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Jordan has turned life around, plays key role for hometown 49ers

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Dion Jordan left Miami after four years of on- and off-field disappointments. His football career and his life were in disarray.

He came back to San Francisco to get his life back in order.

“It’s where I’m from,” Jordan said on 49ers Talk. “It’s a special place. It has a special place in my heart. I just love the Bay Area, the diversity, the spirit. It’s got its own vibe to it, just staring at the bay and the wonderful bridges.

"That vibe is in me, being born here and just having that in me.”

Jordan, a defensive end, was the No. 3 overall pick of the 2013 draft after his four-year career at Oregon.

He was a draft bust with the Dolphins. And that might be putting it mildly.

Jordan will play against his former team on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

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The start of the season has been a roller-coaster for Jordan.

He has gone from being cut at the end of training camp to getting a spot on the practice squad to now having an important role in the 49ers’ defense in just a few short weeks.

Jordan appeared in only 26 games with the Dolphins and made just one start. He served two suspensions for violating the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse and missed the entire 2016 season with a knee injury.

He served 22 games in suspensions and totaled approximately $7 million in fines -- believed to be the most any NFL player has ever paid in fines.

 

“I didn’t have football as my No. 1 priority, and it quickly -- everything started to slide from underneath me,” Jordan said of his time in Miami. “I turned to a lot of partying and use, you know, alcohol and drug use.

“And before I knew it, I was suspended and suspended again. Everything was on pause. I had to get my head back into what my dreams were.”

His road led him back to San Francisco.

Jordan moved to Arizona when he was 12. But he always considered San Francisco his home. He returned to be near relatives. It is also where his agent introduced him to trainer Tareq Azim, whom has also served as a life coach.

Jordan said he realized he let down a lot of people. That haunting feeling served as his impetus for making some dramatic changes to his life.

“That was the hardest part, just having to look at them and being in this haze and this zone,” Jordan said. “I didn’t know where I was and how to get out of it. I needed a kick in the butt. I got that. I got it really god -- from my family, from my trainer. And I’m hardest on myself.”

He had not played in the NFL since 2014 when he signed with the Seattle Seahawks in 2017. He appeared in 17 games over two seasons before playing for the Raiders last year.

On Aug. 7, he signed with the 49ers.

Jordan did not win a spot on the 49ers’ 53-man roster at the beginning of the regular season. He received bad news on cut-down day. But the 49ers offered him a spot on the practice squad.

This year, due to rules changes for teams to cope with the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic, practice squads were expanded from 10 to 16 players. And each team is allowed to retain six players with any level of experience. Jordan would not have been eligible for the practice squad in previous years. And he was not initially thrilled with being on the practice squad to open this season.

“For a few hours, I was really disappointed,” he said. “I was disappointed. I’m not going to lie. But I realized I was where I wanted to be. The only way I was going to get the most out of it was if I attacked it with an all-in type of mentality.”

The 49ers kept him around for insurance. But Robert Saleh's defense would need Jordan a lot sooner than expected.

Defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas were lost for the season in Week 2 due to knee injuries. Edge rusher Dee Ford’s season is in question due to a back condition.

Jordan was promoted to the 53-man roster for Week 3, and he promptly made an impact when he recovered a fumble after entering his first game. He later registered a sack.

 

Veteran defensive end Ziggy Ansah is out for the season with a torn biceps sustained Sunday night in the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. So now Jordan and Kerry Hyder figure to be the 49ers’ top nickel pass rushers. The 49ers need Jordan to perform.

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Jordan reports he has been clean and sober since March 3, 2016. Jordan said he believes his travails have made him a better person, which has given him the opportunity to be a productive football player.

“I was a young man, and everything came toward me really quick,” he said. “I’m so grateful. I’m 30 years old. I’m still young. I understand for the rest of my life what I shouldn’t be doing because of the path it’s going to lead me down.

“If I can X-out the alcohol and the drug abuse for the rest of my life, I got a great chance of living a healthy and a well-off life -- with or without ball.”