injured, it was a battle of attrition through that season. His idea was that we had to work even harder – hit more in practice and work out more. I think after that, he learned some temperance and was much more successful later in his career, but that was a tough one. We had an Ironman contest in training camp. Everybody got blown up. We had four weeks of training camp and we were all shot. It carried into the season and was a tough situation."

While there wasn't much to cheer about in 1984, Jordan said his memories of the Metrodome are associated with noise. It was during that era that fans learned the difference they could make and made it known.

"There were times it was just deafening in there," Jordan said. "It impacted games. Opposing quarterbacks couldn't go in the shotgun. There are a lot of loud stadiums now, but, back then, if you were to ask where the loudest stadium was, the Metrodome would either be first or pretty close. It was an advantage that we had that other teams didn't and I'll never forget some of those games."

Just as Jordan came to the Vikings when the Metrodome made its debut, he thinks the turning of the historical page is coming at the right time. Almost all of the players who were part of the Vikings Super Bowl runs over the last decade are gone, just as those who made the memories at Met Stadium systematically went away over the final years of the Met. He sees the timing as symbolic. He was there to inaugurate the Dome and thinks it's time for the next generation of Vikings to christen their new stadium.

"Just as there were people that had their memories and their stories of the Old Met, it was time to change," Jordan said. "It's going to be interesting the next couple of years with the team playing outside and then moving back inside, but it's clear to me that, just like Minnesota had to transition from playing at the Met to coming to the dome, the time has come to move on to the next era. I'm looking forward to seeing the new building and the new memories they will have there."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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