Perhaps the last athlete that will ever have an extended career in the NFL and Major League Baseball, Brian Jordan played three seasons for the Atlanta Falcons and before switching to baseball full-time, he was named an alternate for the 1991 Pro Bowl team. In the MLB, he suited up for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Texas Rangers. The 1999 MLB All-Star played in nearly 1500 games in his MLB career with 184 home runs and a .282 career average. Inside Pitch recently asked Jordan about his experience as a two-sport standout and what his advice would be to multiple-sport athletes today:
Inside Pitch: What do you think about coaches that discourage their players from playing multiple sports? How about parents who think that their children should stick to just one sport?
Personally I don't like it, I think it limits a kid's options and to me, that's the most important thing. You're taking an athlete's abilities away from them, I feel like if you play different sports, you become a better athlete. I'm one that never ever preached "put all your eggs in one basket."
You could have a kid with great potential and all the ability in the world, and you limit him? I'm totally against it. Everyone asks me the question, will we see another two-sport professional athlete, and my answer is no: simply because of coaches not allowing these kids to grow up and have fun and utilize all their options and abilities. I'm disappointed with it, and that's the way it is now for these young athletes. They're being penalized along the way.
IP: Was there anything you took from your experience as a baseball player that helped you out on the gridiron?
The things that I learned in baseball were mental toughness and focus. When I was an NFL player, I used to call baseball players weak, chicken, you know... I used to tease them! And then when I played my first full season [of baseball], I realized the mental strain that’s put upon you through 162 games and I had a new respect for the game of baseball.
Baseball is a game where you have to learn to focus and to accept failure. And if you don’t, you’re going to have a tough time...it’s going to be really hard. I had a tough time early in my career accepting failure, but it was a learning experience. Football was physical and allowed you to go out there and use your abilities, but other than that, the mental stress from the game of baseball far outweighs the game of football.
IP: Is there more time to think and make in-game adjustments during baseball or football?
In football, it’s more reaction. In baseball you have plenty of time to make adjustments in between at-bats, to read the pitcher as the game goes on, so you can make some easy adjustments. With football, it’s constant. It’s a speed game, you have to think on your feet, and it’s a difficult game.
IP: What comparisons can you make regarding defending your position in baseball and football… is playing safety anything like playing in the outfield?
Oh yeah! I used to bring my football mentality to the baseball field all the time. It got me in trouble a couple times with injuries, but that’s the way I played the game. I honestly played the outfield like a DB [defensive back]; I set up like a DB and I would react to the ball just like a DB, open my hips and run. I used to play games with myself; sometimes I’d imagine myself covering Jerry Rice and I’d run a ball down in the gap. You almost have to do that as a baseball player.
IP: How did your football career help you on the diamond?
Toughness. I’ve had collisions at the plate, I’ve run into the wall, but I’ve managed to finish ballgames. The only time I didn’t finish a ballgame was when I broke my collarbone on a bad hop playing first base. I just think [playing football] made me tough, made me deal with a lot of things that a normal baseball player might not deal with. When I did get injured, I didn’t stay injured long; I was able to tough it out and come back early. In today’s game, you see guys stay out until they’re 100% healthy. Well, I didn’t do that, if I was back to 75%, I was out there trying to help my team win.
IP: Athletes today seem to be getting bigger, faster and stronger, yet we are also trying to make sports safer. Is that really possible?
I don’t think so, especially with football. By trying to make a game safer, you can end up causing more injuries. Particularly in football, it’s tough to hit in certain places when you’re going full speed, so you see guys going for the lower body more, which results in more knee injuries. That’s what I’m afraid of – key players and stars get injured
because you have to go low nowadays.
IP: What’s your advice to two-sport players?
Find a league, find coaches who will allow you to play more than one sport. I know it’s tough. Parents think they move to these great schools and all of a sudden you’ve got this hard-nosed coach who’s penalizing your kid because he wants to play two or three sports. You’ve gotta find an organization, a school that will encourage that and allow it to happen. It’s hard to do nowadays, to be honest.