First, the neighborhood watched with wretched souls as he beat the Dawgs last year. Later, they watched with souls full of disbelief when he beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

But these games were played in Clemson and Miami, far away from the neighborhood. So the shocks came across the television set. Even though Homer Jordan's size was reduced on the screen, the sheer immensity of his feats was not.

Monday night, when Clemson descends to Athens, Ga., to play Georgia in a nationally televised season opener, the neighborhood will get to see the proof in the flesh. That is when Jordan, an Athens native, returns for one reason.

"To beat the home boys," he says.

Because Jordan returns as the starting quarterback of Clemson, the defending national champions, he also returns as the slayer of neighborhood prophecy.

He is doing things the neighborhood insisted he never could do.

"When I was getting ready to go to college, people around Athens all told me that a black man couldn't play quarterback," says Jordan. "I heard it a lot. I heard I'd be switched to defensive back or wide receiver because that's the position where black people play.

"But I kept a positive attitude. I wanted to start." He adds with emphasis, "And I wanted to start at quarterback."

He was a quarterback at Athens' Cedar Shoals High only during his 11-1 senior year. Previously, he was a defensive back. Once he became a quarterback, though, he never wanted to return to defense.

Since Buck Belue was just a freshman at Georgia, Jordan chose Clemson in 1978. "When I came here people said, 'You can be our quarterback,' " he says. "That was nice to hear. They said they would give me a chance."

Yet history provided him no home. In 86 years of football, Clemson had had only one black quarterback. In 1975, Willie Jordan (no relation) started for a half-season.

It was not a precedent of inspiration.

In 1976, Willie Jordan was made a defensive back.

"When I first met Homer," says Terry Kinard, Clemson's all-America senior safety, "he told me he played quarterback. I remember at the time, it was a big deal to be a black quarterback. But his mind was set. He stuck with it. I think he went through a lot of racial abuse."

As a freshman in 1979, Jordan watched Billy Lott play, then graduate. Jordan then started as a sophomore in 1980. He learned that year. Clemson went 6-5. It was a trying season.

Then last year, Jordan was a junior, leading Clemson on a 12-0 joy ride. He energized around the corners for 486 yards. He completed 107 of 196 passes (54.6 percent) for 1,630 yards and nine touchdowns.

He was the most valuable offensive player in the Orange Bowl, passing for 134 yards and running for 46 more to beat help Nebraska, 22-15, and guarantee Clemson's national title.

Further, he completed 20 of 29 for 270 yards and three touchdowns in a 21-7 win over Maryland. He was voted to the all-Atlantic Coast Conference first team.

Finally, he finished first in the ACC in passing efficiency, 12th in the nation. "And I was No. 6 in the nation at one point in the season," Jordan notes correctly.

"His personality on the field is ice-in-the-veins," says Clemson Coach Danny Ford. "He has excellent abilities. He has confidence in himself. He can't be rattled."

He is 6-feet, 180 pounds. He is quiet, equipped with a smile that seemingly never abandons him. He's a scrambler. "If you saw guys 6-8 and 6-9 chasing you, you'd run too," he says.

Teammates kid him about his love of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and his neatness. But nobody kids him about playing quarterback. Now, even the neighborhood has seen its mistake. Its open eyes have reversed the prophecy of its closed mind.

"Most people think of me as a running quarterback," says Jordan. "But I have worked on my passing a lot. I like to make things happen. I like to keep the defense guessing."

Because people have doubted his quarterbacking abilities, some of the doubt has seeped within Jordan. "I'd like to play in the NFL, but I'd play in the Canadian Football League or maybe that new league (United States Football League). I know the NFL likes tall quarterbacks. For a while, I didn't figure my chances were very good.

"But one day, I sat down with my mother. She told me about all the good things that have happened to me since I've been quarterback here. She said if I set my mind to something, I can do it. She said, 'Go where your heart takes you.' I will."

As a sophomore, he did not play well in a 20-16 loss at Georgia's Sanford Stadium, his first return home as Clemson's quarterback. It was fuel for the false prophecy. "When people have doubts, I like to prove them wrong," he says.

Then, thinking not about the eyes of the nation, but the ones of the neighborhood, Homer Jordan says, "This time I want to play the best game of my life."