Nothing has come easy for the eight-year NFL veteran who’s been with nine teams in nine years – 11 teams if you count multiple stops in Tennessee and Seattle. It’s laughable, really. Gordon would tell you that himself. He joked about it last year in front of nearly 500 elementary school students.
Gordon’s NFL career defines professional journeyman.
“Yeah, you can say I’ve been around the block,” Gordon laughs.
When Gordon signed with Kansas City last summer, his arrival resembled nothing more than another pit stop in an anonymous career nearing its end.
Gordon landed a week late to Chiefs training camp. The first wave of free agents didn’t have issue finding new homes after the NFL Lockout had lifted. By the time Gordon found an employer, teams were filling the back-end of an expanded 90-man training camp roster.
No sacks in seven NFL seasons. Just 17 career games played at age 29. Cut nine times. Issued jersey No. 64 as a defensive lineman when he arrived in Kansas City.
None of it added up to more than a training camp body with the Chiefs, but Gordon had other plans.
Little did anyone know, Gordon had been pushed to the edge of his career. He was contemplating retirement, but it wasn’t for lack of passion. There were more important things to life than football. Gordon was sure of it.
“It was really all blur to me,” Gordon said. “I was going through a tough time personally.”
Gordon was with his sister when the Chiefs called to offer him a contract last August. A diabetic, Gordon’s sister was undergoing kidney dialysis.
A potential donor, Gordon was on the verge of filing retirement papers and dropping the 30 pounds necessary to aid his sister with a healthy kidney.
“I wasn’t even in my hometown,” Gordon remembered of when the Chiefs called to offer him a contract. “My mind was really with my sister and her health issue.”
According to kidney.org, Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in African Americans. The prevalence of diabetes in African Americans is much higher than in white Americans. Approximately 14.7 percent of all African Americans over 20 years of age (3.7 million) have diabetes.
On average, African Americans are twice as likely to have diabetes as white Americans of similar age.
Gordon’s sister is part of the rising statistics.
“It was really hard for me to up and leave her,” Gordon remembered.
But Gordon left for Kansas City with his sister’s blessing, determined to extend his NFL career another season.
Maybe, just maybe, he could do something to impress defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and the rest of the Chiefs’ coaching staff. Maybe he could use his platform as an NFL player to raise awareness about Diabetes and Kidney failure in the African American community.
“I knew coming in that I was going to have to show I could contribute in multiple defensive schemes, fronts and packages, “Gordon said. “They have a saying that the more you can do, the better your opportunity. That rings true with this situation.
“I really just kind of came to Kansas City and went for it. That’s the bottom line. I just put my best foot forward and waited to see what happened.”
It didn’t take long for Gordon to crawl from the bottom of the Chiefs’ depth chart as a fourth-string nose tackle behind Kelly Gregg,
Gordon was repping with the first-team defense by the end of the preseason. Gregg was fully entrenched as the starter, but Gordon was intriguing. Coaches wanted to see what he could do against better competition.
It was the first sign that Gordon didn’t just have a chance to make the Chiefs 53-man roster. He had a chance to play a significant role.
“My resolve was to just go out there, work at grinding it out and see what could become of it,” Gordon remembered.
Gordon went on to appear in all 16 games for the Chiefs last season. It was the first time he’d ever appeared in more than six games during a single season. That previous high occurred as a rookie with Cleveland in 2004.
Gordon was the only nose tackle on the Chiefs roster to play in sub-package sets last season. He often aligned over guard in nickel personnel, in addition to his role as a reserve nose tackle in base sets. He played in nearly 20 snaps a game, making him one of the most active reserves on Kansas City’s defensive front last season.
The coaching staff wanted to give Powe more action as a rookie, but Gordon’s play offered little window for opportunity. He was playing multiple positions at a high level. His contributions were too valuable to walk away from.
“When you put your hand in the dirt on the defensive line, it’s sometimes a thankless occupation,” Gordon said. “There’s a big learning curve in spite of what popular belief may be. It’s one of those positions that is specialized. A certain skill set is required to be efficient at playing multiple positions on the defensive line.
“I think a lot of times guys have just one job and they do that job. In my case, I have to do more than one thing to keep my job.”
Gordon kept his job, re-signing with the Chiefs last week after tallying career-highs across the board in 2011. He waited seven years to record his first NFL sack, but notched two in back-to-back weeks against New England and Pittsburgh on primetime television last season.
As a tribute to his blue collar career path, and as a thank you to Kansas City giving his career new life, Gordon celebrated as a janitor following each sack. He “mopped the floor.”
“It’s a blue collar dance for a blue collar feeling and it’s been a long time coming,” Gordon explained.
A long time coming, indeed. Gordon will be back in Kansas City next season, but this time he won’t be so anonymous.
Gordon has a sister to thank.