It Took a Village to Propel Heyer
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Glenda Heyer would not know the right fielder for the Atlanta Braves if he were sitting at the table next to her at the International House of Pancakes, which at that very moment he just happened to be. All she knew was that her teenage son needed a personal trainer like most of his football teammates, only she had no idea how to find such a person.
And, well, the man sitting at that next table looked athletic, so, excuse me, sorry to be a bother, but would he happen to know anything about sports training?
The man smiled. The people at the nearby tables giggled.
Nonetheless, the man was kind. He gave her a number and the name of a local gym in the Atlanta suburbs. He told her to bring her child that very evening.
"By the way," he said. "My name is Brian. . . . Brian Jordan."
She still had no idea who he was, but he would come to help make her boy into a Washington Redskin. For long before Jon Jansen broke his fibula and dislocated his ankle and an undrafted, unwanted rookie from the University of Maryland named Stephon Heyer walked onto FedEx Field last Sunday afternoon, there was a gangly high school junior in Lawrenceville, Ga., who weighed 270 pounds with size 18 feet and nothing resembling coordination. And when he was presented to Jordan and Jordan's trainer, James White, he was awful.
Jordan, once also a defensive back for the Atlanta Falcons, took Heyer to a local high school field and, despite the fact he was outweighed by 60 pounds, pushed him all over the grass. When he was through, the ballplayer turned to White and said, "You've got your work cut out for you."
But there was something about the boy. He was so nice and he just wouldn't give up. White pointed him toward weights and he lifted them. White told him to run sprints and he did. And because Glenda Heyer, as a single mother, couldn't afford a personal trainer, Jordan helped pay for White's services. Then, because White also trained Gail Devers, the three-time Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter, and because Devers also was taken by Heyer's enthusiasm, she bought him new shoes. Size 18s are hard to find, after all.
Eventually, this village of elite athletes and their trainer made another star, one so chiseled and dexterous that he would be recruited to play football by some of the country's best colleges, become a star at Maryland and then -- despite enormous odds against him -- a Redskin.
"He's a great kid," Jordan said via cellphone the other day as he waited for a plane in New York, recounting those first encounters with Heyer. "He has a great attitude. He's a smart kid who makes good choices. There aren't too many of those kids anymore. A lot of those kids have a cocky attitude. He's happy to be there."
"Those are the kids you've got to look out for," he said.