By JOEL COLEMAN
Shelby Jordan is a woman of her word.
Now about to begin her final season as a Bulldog, the lone senior of Mississippi State’s soccer program could have chosen another path. After Jordan’s freshman season in 2012, MSU made a head coaching change, bringing in Aaron Gordon. Jordan’s classmates have all since decided to go in different directions. Jordan, meanwhile, stayed the course.
“When I came in as a freshman, I signed a contract for four years and I was totally committed to seeing that out,” Jordan said. “It didn’t matter how hard it got or who was brought in. I’ve always loved it here and I’ve always loved our soccer team, even though some people may doubt it.
“So when (the new coaching staff came in), like I said, I signed a contract for four years and I was sticking to it.”
Jordan says she has never regretted her decision. Even as others left the team, the Jackson, Tennessee, native was determined to live up to her pledge no matter the circumstances.
“There were definitely some times where it was hard and you have to talk to a lot of people and just refocus your mind on the soccer standpoint of it and getting through all the changes (the coaching staff) brought in,” Jordan said. “But definitely, sitting where I am now, I’m glad I stayed because you can see all the changes they brought in and the girls we have now are great.
“Sitting here, from four years ago, I can see how everything is different now and everything is so much better. There were definitely hard moments but there was never I day where I felt like I should be somewhere else.”
Gordon is glad that Jordan stayed the course. As MSU’s third-year leader seeks to develop a roster committed to being year-round soccer players, Jordan fits the mold and sets an example for her younger teammates.
“When you build a team, it has to have a shared value system with the coaching staff and the players,” Gordon said. “For Shelby, each time we tried to create a higher standard, she met those.”
Gordon says Jordan’s dedication to her craft and her school has helped her navigate the tough stretches of her career.
“That’s a hard position to be in when you get recruited with a certain class or certain coaching staff,” Gordon said. “She’s lost teammates who were friends and will continue to be her friends, but what you find out is, what they wanted was really not what you wanted. They are just kind of in a different place.”
With all the turnover, the Bulldog soccer program is also in a different place than it was just a few years ago. The record books don’t show it, as MSU has gone just 9-44 the last two seasons, but Gordon says Mississippi State has taken a few steps backwards to make a giant leap forwards.
“We had to vet out kids who, it had nothing to do with their character, but they just weren’t 12-month, SEC, committed athletes,” Gordon said. “That’s really what is required because the league is relentless and ruthless. It takes no prisoners if you are not dedicated to your craft or if you are not dedicated to staying fit most of the year.
“If you’re a soccer player and you’re only playing three months out of the year, that is a recipe for losses.”
Gordon has now filled his roster with players that display the characteristics he desires. Jordan looks around her on the field and is blown away at the talent that has been brought in. As she gets ready to begin her final season in maroon and white on Friday at 7 p.m. at home against South Alabama, she does so with a little bit of envy in her heart.
It’s not that Jordan isn’t thankful for her time as a Bulldog; it’s just that she sees how bright the immediate future is for the program she gave, and kept, her word to.
“I get jealous because I know that they’re going to do great once I leave,” Jordan said. “I wish I would’ve been here (with) the freshmen and sophomores that have come in because they’re going to have a great two to three more years and they’re really just getting started this year because they’ve brought in so many good players. I wish I could be here with them, but I think they’ll do awesome.”
If Gordon had his way, he’d find a way to keep Jordan around for the seasons to come. With a laugh, MSU’s head man says he’s going to try and pull a string or two.
“We’re trying to figure out if we can get a fifth year for Shelby,” Gordon joked. “I haven’t quite worked that out with (senior associate athletic director of compliance) Bracky Brett. We’ll see if we can make that happen.”