Utah Football To Remember Ty Jordan, Aaron Lowe This Weekend Against USC
SALT LAKE CITY- If you didn’t live through Utah football’s 2021 season and were just told about it, most people would probably believe the story was embellished, or a Hollywood script. Those who did live through it and were around it know that as crazy as the story sounds, every bit of it is true.
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Utah football will be using Saturday’s game against USC- a team that has a lot of significance to the Utes’ story for many reasons to remember Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe who are the central characters of an improbable comeback.
The team will be donning their annual hand painted helmets which will feature portraits of Jordan and Lowe along with the “22 Forever” logo. Both Jordan and Lowe’s families will also be in attendance for the game to cheer on the Utes against the Trojans.
The Start Of Ty Jordan’s Utah Football Legend
Running back Ty Jordan was one of the few bright spots of a really tough 2020 football season for Utah. In fact, Jordan literally felt like a beacon of light in a really dark tunnel for Ute fans. Jordan’s God-given ability had people excited and hopeful for a better future in a way that hadn’t been felt in months largely due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
By the end of the freshman phenom’s first season at Utah, Jordan was already being talked about by NFL scouts as a breakout star who wouldn’t be in college for long. Little did anyone know how right those scouts would be, but not for the reasons anyone was thinking about at the time.
Jordan’s collegiate career would end up only being five games long- 83 carries, 597 yards, six rushing touchdowns, and 126 passing yards off 11 catches.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) December 22, 2020
A shortened pandemic schedule robbed fans of more time with Jordan, but so did a horrific tragedy no one saw coming. Jordan died Christmas night of 2020 from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound just a week after wrapping up the season against Washington State sending shockwaves through college football. He was just 19 years old.
As quickly as Jordan had burst onto the scene, he was gone, leaving teammates, coaches, staff and fans in Salt Lake City absolutely devastated.
The Plot Thickens For Utah Football With Aaron Lowe
Cornerback Aaron Lowe knew Jordan from high school. In fact, they were best friends living out their dreams together, not just in high school, but college as well. Lowe was a part of the reason Jordan ultimately ended up choosing Utah over Texas during his recruitment.
When Jordan passed, Lowe jumped to action, determined to live his life and play the game in his friend’s memory. He switched from jersey number 2 to 22 in an attempt to keep Jordan close in the 2021 season. Lowe was also honored as the first recipient of the Ty Jordan Memorial Scholarship which is given to a member of the football team who most embodies Jordan’s strong work ethic and positive attitude through adversity.
Victory Friday 🙌 pic.twitter.com/vv6lepVdOM
— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) September 3, 2021
Utah faced a lot of adversity in 2021 starting the season 1-2 after losses to BYU and San Diego State. Lowe never wavered in his belief that the Utes’ destiny was to be Pac-12 Champions and go to the Rose Bowl that season. It never mattered that the odds were stacked against them.
Nearly nine months to the day after Jordan passed away, September 26, 2021, Lowe was killed at a house party after getting into an altercation with an uninvited crasher. He was just 21 years old.
Lowe’s last opponent was the same as Jordan’s last opponent: Washington State.
The Importance Of USC
Utah was faced with a tough decision- to continue playing or to call it a year and try again in 2022? Lowe’s murder came in the middle of the season during Utah’s BYE week. Things weren’t going great for Utes before, and it seemed like a lot to ask them to put on a brave face to keep going.
Lowe’s mother, Donna, addressed the team and encouraged them to keep fighting because that is what her son would have wanted. That’s what Utah ultimately chose to do.
The Utes’ opponent out of their BYE? USC at the Coliseum- a place Utah hadn’t won at in 105 years. The Trojans also happened to be Jordan’s very first collegiate opponent, another crazy irony in a long list of ironies tying Lowe, Jordan, and the Utes together.
Cam Rising shines in Utes big win over USC, 42-26. This is Utah's first win vs. USC in Los Angeles since 1916.
— Andy Muñoz (@andyxmunoz) October 10, 2021
Fast forward to 2022 and it seemed like almost a foregone conclusion the USC game would be where Utah would choose to wear their hand painted helmets honoring Jordan and Lowe. Part of this of course is simply because it’s the biggest home game of the season, but also because of the role the Trojans have played in Jordan, Lowe and Utah’s combined story. They are a significant marker of time that helped establish both Jordan and Lowe’s legends within the program.
A Homecoming Of Sorts
Another note of significance in Utah’s upcoming celebration of Jordan and Lowe is the “homecoming” of Jordan’s old position coach Kiel McDonald who is now the running backs coach at USC. McDonald took the opening with the Trojans shortly after Utah’s Rose Bowl game and is in his first season with head coach Lincoln Riley.
Despite moving on with a new team, McDonald has continued to honor the lives of Jordan and Lowe. On Twitter, McDonald’s profile banner and pinned tweet both feature the two players. McDonald also took time to speak with KSL Sports about Jordan, Lowe, and the impact they have had on his coaching career ahead of the big game.
Like most things about this particular story, it feels like it is no coincidence almost everyone with a significant role will be brought together once more to honor two lives lost too soon.
The Power Of 22
The twists and turns of Jordan and Lowe’s stories along with Utah’s 2021 football season largely center around the number 22. The sometimes-freaky occurrences of the number were many- too many to list them all, but for the sake of this article here are a few that apply.
In Jordan’s last game against Washington State, he carried the ball 22 times, he was also named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year on December 22, 2020. Lowe passed away at a party located on the 2200 block of South Broadmoor Street.
Utah’s game against USC in 2021 was head coach Kyle Whittingham’s 222nd career win. Quarterback Cam Rising completed 22 passes in the same game, while his completions the following week against Arizona State were 22% better than against the Trojans.
What a ride this season has been!
— Utah Athletics (@utahathletics) January 2, 2022
Utah officially retired the number 22 during their game against UCLA, the first jersey number to ever be retired by the football program. During that game, the Utes scored 44 points against the Bruins equating to 22 points for Jordan and 22 points for Lowe. It took a late safety in the game to achieve that final score.
The Utes made their first Rose Bowl appearance on the first day of the year 2022 which also marked the start of the year-long 100-year celebration of the iconic stadium that was built in 1922.
Sometimes It Is About Where You Start AND End
Speaking of the Rose Bowl…Utah’s crazy journey to it in 2021 started on that very logo. Jordan’s funeral was held on January 6, 2021, at AT&T Stadium just days after the relocated bowl game was played in Dallas due to Covid-19 restrictions in Pasadena.
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Almost exactly twelve months later, Utah was back on that logo, but not for a funeral. Instead, it was to actually play in the most storied bowl game in all of college football and to celebrate one of the craziest, and most beautiful sports stories that most of us will have ever personally witnessed.
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